The leading countries of the world met up at the climate summit in Paris from November 30th to December 12th 2015, to come up with solutions to the worldwide crisis that is climate change. During this agreement, the main point that was discussed and finally agreed upon was that we have to keep the global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius. It had been decided that everyone should go about doing their part is by cutting down on the extraction of fossil fuels and carbon emissions, which by the way, still hasn’t been done; in fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration we recently surpassed the 400 PPM milestone. PPM (parts per million) stands for the amount of CO2 that is found in the atmosphere. What is considered a “safe” amount of CO2 is 350 PPM, but we have been above that for almost 3 decades, and scientists say that once 400 PPM is surpassed, it can only lead to disaster. But that is a topic for a future article. As it is now, one of the leading causes of climate change is animal agriculture. One of the simplest and quickest ways for Canada, and every other country for that matter, to do their part of cooling down the earth’s global temperature would be for the government to drastically reduce meat and dairy production by implementing stricter environmental laws and ethical guidelines for these industries and, on a more personal level, would be for us to change our diets by leaning more towards veganism.
It has been scientifically proven that animal agriculture is one of the worst contributors to climate change in regards to water consumption, deforestation, and GHG emissions, most importantly, methane. According to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, each greenhouse gas has a global warming potential (GWP) value based on how much it warms the planet over a certain period of time, compared to the same amount of CO2 and timeframe. Methane is an extremely potent GHG, because it has a GWP approximately 86 times higher than CO2 over a 20-year timeframe. Not only that, but methane’s GWP diminishes from the atmosphere after approximately a decade, whereas CO2 stays in the atmosphere for over a century; since we need to decrease the earth’s global temperature as quickly as possible, the best way of doing so would be by decreasing the amount of methane we emit into the atmosphere, because even if we focus on decreasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the amount already trapped won’t dissipate for at least a century, and we don’t have that long to wait. We no longer have the privilege of looking at the long-term effects of our actions, we need to start thinking short-term, because climate change is already upon us and we need to act quickly to turn it around. The environmental laws surrounding these industries should be ample, but they are actually slim to none; as Christopher Hyner states in his article A Leading Cause of Everything: One Industry That Is Destroying Our Planet and Our Ability to Thrive on It: “Animal agriculture is a significant contributor, arguably the most significant, to a variety of pressing environmental issues. Despite the magnitude of the problem, relatively few global and national policies addressing the environmental effects of animal agriculture exist, and those that do exist are grossly inadequate.” That being said, stricter environmental laws and ethical guidelines should be implemented on the meat and dairy industry to make it harder for them to produce and distribute. By tightening the environmental laws and ethical guidelines surrounding these industries, for example, banning the use of pesticides and GMOs, as well as obliging farmers to treat their animals with care and feed them a proper diet without corn, soy, and unnatural growth hormones, it will take longer and be more expensive for them to produce, and thus meat and dairy production would diminish and we would be one step closer to lowering the global temperature.
In case you still don’t believe that animal agriculture is a big culprit where it comes to climate change, here is more proof: Over 80% of deforestation in the Amazon and close to 30% of deforestation worldwide is used to make room for cattle to graze, and over 33% of all arable land which could be used to grow food for humans directly, is used to grow food for the animals that you eat instead. The trees being burned down to make room for these animals produce copious amounts of CO2, as does the transportation of the animals from the farms to the slaughterhouses to the grocery stores. 51% of all CO2 emitted per year and between 14% and 18% of human related greenhouse gas emissions, comes from animal farming alone; this is a substantial amount more than that of the transportation sector, which emits approximately 13.5% per year, including cars, boats, trains, planes, etc. Without taking fossil fuels into consideration, the documentary Cowspiracy states that we will exceed our 565 Gigatonne limit of CO2 just from raising animals. Not only that, but there is also the ethical side that should be looked at; the animals being raised in these factory farms are treated with the absolute worst care possible. Nowadays we put people in jail for animal cruelty against domestic pets, but here we are supporting an industry that has the worst animal cruelty of all. The meat industry’s cows and pigs’ stalls are both too small and too crowded for them to walk around in, they are fed a cheap diet of corn and soy to fatten them up as quickly as possible, and finally they are sent to the slaughter house. Dairy cows have the worst life of all because they walk around in their excrements and are mentally, physically, and emotionally abused every day: these poor cows are repeatedly raped, because they can’t produce milk unless they are pregnant, and as soon as they have their calf, he or she is taken away from them so they don’t form a bond. The male calves are sent right to the slaughter house for veal, and the female calves stay in the dairy industry to live a life just like their mothers did. After about 4 years -as opposed to an average lifespan of 20 years- when the cows can’t handle the stress and abuse anymore, they collapse and then, they too, get shipped to the slaughter house (Andersen, Kuhn). It is for these reasons that switching to a plant-based diet is the key to a happier and more sustainable future.
All that is left to do is fight so that these solutions are actually put in place and will hopefully help in solving today’s crisis that is climate change.
Written By Kirstin Lachance
Hyner, Christopher. Standford Law School. 25 October 2015. Web. 2 May 2016.
Cowspiracy. Réals. Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. Interpr. Kip Andersen. 2014. Netflix.