By Ingrid E. Newkirk
PETA has long said that nonviolence begins with what we eat, and an alarming new study shows that we have no time to waste in ditching chicken kebabs and steak sandwiches and choosing humane veggie burgers and falafel instead. According to a team of University of California–Berkeley researchers, unless we get our act together and take steps to mitigate climate change, violence will increase substantially, along with the increasing temperatures. They predict that between now and 2050, because of higher temperatures and extreme weather patterns, interpersonal violence (murder, rape and domestic abuse) will increase between 8 and 16 percent. War and civil unrest could increase by more than 50 percent.
The most effective way to fight climate change is with diet change — by going vegan.
The United Nations reports that the meat industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” including land degradation, air pollution, water pollution, water use and loss of biodiversity.
Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming—and raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the largest source of both methane and nitrous-oxide emissions. And when you add up all the energy-intensive stages of producing enormous amounts of grain to feed to farmed animals, plus killing and processing the animals and transporting and storing their flesh, it’s easy to see why producing one calorie of animal protein requires more than 11 times as much fossil fuel as producing one calorie of plant protein.
The meat industry wastes a tremendous amount of water at a time when wars fought over water are no longer seen as a movie plot but a looming threat. PETA tours the country with a portable outdoor shower to remind everyone who stops to look at it that producing just a single pound of meat requires the same amount of water as six months’ worth of showers. That’s because the crops that are fed to farmed animals have to be irrigated, the animals have to be given water, and filthy factory farms and slaughterhouses have to be hosed down regularly. So indirectly, the average vegan consumes nearly 600 gallons of water less per day than the average meat-eater.
No wonder the United Nations Environment Programme says that we need “a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
The heat waves, intense storms, droughts, rising sea levels, crop damage and other problems caused by climate change are also draining billions of dollars from the world economy. British economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicts that if we do not reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it will take less than 40 years for climate change to cause up to a 20 percent drop in the world’s gross domestic product. He fears that it could be “market failure on the greatest scale the world has seen.”
For those who simply can’t—or, rather, won’t—stop eating flesh foods, we are now one giant step closer to laboratory-grown meat that will end massive animal suffering, make the food supply safer and reverse environmental damage. On August 5, history was made with the first-ever taste test of an in vitro hamburger. Dr. Mark Post, who developed the burger, believes that other “test-tube” meat products could be available commercially in as little as 10 years. PETA predicts that it will be sooner than that, as scientists share their findings and commercial interests fund the work.
But why wait? There are already so many delicious vegan products on the market that taste like chicken, beef, pork, milk and cheese—with more on the way—that many people are making the switch now. To avert environmental disaster and the global conflicts that will accompany it, we should all go vegan today.