One of the questions you get (among many) when you are vegetarian or vegan is:
Don't you care about people? Why don't you spend more time worrying about people rather than animals.
Personally, I find it very weird to think that these two things are mutually exclusive. Many people I know who are animal activists care very much for people too. They care about the environment. They often do other volunteer work. They support anti-child labor laws.
But even if you don't actively campaign for a human cause, you are helping people by switching to a vegetable based diet.
There are tons of side benefits that eliminating animals and animal secretions from our diets. Insurance rates could be lowered because health would be better. Lifestyles would improve. The run off from animal processing plants would be reduced. The mental trauma from killing animals would not happen either.
Another huge impact is to the clear cutting of the rain forest for cattle. This impacts our air, potential medicines and even slave labor. Greenpeace just released thier report on the Amazon Cattle Footprint. Some highlights from the report are:
- Forests are a crucial carbon stock: forest ecosystems globally store about one-anda-half times as much carbon as is present in the atmosphere.25 Deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for up to approximately 20% of the global emissions of greenhouse gas, more than the world’s entire transport sector.
- The Amazon is estimated to store between 80-120 billion tonnes of carbon.27,28 If this is destroyed, roughly 50 times the annual greenhouse gas emissions from the US will be emitted.
- Cattle ranching in the Amazon has horrific social impacts, including the highest rates of slave labour in Brazil. 3005 rural workers, kept in slavery, were freed from cattle ranches in 2008. 99% of them had been held in the Legal Amazon.
- The region is home to more than 20 million people – including over 200,000 indigenous people, belonging to 180 different ethnic groups31. The rainforest is their home, providing them food and shelter to tools and medicines - it is also central to their spiritual life.
- Studies estimate that the Amazon supports 40,000 plant species; 427 mammals; 1,294 birds; 378 reptiles; 427 amphibians and 3,000 species of fish. Many other species are still unknown.
- The Amazon produces 20% of river water in the world. The forest influences the hydrologic cycle at local and regional scales, as humidity retained by the Amazon is carried by the wind to other parts of Brazil and South America. The reduction of the forest cover diminishes the amount of rainfall on the Southeast and Center of Brazil, affecting agriculture productivity.
- Belched methane from livestock constitutes one of the largest sources (roughly 30%) of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Agriculture as a whole contributes between 10-12% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- The greenhouse gas emissions from beef are13 kilograms CO2-eq per kg36. This means eating a kilogram of beef represents roughly the same greenhouse emissions as flying 100 kilometers of a flight, per passenger.
It is definetly something to consider when you are choosing your food. The food we eat should be considered as carefully as any other choice, be it politics or money, because each bite we take as far reaching consequences. Consequences that impact more than just ourselves. The impact of each meal is shared by the world.