Lifestyle Awards 2013
Wellness & Relationship
Global Warming: Less Meat, Less Heat
Be Indian, Bark Indian
Let Birds Fly Free
How Much is that Doggie in the Window?
Elephants in Captivity: a Giant Injustice
Compassion's In Fashion
Global warming has been called humankind's "greatest challenge" and the world's most grave environmental threat.
Realising this puts the heat on each and every one of us to do our part to combat climate change. Sure, driving less, recycling, turning off the lights when you are not in a room and picking up discarded rubbish are all responsible actions.
But if we truly want to make a positive and lasting impact on the environment, we must address the bigger issue: Meat is trashing the planet!
It is time to face facts: Most people stop being environmentalists when they sit down to eat.
Every time we consume meat, eggs or dairy foods, we contribute to ecological devastation and the wasteful misuse of resources on a global scale.
The United Nations has concluded that raising animals for food is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."
Why? Animal agriculture is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
All three gasses together cause global warming.
According to research, animal agriculture alone generates an astounding 18 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions!
In other words, a vast majority of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions are actually caused by flatulent farm animals purposefully bred to be killed for meat and stacks of cow dung.
Changing the planet, starts with changing what is on our plates.
Evidence is mounting that leaving meat and other animal-derived products off the menu is the best way to combat global warming.
Scientists at the University of Chicago determined that adopting a vegan diet has a greater impact in the fight against climate change than switching to a hybrid car!
During a recent appearance, Dr Rajendra Pachauri - chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and co-winner of a Nobel Peace Prize along with Live Earth co-founder Al Gore, urged people to reduce meat consumption.
He remarked, "Among options for mitigating climate change, changing diets is something one should consider. If we're honest, less meat is good for health, and would at the same time reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."
Let us do some math: Each year, just one vegan prevents approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere than a meat-eater.
How does this translate in the real world?
If every American went vegetarian for just one day, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to all of the carbon dioxide produced by France!
Imagine the benefits of doing the same in India.
Not only would we be reducing our emission levels, but we would also be setting a tremendous example that an environmentally threatened world would do well to follow.
Of course, it is not just the greenhouse gases we have to worry about. Grossly inefficient, raising animals for food gobbles up massive amounts of precious natural resources and pollutes the environment.
The energy required to operate factory farms (places where huge numbers of animals are raised together for meat), abattoirs, and trucks that transport animals and the amount of water that is squandered on animal agriculture (it takes more than 15,160 litres of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater compared to 1,137 litres of water for a vegan) is mind-boggling.
And do not forget the edible crops that are used to feed animals instead of people who are hungry and malnourished.
It takes 10 kilograms of grain to produce just 1 kilogram of meat, and five to ten times more soil to generate animal proteins.
The world's cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people - more than the entire human population on Earth.
What else do we get from all the grain, fossil fuels and water that go into making meat, eggs and milk? More waste-in the form of tonnes and tonnes of faeces.
Each day, factory farms produce enormous amounts of manure. Kilogram for kilogram, a pig produces four times as much waste as a human.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, factory farms generate about 300 million tonnes of manure every year.
That's more than double the amount produced by the entire human population in the U.S.
Not the most pleasant thing to think about, I know, but we really should give it some thought because much of it ends up in our waterways - along with the drugs and bacteria that it often contains.
One contamination study found that the pollution strength of raw manure is 160 times greater than human sewage.
In other words, farmed animal waste is more dangerous than human waste.
And all of those parasites, bacteria, and chemical contaminants lay waste - no pun intended - to the surrounding ecosystems.
If you need another reason to ditch animal products, consider this: Vegetarian foods are nourishing, delicious, cholesterol free, generally low in saturated fat, high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients.
According to internationally-renowned nutrition expert Dr T Colin Campbell, "The vast majority of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented simply by adopting a plant-based diet."
This is especially important for Indians to consider since five million people die of cancer in our country every year.
And people with type 2 diabetes - an ever-growing problem in India - have been able to significantly control the disease and lose weight by switching to a vegan diet.
Plus, just one vegetarian spares more than 100 animals from pain and suffering every year!
Essentially, going vegan is about choosing not to support a cruel industry that contributes to global warming, pollutes the planet, can make us sick, abuses animals, and squanders precious resources.
Now that you know all of the facts, I am sure that you are revved up and ready to do the single most effective thing that you can do to fight climate change.
So, on your mark... get set...Go Vegan!
About the author: Ambika Shukla is not an animal 'lover', she is simply a firm believer that animals too have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She is currently Director Media & Communications, PETA India.
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