Vegan for Our Earth – Eating Meat Contributes to Global Warming

Vegan for Our Earth – Eating Meat Contributes to Global Warming

Through the process of digestion, livestock emit 16% of the world's annual production of methane gas.[6]

A groundbreaking 2006 United Nations report found that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined [1].

Luckily, we can help fix this problem by changing our diet.

According to a 2006 study done by researchers at the University of Chicago, most Americans can reduce more greenhouse gas emissions by becoming a vegan than they can by switching to a hybrid electric car.

They found that eating a vegan diet prevents the equivalent of 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions every year, more than the 1 ton of CO2 emissions prevented by switching from a typical large sedan to a Toyota Prius [2].

So why does meat cause so much global warming? There are a number of factors. Here are a few:

  • Manure. The tens of billions of farmed animals of the world produce massive amounts of manure, which emit green house gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.
  • Cow Burps. Ruminant animals such as cows and sheep, also emit huge quantities of methane via burping and flatulence. Methane has 23 times the global warming potential of CO2, and the livestock industry alone is responsible for 37 percent of human-induced methane emissions.
  • Deforestation. Forests are being destroyed to make room for cattle to graze or to grow crops to feed livestock. When the trees are cut down or burned, the CO2 they store escapes back into the air.
  • Synthetic Fertilizer. Growing feed for farmed animals requires intense use of synthetic fertilizers manufactured with fossil fuels. This process emits a tremendous amount of CO2, and the fertilizer releases nitrous oxide[3] — a greenhouse gas that is 296 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  • Burning Fossil Fuels. The burning of fossil fuels releases CO2, one of the primary gases responsible for global warming. In addition to fertilizer manufacturing, the meat industry uses fossil fuels to heat the buildings that house the animals, to produce of all the crops to feed to the animals, and to transport, process, and refrigerate all of the meat. Cornell ecologist David Pimentel estimates that animal protein demands about eight times as much fossil fuel than for a comparable amount of plant protein.

Why should we care? Global warming is a problem that could have devastating long term consequences. As the National Resource Defense Council notes, if we don't do something soon to prevent this, "Sea levels will rise, flooding coastal areas. Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense. Droughts and wildfires will occur more often. Disease-carrying mosquitos will expand their range. And species will be pushed to extinction." [5]

Many of these changes have already begun.

Consider This
One ton of methane has the global warming potential of 23 tons of carbon dioxide. A single dairy cow produces the equivalent to over 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide.[7]


  1. "Rearing Cattle Produces More Greenhouse Gases Than Driving Cars, UN Report Warns," UN News Centre, 29 Nov. 2006.
  2., "It's Better to Green Your Diet Than Your Car," 17 Dec. 2005.
  3. Scientific American. (2001, Feb.). p. 50
  4. F.A.O., United Nations. (1996). Livestock & the Environment.
  5. National Resource Defense Council. The Consequences of Global Warming.
  6. World Watch Institute. (2004, July/August). Meat: Now It's Not Personal. World Watch.
  7. World Watch Institute. (2004, July/August). Meat: Now It's Not Personal. World Watch.

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