Monday, March 15, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Day 15

During these past 15 days, I have often been asked why I am trying out the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. It's not an easy question to answer. Part of it is because I don't agree with killing animals or causing them suffering so that I can eat. Part of it is that a low-fat vegan diet is one of the surest ways to improve one's health through diet. And another reason, which for me is much harder to articulate, has to do with the impact of eating meat on the environment and on world hunger. This is my attempt to gather a few facts that will help me to better give voice to this concern of mine, as I see myself first and foremost as a citizen of the world with a duty to others to do the least harm and leave the smallest footprint possible.
Disclaimer: I am in no way perfect in this regard but I do what I can when I can and am constantly striving to get better at it. I also know that the source of these facts matter and that some have been questioned. I am merely gathering them here to spark conversations and as a reminder to myself.

-John Robbins told VegNews in their March/April 2010 issue that 40% of the world's grain production is used for meat production. According to the USDA Economic Research Service and Agricultural Research Service, the amount of grain needed to produce one pound of US feedlot beef is 16 pounds.

-The United Nations says that livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution and loss of biodiversity.

-Body + Soul magazine's latest issue focused on the benefits of reducing meat consumption. Some facts it includes are that 77% of US soybeans and 46% of US corn feed farm animals and that cows expel methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2. Sixteen times more fossil fuels are needed to create one steak than to produce a plate of broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower and rice. Going vegan saves 1.5 tons of CO2 compared to the average American diet.

-In The Vegan Sourcebook, Joanne Stepaniak writes, "Research conducted by David Pimentel, PhD, indicates that animal agriculture accounts for more than 80 percent of annual world deforestation" and "According to Norman Meyers (a zoologist), irrigation, employed mainly for feed crops, uses more than 80 percent of US water, and agriculture in total, as reported by David Pimentel, uses almost 90 percent of freshwater consumed annually in the United States".

-According to, it takes 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan and more than 4,000 gallons per day to produce food for a meat-eater. Additionally, food for a vegan can be produced on 1/16 an acre of land and over 3 acres to produce food for a meat-eater.

-The WorldWatch Institute has some interesting facts and figures on livestock population growth and statistics on meat consumption around the world. They write, "As population grows, lowering meat consumption worldwide will allow more efficient use of declining per capita land and water resources, while at the same time making grain more affordable to the world's chronically hungry."

{Photo credit: Kris Litman}

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