Climate change, the biggest threat to humanity’s survival, is knocking at our front door, and we no longer can ignore it. For the health of the planet and the survival of our species, we must act now to combat the substantial damage global warming and the changing climate has and is bound to do. The real question is, how? What comes to mind when thinking about contributors to climate change? Maybe it is burning fossil fuels or the transportation sector. The point is, one sector is often “forgotten” under the climate change umbrella – industrial livestock production. Meat and dairy factory farms emits a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and according to the article “Meat Accounts for Nearly 60% of All Greenhouse Gases from Food Production, Study Finds.” published by The Guardian, account for over half of all greenhouse gas emissions from food production. Industrial meat production is deeply intertwined with meat consumption, and thus many feelings begin to evoke as dietary habits are intimate and personal. Nevertheless, many people fail to understand what is happening behind the piece of meat being eaten or the milk being consumed. Whether it is the inhumane treatment of the animals in these facilities, the environmental impacts, or the human health implications, the consumer is disconnected from the dilemma of livestock factory farming.
With the very planet we inhabit at stake, society has the right to the truth behind what is put in their bodies and the sacrifices that had to be made to serve that dinner. We deserve to know that the cattle in factory farming are in confined areas where they can barely move, where female cows are forcefully and repeatedly impregnated on industrial dairy farms, overproduced for milk, and have short calving intervals. We deserve to know that, as found in the study, “The Climate Responsibilities of Industrial Meat and Dairy Producers.”, out of the top ten US meat companies, all have aided endeavors in an attempt to undermine climate-related policies. We deserve to know that to subsidize the meat and dairy industry, the United States government spends $38 billion per year; only 0.04 percent of that $38 billion is funded for fruits and vegetables each year as expressed in the “10 Secrets the Meat and Dairy Industries Try to Hide.” by PETA. We deserve to know that diets high in animal products, specifically red and processed meat, are closely related to a heightened risk of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and several forms of cancer.
We need to make a change, if not for the environmental causes, then for the fight against animal cruelty and individual health. Altering diet to be primarily or entirely plant-based has shown to be an efficient method to greatly reduce global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. I know what you are thinking, cutting meat out of your diet cold turkey is complex, and you are not wrong. I want to acknowledge that a transition to a plant-based diet is often difficult for some to achieve, especially considering an individual’s food culture and how one was raised. However, it is a rewarding path to pursue, even if that means solely limiting meat and dairy consumption. We, as citizens and individuals can make a difference in the fight against climate change. I urge you to consciously think about your dietary habits, where your food comes from, and limit meat consumption or adopt a plant-based diet. This choice, in turn, boycotts industrial meat and dairy production and is the beginning of initiating change. After all, there is no Planet B. — Hope Ellis