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How Eating Less Meat Can Save the Planet

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It’s high time we make a change. 

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to demand protection for our planet on the first-ever Earth Day. This movement helped launch a wave of action, such as the passage of landmark environmental laws like the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. The demands from these heroic advocates even helped form the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with many countries soon adopting similar measures.  

Today, over 50 years later, a massive movement to protect our planet has become even more dire as we face the very real impacts of climate change. From more frequent intense storms to rising sea levels, it’s imperative that we not only demand our government take action but also make changes on an individual level.   

Since the first Earth Day, just a little over half a century ago, the number of animals raised for food has more than tripled to meet the ever-increasing demand for cheap and accessible meat, dairy, and eggs. In fact, the total amount of meat consumed in the United States – one of the countries that eats the most meat – has increased by 40 percent since 1961. Making matters worse, the overwhelming majority of the animals raised for food spend their lives in extreme confinement on factory farms. This cruel and destructive method of farming evolved to meet this increasing demand for animal protein.  

Raising lots of animals for food is destroying our planet. The United States alone has five times as many livestock animals as humans, and it takes a lot of land, water, and precious resources to raise these animals and grow feed for them just so that they can end up on our plates. The production of corn and soy takes up more than a third of America’s agricultural land, despite humans consuming less than 10 percent of it. Livestock consumes the vast majority of these crops.  

According to an article published in The Guardian, researchers at Oxford University found that without meat and dairy consumption we could use around 75 percent less land for agriculture globally. That’s comparable to the size of the United States, China, Australia, and the whole European Union combined. So, in addition to destroying Earth’s water and air, raising animals for meat on a massive scale uses countless acres of land, destroying vital ecosystems, harming wildlife and biodiversity

Sadly, the destruction linked to our meat obsession doesn’t end there. While most meat and dairy companies intentionally do not publish their climate emissions, making it almost impossible to know the exact amount of greenhouse gas generated, in 2017, The Guardian attempted to calculate the air pollution impact from animal agriculture.  

Using the most comprehensive data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The Guardian estimated that the top 20 meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gas in 2016 than all of Germany, Europe’s biggest climate polluter. This means if these companies were their own country, they would be the world’s seventh-largest contributor of greenhouse gases. What’s more, three of the world’s largest meat producers, JBS, Cargill, and Tyson, emitted nearly as many greenhouse gases as the biggest oil companies, including Exxon, BP, and Shell. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the equivalent of taking over 5 million cars off our roads annually. 

Fortunately, by reducing our meat consumption, we can turn the tide—not to mention improving the lives of billions of animals at factory farms. Meat reduction and shifting to more humane and sustainable proteins has the potential to put an end to many cruel industrial farming practices, such as extreme confinement, the overuse of antibiotics, and brutal mutilations. 

Thankfully there’s already a global shift away from factory-farmed meat and towards plant-based eating. Driving this progress is companies meeting their customers’ concerns about the planet, their health, and animal welfare. According to a Mintel report on dining out, more than one-in-five diners want restaurants to offer more plant-based entrees. Similarly, a report by Renub Research predicts the global plant-based meat market to be worth more than $7 billion by the end of 2025. 

So what can you do this Earth Day to reduce factory farming’s environmental impact, help save animals from factory farms, and be more sustainable? Simply eat fewer animal products and only purchase meat from small independent farms. Together, we can help protect the planet, our health, and countless animals. Join the global movement of people who are committed to creating a kinder future by signing up for Meating Halfway, a 21-day journey that’ll guide you towards eating less meat!   

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By reducing our meat consumption, we can turn the tide—not to mention improving the lives of billions of animals at factory farms.