I really do love social justice.
I’ve done an article like this before, but not in this depth. I left a lot out because one was just supposed to bring to light that climate change did hurt us people of colour, I some way. And the other was just an essay for a magazine and another blog.
Unfortunately, when many non vegan human rights activists talk or think about veganism, they consider it only an animal rights issue. They do this, completely forgetting that the same damage that kills animals ties in very closely with how the same environmental destruction is killing people.
So here’s how the consumption of animal products is causing climate change and environmental destruction:
– Meat consumption uses 11x the fossil fuels than a plant based lifestyle
– Methane is 86x more destructive than CO2 on 20 year time frame. Cows that we mass breed for meat consumption produce 150 billion tons of methane per day. (And that’s the low figure, 250-500 liters per cow x 1.5 billion cows is 198.1 billion gallons a day). In fact, US methane emissions from livestock and natural gas are nearly equal.
– Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.
– Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually (PDF). It is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption. It’s not hard to see why, either. Just the feed for livestock uses 56% of the U.S water (PDF).
– 442-8,000 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef, 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1lb. of eggs; almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese & 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk (PDF).
– Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction. (1-2 acres are destroyed every second)
And here’s how that’s devastating for people of colour:
(I know it’s more about availability than quantity, but it’s wasteful all the same.)
– Millions of people may die in the next few years because of inadequate world grain reserve (90% of it is fed to animals)
Climate change wise
– A WHO assessment concluded that climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050; 38,000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48,000 due to diarrhoea, 60,000 due to malaria, and 95,000 due to childhood undernutrition*
– Children and the elderly are most vulnerable.
– Of those, women are effected the most.
– 100 million people could die from climate change by 2030, people in third world countries are disproportionately affected
– 60% of Africans fear climate change over any threat to their lives (even above terrorism)
“What is the impact of climate change on health?
Although global warming may bring some localized benefits, such as fewer winter deaths in temperate climates and increased food production in certain areas, the overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative. Climate change affects social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
Extreme high air temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people. In the heat wave of summer 2003 in Europe for example, more than 70 000 excess deaths were recorded2.
High temperatures also raise the levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
Pollen and other aeroallergen levels are also higher in extreme heat. These can trigger asthma, which affects around 300 million people. Ongoing temperature increases are expected to increase this burden.
Natural disasters and variable rainfall patterns
Globally, the number of reported weather-related natural disasters has more than tripled since the 1960s. Every year, these disasters result in over 60 000 deaths, mainly in developing countries.
Rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather events will destroy homes, medical facilities and other essential services. More than half of the world’s population lives within 60 km of the sea. People may be forced to move, which in turn heightens the risk of a range of health effects, from mental disorders to communicable diseases.
Increasingly variable rainfall patterns are likely to affect the supply of fresh water. A lack of safe water can compromise hygiene and increase the risk of diarrhoeal disease, which kills approximately 760 000 children aged under 5, every year. In extreme cases, water scarcity leads to drought and famine. By the late 21st century, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of drought at regional and global scale1.
Floods are also increasing in frequency and intensity, and the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation is expected to continue to increase throughout the current century1. Floods contaminate freshwater supplies, heighten the risk of water-borne diseases, and create breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. They also cause drownings and physical injuries, damage homes and disrupt the supply of medical and health services.
Rising temperatures and variable precipitation are likely to decrease the production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions. This will increase the prevalence of malnutrition and undernutrition, which currently cause 3.1 million deaths every year.
Patterns of infection
Climatic conditions strongly affect water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted through insects, snails or other cold blooded animals.
Changes in climate are likely to lengthen the transmission seasons of important vector-borne diseases and to alter their geographic range. For example, climate change is projected to widen significantly the area of China where the snail-borne disease schistosomiasis occurs3.
Malaria is strongly influenced by climate. Transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, malaria kills almost 600 000 people every year – mainly African children under 5 years old. The Aedes mosquito vector of dengue is also highly sensitive to climate conditions, andstudies suggest that climate change is likely to continue to increase exposure to dengue.
All populations will be affected by climate change, but some are more vulnerable than others. People living in small island developing states and other coastal regions, megacities, and mountainous and polar regions are particularly vulnerable.
Children – in particular, children living in poor countries – are among the most vulnerable to the resulting health risks and will be exposed longer to the health consequences. The health effects are also expected to be more severe for elderly people and people with infirmities or pre-existing medical conditions.
Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.”
(The issue of crop workers is valid, until it is brought up with the intent to derail the issue of meat processing workers. Then it becomes a red herring.
1. Veganism is about doing the least harm, creating the least damage. We know there is exploitation where our fruits and vegetables are concerned, we just know that there is also abuse where meat is concerned- and that we are able to cut it completely out. So we did. Have never met even one vegan that wasn’t interested in making working conditions better for these workers. I myself am making real effort to only buy from local farmers, that becomes extremely difficult when you are low income.
2. When the issue of these working conditions is brought up and you attempt to derail them with “vegans exploit farmers for their produce”, you have destroyed your own argument. Vegans are not the only people that eat fruits and vegetables, everyone does. They have to. You have attempted to make yourself feel better about the fact that you unnecessarily fund two exploitive industries by pointing out the fact that we may be forced to fund one.
3. Coincidentally, the consumption of meat calls for 16x the produce to be grown in order to also feed the animals we unnecessarily breed en masse.)
– Chicken farmer dies after lifelong exposure to chicken droppings. (Animal waste in high volumes can cause lung disease)
“Social justice is based on the concepts of human rights and equality, and can be defined as “the way in which human rights are manifested in the everyday lives of people at every level of society”
“Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.”
Just something to think about…