Many argue that veganism could not be a plausible lifestyle for the future human population. It is important to consider what would happen if the world was vegan and if this future is possible. Currently, there are about 20 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows, over a billion sheep and nearly a billion pigs in the world. Without any meat-eating humans to provide a market, whole herds of domestic animals would disappear. This would free up vast quantities of land. Approximately 33 million kilometers of land is used for pasture, which is about the size of Africa. This isn’t even including the amount of land used for growing crops exclusively for animal feed (ASAPScience).
Although some farmland is too dry to grow crops, artificial nutrients and proper management could revert land back to its natural state of grasslands and forests, which could help counteract global warming. After all, the loss of CO2 absorbing trees cleared for agriculture is a major reason why global levels of Co2 are going up. Cows and other grazers also impact our climate through large amounts of methane production, which has 25% more planet warming power than Co2. Combined with the loss of forests and other effects, livestock production is responsible for more than 15% of global greenhouse emissions, which is more than all the trains, planes, and automobiles put together. We are told about the dangers of carbon pollution, consequent global warming, the water shortage crisis, but we fail to realize how our dietary choices affect issues like climate change.
In the US, for example, an average family of four emits more greenhouse gases because of the meat they eat than from driving two cars – but it is cars, not steaks, that regularly come up in discussions about global warming. No matter what it says on the package, animal agriculture is one of the leading contributors to climate change. How come we don’t teach about this in our global warming lessons at schools? “Most people don’t think of the consequences of food on our planet,” says Tim Benton, a food security expert at the University of Leeds. “But just eating a little less meat right now might make things a whole lot better for our children and grandchildren” (Nuwer).
Many scientists argue that reducing or eliminating meat consumption is one of the best strategies for managing climate change. A vegan diet would also reduce water consumption as about 70% of global freshwater consumption is used in agriculture. It takes 15,000 L of water to produce a kilogram of beef, 6000 L for pork, and 4,000 L for chicken. In contrast, it only takes 1600 L for a kilogram of cereal crops, 900 L for fruit, and 300 L for garden vegetables (ASAPScience).
Fortunately, this animal-friendly future is much closer than many imagine with the rise of plant alternatives that don’t waste water. According to some estimates, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $5.2 billion by 2020 and could make up one-third of the market by 2050. Raising and processing animals is a full-time job for more than one billion people- most of whom are small-scale farmers in the developing world. Critics state that these billion people will suddenly lose their jobs and their way of life would become obsolete. However, the rise of veganism is a slow process, not a sudden cutoff, and many these farmers would be able to grow vegetable crops and gradually adapt their culture to changing demand.