Vegetarians and vegans may not realize they’re helping the environment, but they are. A vegetarian diet consists of everything but meat, while vegans stop eating or using any products that have come from animals, harmful to it or not. Animal agriculture is a major cause of greenhouse gases, which cause global climate change.
When cattle consume grass, part of their digestion system causes them to produce methane, which then comes out of the cow. This methane is trapped in the atmosphere and warming the planet, making it a greenhouse gas. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock contributed to 56% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from 2001 to 2010.
“Learning about the effect of meat on the environment made me go vegan,” freshman Tanya Dubey said. “I believe being vegan decreased my carbon footprint by a lot.”
Another reason why people turn to veganism and vegetarianism is because animal cruelty is an issue within food industries. Seventy-five percent of animals that cannot walk on their own are dairy cows, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These cows, called “downers,” collapse for metabolic, toxic, and infectious reasons, among others. They recover, die, or are put to sleep on the farm.
The ASPCA states that chickens are also abused. Around 330 million egg-laying hens are mostly raised in long, windowless cages. These cages contain around 10 hens and are around the size of a file cabinet. The stress of this situation may lead to pecking other hens and cannibalism.
“Animals face a lot of abuse. They are used like machines for food and dairy,” said freshman Smriti Balasubramanian. “They’re exhausted until they give out.”
Not only do plant-based diets have environmental benefits, but they can also provide improvements to health. Vegetarianism can reduce the chance of heart disease by a third, according to Medical News Today. The CDC reports that it was the second highest leading cause of death for people aged 45-67 in 2017.
“I would say since I’ve been struggling with stomach problems, yes it has helped settle that a tiny bit, but overall it’s kind of just a fun personal choice.” junior Ava Miller said.
To learn more about being vegan, you can visit the American Vegan Society, a non-profit organization working toward spreading information about the vegan lifestyle.
“Being vegan means feeling better about yourself by giving less harm to others,” Dubey said.