If you’re not getting your news from climate change deniers, you know that we, the people of Planet Earth, have got more than a slight problem on our hands.
And you are probably thinking, “I’m doing all I can. I’m an environmentalist. I care about our planet and I’m fighting to protect it from the ravages of humanity. I recycle. I drive a Prius. I always remember to bring my reusable bags on grocery store runs.”
Did you know that the Greek teacher and philosopher Pythagoras often asked his students “What makes an environmentalist?”
Ok yeah, I’m not surprised you didn’t know that, I just made it up. But just because that probably wasn’t a very relevant question to the lives of ancient Greeks doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking it of ourselves, considering the Earth’s ecosystems are being ravaged.
Thing is, a good 97.665 percent (guesstimated figure) of those who call themselves environmentalists eat meat, and are therefore full of methane. There are many, many reasons humans eating meat is bad for the planet, but for the sake of our short attention spans let’s stick with the top six here.
1) Deforestation: Pretty tough to be a tree-hugging environmentalist if there aren’t any trees left Trees, and the ecosystems they support, are crucial to the health of the entire planet. So what if I told you 70 percent of rainforests have been cleared in order to graze livestock? Or that more than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared so the land can be used to for crops to feed to farmed animals? A little disturbing, isn’t it?
2) Air: Just that bit of atmosphere we spend our lives breathing. Might be super important to preserve that, right? Animal agriculture’s not doing too good a job: about 40 percent of methane produced by human activities is from livestock—manure and flatulence are more than unpleasantly odiferous, they contribute massive amounts of powerful greenhouse gases to an already over-taxed atmosphere (especially since all the trees that could be helping with this problem are being cleared for livestock).
3) Water: 55 percent of our fresh water goes to livestock raised for meat. When you consider that it takes more than 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, versus 10 to 20 gallons to produce one pound of edible plants…efficient use of resources is not something you can claim for eating meat. That’s not even touching the huge, literally stinking issue of animal waste contaminating river, lake and ocean waters and causing ecological devastation.
4) Land: Speaking of inefficient use of limited resources, plant sources of food are 11 times more land-efficient than animal sources. An acre of land devoted to growing grains, vegetables, and/or legumes produces ten to fifteen times more protein than if that acre was used for meat production. Yet, 30 percent of the earth’s land is used for livestock—either as pasture or to grow feed. In what world is that sustainable? Not this one, that’s for sure.
5) Oceans: Leaving aside the incredible destruction modern fishing production is wreaking on the oceans and everything that lives in them, livestock operations in the U.S. alone produce up to a billion tons of manure and excrement every year. That manure often sits for ages in concentrated waste lagoons, or it’s dumped on crop fields as fertilizer. It is loaded with bacteria, parasites and often contaminated with chemicals. The runoff from all this excrement leaks into our waterways and oceans, polluting the water and creating “dead-zones” that kill fish and other marine life.
6) Your Fellow Earthlings: If nothing changes—in fact if there aren’t major changes worldwide very soon, our remaining time on a livable planet will be very short.
I think that’s a pretty good reason to walk our environmentalist talk, don’t you?
No other industry compares to the environmental destruction caused by industrialized animal agriculture, yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged. You might be wondering why all the major environmental organizations aren’t talking about this. Fracking and pipelines aren’t exactly battles without powerful opposition, so what makes this enormous issue different?
That’s the question Keegan Kuhn and I set out to answer in COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret. We’ve produced a groundbreaking documentary full of information that will undoubtedly shock you as much as it did us when we first uncovered it.
Our indiegogo campaign has already been a huge success, but this is not the time for any of us to rest on our laurels—head over there and see what you can do to help get the word out.
Here’s the trailer:
And maybe, just maybe, if we do this right, Phythagoras will look down on us and think, “Now those are some fine environmentalists!”
Kip Andersen is the executive director of Animals United Movement (AUM), a nonprofit dedicated to producing films and media promoting sustainable, compassionate, and peaceful living. He is the co-director of Cowspiracy.