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Ecologists have been highlighting how deforestation raises our risk of pandemics since the start of the COVID- 19. We are just now becoming aware of another global crisis that scientists have been forewarning us about for decades, a crisis in land use. More than half of the Earth’s tropical forests have now been destroyed to clear land for grazing animals and their feed, and forest land similar to 300 football fields are being cleared every hour. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that agriculture, forestry, and other land use account for about 25 % of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Presently, we fuel animal agriculture with land in an irresponsible and inefficient manner. We examine the land use crisis and debate whether veganism can be the answer we’re looking for in order to celebrate Veganuary 2024.

Our Forests Are Being Destroyed for Beef

We frequently hear that belching cows emit methane, which contributes to climate change, but how frequently do we consider the land-use of cattle? Our demand for beef is a significant factor in the global deforestation. The majority of tropical deforestation is caused by just four commodities: beef, soy, palm oil, and wood products, but beef accounts for more than half as many destruction as the other three combined.

The largest tropical rainforest in the world, the Amazon Rainforest, is on the verge of transitioning to a savannah ecosystem due to the growing demand for meat worldwide. 80 % of the cleared land is used for cattle ranching, and 10 % of it is planted with soy, which is then used almost entirely for animal feed. Because their habitats have been destroyed by land clearing for livestock pasture, the WWF predicts that koalas will go dead in Australia as early as 2050.

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The cleared land in the Amazon Rainforest is used for cattle ranching in 80 % of the area, and 10 % of it is planted with soy, of which nearly 90 % is then used as animal feed.

Also within the pet protein categories, beef is infamously resource-inefficient. Beef cattle require 28 times more land and 11 times as much water as poultry or pork because they are inadequate energy converters. Additionally, compared to typical plant proteins like beans, beef farming produces 20 times more greenhouse gases. The incentive to produce beef and clear forests in order to do but will only grow as per capita meat consumption rises. In fact, according to the World Resources Institute, we would need to clear an additional 400 million hectares of pastureland by 2050 in order to meet our increased demand for beef. This would result in so many deforestation that it would be impossible to achieve the global goal of limiting temperature rise by 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.

We lose our carbon sinks, water reserves, and havens of plant and animal biodiversity when we destroy our forests, which makes climate change worse. It is the amount of land an animal-based diet needs that makes it so destructive, according to climate activist George Monboit.

You might even be interested in Microsoft’s introduction of a “planetary computer” to support worldwide sustainability.

Deserts and Soy Monocultures

In addition to requiring increased amounts of land for a meat-based diet, the crops grown for animal feed put additional strain on the use of the land. Pet feed, such as soy and maize, is grown on one-third of the world’s arable land. More forests have been cleared to make room as the demand for soy has more than doubled in the last 20 years.

In addition to removing 480 000 hectares annually for the cultivation of soy, commercial farming methods like mono-cropping, tilling, and the use of artificial fertilizers and herbicides endanger the health of the soil by depleting nutrients and preventing it from supporting healthy plant growth without using harsher and more toxic synthetic fertilisers. While these chemicals will lengthen the land’s farming season for a while, over time it will become inefficient and desertified, necessitating the clearing of additional land to meet the ever-increasing demand for soy.

More harmful is that this soy’s conversion from plant protein to animal protein, which is less than 3 % efficient, loses the majority of its nutritional value. So, despite the fact that soybeans are really nutrient-dense and effective—producing five to fifteen times as much protein as meat and milk—feeding them to animals rather than people directly is a very wasteful use of land.

How Veganism Can Aid in the Land Use Crisis Around the World

The good news is that by allowing more room for nature and resolving the planet’s land use crisis, veganism may very well actually save the Earth. The size of the US, China, Australia, and the EU combined could be reduced by 75 % if everyone adopted a vegan diet, according to research from the University of Oxford. Deforestation would decrease by 94 % if soy were used to satisfy our protein needs rather than animals. We could achieve 23 % of the climate mitigation required for a two degree Celsius scenario by halting deforestation and promoting reforest instead.

We would be eating more fairly as a result, which would help to solve our land-use crisis and improve the efficiency of our food systems. Yet if we ignore the eradication of biodiversity and animal habitats, millions of Indigenous peoples are being displaced as a result of improper animal agriculture, which is also escalating conflict and violence. By increasing the supply of timber and driving down the price, illegal deforestation even distorts the lawful timber markets, encouraging other loggers to engage in lucrative but illegal activities and obstructing efforts to implement sustainable forest management. In order to use our land more effectively, we must cut back on our meat consumption if we want a green food future. It is time to mobilize for a diet change as Hong Kong constantly leads the world in terms of meat consumption by nation. By substituting tofu for our steaks and embracing veganism, we must combat this land use crisis with what is on our plates.

10 Shocking Plant-Based Food Facts may also be of interest to you.

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