Photo: Gift Box with a Small Earth Globe

by Michele McKay

The holiday season is all about goodwill – expressing love with gifts, enjoying special time with family and community, demonstrating caring toward others. In a word, it’s about compassion. And what better way to turn compassion into practice than with the kindness of cruelty-free vegetarian holiday meals? Your goodwill in choosing vegetarian fare will bring you a ‘green’ bonus: the compassion you show for other living beings will extend directly into compassionate action and benefit to the Earth! Your plant-based, vegetarian holiday meals will help to:

Reduce global warming

Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gas than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.1 In addition to CO2, the livestock industry produces other greenhouse gases with even higher global warming potentials: methane (23 times that of CO2), nitrous oxide (300 times that of CO2), and ammonia. And, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just 8 years, as opposed to 100 years for CO2.2 Reducing the demand for meat would rapidly lower atmospheric methane, a key contributor to global warming.

Save vast amounts of water

Producing one pound of beef requires approximately 2,500 gallons of water, whereas a pound of soy requires 250 gallons of water, and a pound of wheat only 25 gallons.3

Avoid pollution of waterways

Farmed animals produce about 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the US, yet factory farms don't have sewage treatment systems.4 Manure, antibiotics, growth hormones, fertilizers, pesticides, and other livestock-related pollutants foul our rivers and streams, and enter the human food chain through water supplies.

Reduce the loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat

30% of the earth’s entire land surface (or, put another way, 70% of all agricultural land) is used for livestock.5 In the Amazon region, rainforests are being cut and burned to create pastures, thus releasing CO2 and causing incalculable loss of plant and animal species.

Ensure environmental sustainability

Demand for meat is expected to double by the year 2050.6 Producing animal flesh requires up to three times as many resources as producing plant-based food.7 Do the math! Pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, species loss, demand for water, and strain on land use will only get catastrophically worse. A vegetarian diet is our best step toward environmental sustainability. In the spirit of the holiday season, give a ‘green’ gift to the Earth by going veggie! In return, you’ll receive the gift of knowing that your compassionate food choice is reducing animal suffering and contributing to the environmental health of our planet.

Footnotes: 
  1. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
  2. Ibid
  3. Jolinda Hackett, “How does eating meat affect water usage, water pollution and the ocean?”
  4. About.com Guide: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/vegetarianvegan101/f/waterpollution.htm
  5. Ed Ayres, "Will We Still Eat Meat?" Time, 8 Nov. 1999: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,992523,00.html
  6. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options. Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
  7. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow– Environmental Issues and Options. Rome: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf
  8. Penning de Vries, F.W.T., Van Keulen, H. and Rabbinge, R. 1995. Natural resources and limits of food production in 2040. Eco-Regional Approaches for Sustainable Land Use and Food Production. Kluwer Academic Publishing. Dordrecht. 65-87.