I became a vegetarian to save the world

April 1 was a personal milestone for me: I celebrated one year of being a vegetarian. Altering my diet to being mostly plant based has been challenging, as I come from a very all American family- with food being the focal point of most get-togethers. When I made the decision to become a vegetarian, everyone wanted to know why. Was it for “moral” reasons? Well in all honesty, I am a huge animal lover and saving 202 animals this past year (average amount of animals an American eats annually) has been a great accomplishment...

But truly, the reason I went vegetarian? It was to help save the planet.

The first time I heard that animal agriculture was the most destructive industry facing our planet today was while watching the documentary Cowspiracy. I had been involved, for years, in save our planet efforts, including being a strong advocate for clean energy to counteract the damaging effects of global warming. But throughout all of that involvement and throughout all of that activism, never once did someone mention that the biggest personal impact that I could have on counteracting global warming would be to greatly reduce, or eliminate, my consumption of animal products.

A report published by the United Nations found that rearing cattle generates more global warming greenhouse gasses than the entire transportation sector. That means that raising cattle (just cows) for food produces more emissions than cars, trucks, trains, boats, and airplanes combined. More than that, cattle is emitting methane gas which has been found to have a global warming potential of 86 times that of CO2. It doesn’t stop there. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of land and water degradation. Livestock now uses 30 per cent of the earth’s entire land surface. As forests are cleared to create new pastures, it is a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 per cent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

Animal agriculture is also the single most damaging sector to the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources, including water pollution from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops. Raising livestock, in the United States alone, uses 34 trillion gallons of water a year. That means that animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of all water consumption in the United States. To break it down even further one quarter pounder burger requires 660 gallons of water to produce. The virtual footprint of every bite of meat we consume is astounding.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, global warming and habitat destruction.

So how is it then, that when I visit some of the largest websites about saving the planet- 350.0rg, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, etc., this information isn’t plastered all over their front page? The truth: people don’t want to have to change to their diets. We don’t want to admit the impact we are having, through our diets, because it means we need to make a significant personal change. The American culture is so focused around meat — barbecues, ball games, Thanksgiving, etc. — that the shift toward a plant based diet seems radical. But in reality it is delicious, healthy, and good for the planet.

I’m not here to convert everyone to a vegetarian- but maybe this Monday Memo helps you think through your diet a bit more; and maybe, just maybe you decide to reduce your animal product consumption. A great place to start is by taking the Meatless Monday challenge.

Thanks for reading Monday Memos.


Andy Fry