Eating vegan food is more energy-efficient and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than raising animals to consume.
Greenhouse gas emissions
If you eat meat, your greenhouse gas emissions can be twice that of those eating only vegan food. [i]
Environmental specialists Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang suggest:
Livestock and their byproducts actually account for 51 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. [ii]
Why is this?
Emissions are generated through land use: clearing land to graze animals and to grow the crops to feed them. Energy is also used in keeping the animals alive, slaughtering them, and the transportation involved in these processes. What Goodland and Anhang’s report also highlights is the previously neglected CO2 emissions generated through animal respiration and the carbon-intensive medical treatments used to treat millions of cases of zoonotic illnesses (such as swine flu). [iii]
But there’s more…
As well as CO2, farmed animals also release methane – a gas that has a warming effect 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide (over a 20 year timeframe). [iv] Animals produce such large amounts through their digestive process and manure, that animal agriculture is considered the leading producer of methane gas worldwide. [v]
In addition to CO2 and methane, animal agriculture is also responsible for nitrous oxide emissions. This gas is 268 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in terms of its potential to intensify global warming. [vi] Nitrous oxide is released when the animals’ waste is broken down. An even bigger impact is through the initial production of the animals’ feed, which involves large amounts of nitrogen based fertilizer.
[i] Hedenus F., et al. 2014. ‘The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets‘. (Assessed 16 August 2014).
[ii] Goodland, R., and Anhang, J., 2009. Livestock and climate change. [pdf] World Watch. (Assessed 16 August 2014).
[iii] Goodland, R., and Anhang, J., 2009.
[iv] Myhre. G., et al. 2013. ‘Anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing’. In Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of working group / report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
[v] Environmental Protection Agency, 2012. ‘Overview of greenhouse gases‘. (Assessed 16 August 2014).
[vi] Myhre. G., et al. 2013.