Climate Change

How livestock farming affects the environment

The conversion of forests into agricultural land and livestock ranches is one of the major causes of deforestation globally

By Sarah Brown
Published: Monday 29 April 2019

The equation between livestock farming and global warming

Did you know that by the year 2050, the human population will jump to 9.6 billion? Have you ever wondered if the planet will be able to host so many more humans? Is it even feasible to produce enough food for such a huge population?

This would take a huge toll on the environment and the natural resources such as air, water and forests which would, in turn, have huge repercussions on the ecosystem and biodiversity of the planet.

The conversion of forests into agricultural land and livestock ranches is one of the major causes of deforestation. It is being done to meet the rising demand for food. Did you know that one to two acres of rainforests are cleared every second for animal rearing and agriculture?

Forests are the natural habitat of more than 70 per cent of the world’s plant and animal species. Many species of animals and plants are becoming extinct, or on the brink of extinction because of deforestation. The rapid rate at which trees are being cut down can harm communities that depend on forests for their livelihood.

Another major concern is greenhouse gas emissions. Raising livestock generates 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions that are very bad for the environment. Forests help lower the risks of sudden climate change and also tone down the impacts from natural disasters.

Water is another natural resource that is being depleted rapidly. Did you know that 70 per cent of our planet comprises of water but only 2.5 per cent of it is fresh water?

About 92 per cent of the fresh water is used for farming purposes, and 1/3rd of it is used for rearing livestock and manufacturing animal products. Livestock farming creates a huge carbon footprint and has a very high global warming potential.

So, do we sit and wait for the whole system to collapse? Of course not. We can start by restoring the forest landscape which can help reverse some of the ill-effects of deforestation. The process includes multiple activities like erosion control agroforestry and forest regeneration by natural means.

Cutting down on the consumption of dairy, meat and eggs, and going vegan is a great option — it will help reduce your carbon footprint and lower the negative effects your diet on the environment.

As a matter of fact, having less or no fat can also lower the risk of many diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and several types of cancer. Check out this Factsheet if you are interested in learning more about the environmental impact of livestock farming, and how to address this issue.

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