Environmental benefits of vegetarianism

Cattle

Cattle

In a new series of posts, readers of thegreenveggie from around the world discuss their reasons for choosing a meat-free lifestyle. In this post Molly Mizusawa, a 17-year-old student from the USA, talks about the environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Molly stopped eating meat at the age of 12. “I had always been a lover of animals and thought the idea of slaughter to be barbaric,” she said, “but I had not seriously contemplated the benefits of vegetarianism.

“I was very young and only thought that if I chose not to eat meat, I would be sparing at least one chicken, cow or pig. But then I realised the advantages of vegetarianism stretch much further than the suffering of a single chick,” she added.

Rainforest

Molly discovered land used for rearing livestock currently takes up 30 per cent of the planet’s surface. This land, which is cleared at a rate of 2,100 feet per minute, often comes from the rainforest and is a primary threat of extinction for many species.

Molly also found that the meat industry contributes significantly towards the problem of  global warming, as breeding livestock produces three major greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

Global warming

She said: “If each American family could substitute one meal of chicken a week for a vegetarian option, the amount of carbon dioxide saved would be the same as taking 500,000 cars off the roads. A small effort can have a large impact.”

Molly also considered the efficiency of a meat-free diet. “The practice of raising animals for slaughter is not only inhumane, but is also wasteful,” she said. “To produce a single pound of beef, a cow needs 16 pounds of grain, which could feed 10 people for a day.”

Animal welfare

Molly said it was environmental factors which finally persuaded her to give up meat. “The animal welfare arguments were enough to sway me towards vegetarianism, but the environmental factors enhance my dedication,” she added.

“When I told my parents I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, I had no idea how much of an impact I would have on the world. Vegetarianism requires dedication, but if each person plays their part, then we can help save the world and the people in it.”

Photo: Brendan Murphy

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