Quite obviously, I am personally not vegan. My husband and my extended family hunt and fish and I grew up crabbing even though I don’t eat much in the way of seafood. We share in the purchase of a half or quarter cow every summer. We talk about some day adding chickens and honey bees to really have an urban homestead beyond my extensive garden. I spent a year of grad school leaning about sustainable food and agriculture.
Meat, dairy, and other animal products have been, and will continue to be, a part of our lives. So why am I sharing a guest post today about all the environmental and frugal reasons to go vegan? Because as strange as it may seem, the reasons for veganism that Bethany shares below have very strong similarities to the type of sustainable, ethical animal food consumption I strive for. That being said, since I’m not vegan, it makes sense for this post to come from someone who has made that choice.
Bethany writes and hosts a podcast at His and Her FI with her partner, Charles, both Pacific Northwest natives. She’s a teacher and a serious dog and cat mom, and she shares my penchant for animals, the environment, and financial independence. She has made the decision to go vegan, so she is the perfect one for this discussion. Without further ado, here are Bethany’s environmental and frugal reasons for going vegan.
If you love this topic, and want to hear more from Bethany – and myself – on the topic of sustainability and personal finance, I’ll be on their podcast tomorrow (link live Tuesday 9/11). I hope you’ll tune in! I had a great time talking to both of them and enjoyed a podcast appearance where the focus was all about the environment, while talking about finances as well, of course.
The Environmental and Frugal Reasons to Go Vegan
Something happened this year that will change the future of our planet forever. Sound like an exaggeraion? It is not, I promise. The United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement made in 2016 that includes 147 countries. We are the ONLY country to have pulled out of the agreement and the environmental impacts will be great (in a bad way).
Thus, the concern for our planet and reducing green house gas emissions now needs to take center stage in our own lives since it is of no concern to the current President and Cabinet. Sustainability needs to shift from being a trend to being a way of life. While recycleing, reducing waste, and riding your bike can all help- there is one thing we partake in at least 3 times a day that can and will make the HUGE impact – food.
If you care about our planet in the slightest or the future of younger generations- then read on. One thing about this post is certain. It will not be popular. If you enjoy traveling, hiking or being in nature without a hazmat suit, then set down your bacon and keep reading.
We are slaughtering more than cows for hamburger. We are slaughtering the earth by eating them.
Woah, woah, hold on there little miss! We breed those animals for food and they taste good and I …Let me stop you right there- animal agriculture and our high consumption of meat is ripping the planet apart. We are literally grinding it up bit by bit- because it “tastes good” and because “life is too short.” Well you are right about that last one- life will be very short here on earth if we continue in this same direction.
The animal agriculture industry, is affecting the following: Forests, Species Extinction, Climate, Land, Water, Waste and Marine Life. Not only is it affecting these things, it is the leading cause for many of them. Leading. That is right, more than our automotive industry or even our own waste.
• Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon deforestation. Remember how the focus was all about Palm Oil and how that industry was the main culprit? Palm oil is responsible for 26 million acres. Animal agriculture is responsible for 136 million acres.
• The destruction of the Rainforest contributes to another major problem: Species Extinction. It is estimated that in the Rainforests alone we are losing 135 plant, animal and insect species per day. The Rainforest is not our only concern- oceans and other habitats are also being destroyed. Many ocean dead zones, which are large areas unable to support marine life anymore, are around farms which leak into the ocean contributing to species extinction.
• Climate change also contributes in a major way to Ocean Dead Zones and of course the rapid decline of the natural habitats of animals. Animal Agriculture also plays a major role in climate change. The Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the meat and dairy industries (and their byproducts) far outweighs that of the automotive. In the Georgetown Environmental Law Review they break down not only the insane and detrimental impact of these industries to our climate, but also the lack of laws to prevent this from happening.
• 1/3 of the earth’s ice free land is used for the raising of animals according to The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production article in Time Magazine. They also state, “ There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.”(2013)
• 55% of the United States water use goes to animal agriculture, while only 5% is used for domestic. (Jacobson- Center for Science in Public Interest- D.C.)
