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Plant Based for the Planet: The Effect of the Meat Industry on the Environment

Plant Based for the Planet: The Effect of the Meat Industry on the Environment

“We are the only species with the power to destroy Earth and the capacity to protect it.” - The Dalai Lama

Throwback to 12 year old Olivia watching the PETA video called Meet Your Meat in my family’s computer room. From that moment, I made the decision to become a vegetarian and quit meat cold turkey (no pun intended).

I stuck with my plant based diet for 10 years until the age of 22. Around that time I was adjusting to a lot of new changes in life: graduating from college, entering Corporate America, exercising heavily, and just adulting in general. I knew that my body was stressed and needed more nutrition and substance than what I was giving it. Falling into some of the trends of the bodybuilding industry (#girlswholift hayyy) like counting macros, getting way more protein than you actually need, and primarily eating “lean proteins”, I felt that what my body needed was probably animal protein - so I introduced chicken and fish back into my diet.

Flash forward 2 years and I’ve been feeling a strong pull to go back to a plant based diet. Aside from the true humanitarian in me cringing over the cruelness of the meat industry, a common thread kept popping up in the signs I was receiving: climate change and the state of the environment.

Did you know that since around 1950 humanity has been producing more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than the natural environment can absorb? 1950! That’s almost 70 years! So denying global warming is simply out of the question, and we also need to recognize that the meat industry is a leading cause of it.

Here are some facts about how the meat industry, specifically, affects the environment:

  • The environmental footprint of livestock farming is large and in charge. It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration and deforestation.

  • The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined.

  • Together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than Exxon, Shell or BP.

  • Most of the top 35 global meat and dairy giants either do not report or under report their emissions. Less than five of them provide complete, credible emissions estimates.

  • Overfishing is heavily prominent in the seafood industry. Not only does overfishing harm the species of fish that are being caught (because they can’t reproduce at a fast enough rate before being caught and killed), it also knocks the entire local ecosystem off balance, affecting the animals that the fish would normally eat and starving those that rely on the fish as their food source.

  • Fish farming, or controlled breeding of fish in large numbers living close together, has led to problems with parasites, hazardous waste, and a negative effect on surrounding marine life.

There are many things in this world that we cannot control, but diet is absolutely one of them. I made the decision to no longer support the meat industry and its contribution to the destruction of our planet, and I hope that you do too (trust me, you can! I did it for 10 years remember?).

I also understand that dairy is a large part of the issue as well. For now, I’m going to get back into the vegetarian swing of things and gradually start to incorporate more conscious decisions around my dairy intake. And I welcome any recommendations from my vegans out there!

So who’s with me?! Let’s go plant based for the planet.


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