Are we killing our creator?
Small changes like cutting down on meat for a day can save more than 4,500 litres water and kilos of food, writes Varda Mehrotra
Created 46 billion years ago, the Earth has for years been a safe haven for humans and animals alike. Up until about 200 years ago, human interference began to wreak havoc with Earth. Since the birth of the industrial revolution around 1760, more than half of the planet’s forests stand destroyed. To put that in perspective, in less than 1 per cent of time since the existence of the Earth, human interference has led to the erosion of about 50 per cent of its forest cover — these shocking figures, in huge part, exist, because of the ever-increasing demand of animal agriculture, which depletes all natural resources at an exponential rate.
The silver lining to this looming dark cloud lies in the often ignored but powerful fact that solutions are not so far at hand as they seem. This Mother Earth Day, let’s see how simple steps, that each and every individual can take, are actually the long-term answer to saving our planet.
When we speak about environmental damage, the most common myth is that the automobile industry causes maximum devastation to our planet, but in reality, it is animal agriculture which is the villain in disguise. According to a report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent (18 per cent) than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.
As a matter of fact, animals used for human consumption and the crops grown to feed them, currently cover 45 per cent of the earth’s total land. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91 per cent of the Amazonian destruction, with 1-2 acres of rain forests being cleared every second. Animal agriculture also uses 34-76 trillion gallons of water annually, making fishless oceans a real possibility by 2048. These global statistics might not be relatable to many Indians, but we as a country with a growing meat-consuming population, are all a part of this chaos.
India ranks the first in cattle population, serving as home to over three crore cows and buffaloes. Unsurprisingly, it is also the largest producer of milk products in the world. What may be astonishing is the volume of water required in the production of milk. According to a study, one litre of milk requires a shocking 1,020 litres of water — which includes cattle feed, cleaning, processing, packaging, and transportation. That’s more than the water consumed by a shower if it is left to run all day! Multiply that with a figure of three crore cattle and we know we’ve got a problem. Additionally, meat and egg production require huge amounts of water — approximately 3,546 litres of water to produce 1 kg of chicken meat, and 200 litres of water for one egg alone. For all this usage, India holds only 4 per cent of the world’s water resources, catering to 16 per cent of the world’s human population, more than 70 per cent of whom are meat eaters.
These alarming figures point to a simple solution — an overwhelming need to re-think the food on our plates — a simple choice that each of us makes three times a day! By choosing to not consume animals and animal products for a year, one saves up to 15 lakh litres of water (which can sustain another person for more than 25 years); 6,000 kilos of grain (which can sustain another person for 30 years); 11,000 sqft of forest area (which produces more than enough oxygen required for four persons annually), and 3,000 kg of Co2 emissions. You will also have made the compassionate decision of saving the lives of 362 animals.
It might be a challenge for some people to completely eliminate animal products from their diet, but even small changes like cutting down on meat, eggs, milk etc for a day can save more than 4,500 litres of water and thousands of kilos of food, which can be used to feed the impoverished. So, there we have it — the solution — very much within our reach. Curbing our consumption of animal products, living a sustainable life ie eating greener, eliminating plastic, recycling, controlling water wastage and so on can significantly slow down and even reverse the damage caused to our planet.
With a growing repository of resources available today — from plant milk, to mock meat and faux leather — moving to a vegan diet is easy and accessible. Globally, there is a growing awareness and shift with campaigns like Veganuary, which have empowered more than 2.5 lakh people to go vegan. Locally, in India, organisations like FIAPO, Mercy for Animals, and Vegan Outreach are running campaigns to create awareness and help people in adopting an environment-friendly lifestyle. So the question is: What changes are we willing to make to save our planet this Earth Day?
The writer is the Director of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO)
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