• Fisheries. Did you know that when those boats scoop up the tuna, they also scoop up hundreds of other marine life. If the rapid rise to the surface, being squished up against other panicking fish and the suffocation doesn’t kill them, the throw back into the water often does the trick. (Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries)
• Let’s not forget about the poop. Straight from the USDA handbook for animal agriculture, animals raised for food in the United States produce 7 million pounds of excrement every minute. This raises another issue- and that is one of humanity. I know, what does cow poop have to do with this? Next bullet please.
• It is called Environmental Racism. Animal agriculture, including tanneries within the US and around the world leak toxic chemical and animal waste into the surround waters and air of the community. They really have little choice with the amount that is produced in these farms. Being close to these factory farms has caused serious health concerns and early deaths for those who live in the area. Of course the populations in the areas that surround most factory farms, especially beef and pig farms are composed of African Americans and migrant workers who cannot afford to live anywhere else.
• While the human rights issues in the States are catastrophic, they do not stop there. 82% of emaciated and hungry children live in countries where the food is fed to animals and the animals are eaten by western countries.
These are only a few impacts animal agriculture has. The list goes on and on.
Have these facts convinced you yet? At the very least, the corruption and total disdain these industries have for our planet and humanity should be at the forefront of your mind now.
So why are we not looking more into this industry? Why are we not searching for a more sustainable life and adopting it as part of our culture? You guessed it. Money. The thing that most of us in the personal finance world have in the forefront of our minds- so do the people sitting on their plush leather chairs running the meat and dairy industries. I can imagine they also found it delightful when we pulled out of the Global act that asked us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions- considering meat and dairy drive this number up every second of the day.
Wait a minute, what about the money? The money comes right from the government. The American government spends $38 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industries according to Metonomics. This reduces the price for consumers, meaning more of them will continue to eat and drink it. While this allows access to food – at the same time it allows for the continued damage to our planet and our health.
If you can’t get into riding a bike- maybe you could get into spinach.
I am Vegan. Yes, that privileged choice that many of us get to make once we can choose what to put on our plates and in our bodies. I am not one of those Vegans that preaches a “This works for everyone”….because it does not. The single mom on food stamps may not be able to adopt a total vegan lifestyle for her family. The Military would have to restructure in a MAJOR way in order to feed the troops plant based diets.
However, we have choices for what we put into our body and who we support. Factory Farming and Fisheries are hurting us. Our insane meat consumption is hurting us. We do have control over this. This can reduce emissions. So maybe only eat meat once a week instead of every meal. Go fishing or buy from a local farmer. There are ways to slowly pull yourself away from the animal agriculture industry and reduce your own emissiona.
Be aware of who they are, what they stand for and what they support. Here are our 23 Impactful Reasons We Went Vegan that include more than the sustainability part. It is not as hard as you might think- ChooseFI even has a FI Vegan episode. Give it a listen here.
A plant based diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50% compared to that of a meat eater. So if you are not into riding your bike- maybe you could get into spinach.
It may be about the earth, but it should be about the animals.
What was your first pet? A fish? Snake? Maybe you were of the elite few who got to have a puppy or even better, a pony. Mine was a guinea pig- two to be exact (Angela here – my first pet was a guinea pig as well! Her name was Ginger). I loved those things more than I loved my brother (sibling rivalry and all).
While I went Vegan (plant based) first for the environment, second for my health- I realized that the most natural part of the transition was to do it for the animals. I know, this is where I might lose some of you. Animals are food- it is natural for us to eat meat- we need protein- the reasoning for animal consumption are plentiful (even if I fundamentally disagree).
Yet, we live in a divided nation that cannot seem to feel empathy for anyone or anything but themselves. An empathy epidemic has plagued human kind, and I cannot help but think that the elevation of our species as the “top” and the willingness to inhumanely breed and kill animals so we can have a dopamine hit when we bite into a piece of pizza may have screwed up our priorities. When did we have such little care for the living ? When did we start caring so little for the earth?
I have always been an animal enthusiast. I worked on a farm, had my own horse that I paid for, raised guinea pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, fish, cats, dogs and even caterpillars as a kid. One thing they taught me was care and empathy. If you have ever raised animals, you know they depend on you for everything. For their food and water, for their quality of life, for the love they receive.
If we as a species eat animals, we are responsible for their lives and for their impact on the earth. Chew on that.
How do you pay attention to where your food comes from? Is cost most important, or are there other factors that help you decide what to consume?