Just in time for the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has made it official: Consumption of animal products is not environmentally sustainable. Their conclusions match those of a massive 2010 United Nations report, which concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel, poverty and climate change.
Carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, is emitted by burning forests to create animal pastures and by combustion of fossil fuels to operate farm machinery, trucks, refrigeration equipment, factory farms and slaughterhouses. The much more damaging methane and nitrous oxide are released from digestive tracts of cattle and from animal waste cesspools.
Moreover, animal agriculture contributes more pollutants to our waterways than other human activities combined. Principal sources are animal wastes, soil particles, minerals, crop debris, fertilizers and pesticides from feed croplands.
It is also the driving force in worldwide deforestation and wildlife habitat destruction.
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In an environmentally sustainable world, just as fossil fuels are replaced by wind, solar and other sustainable energy sources, animal foods must be replaced by vegetables, fruits and grains. Our next trip to the supermarket is a great starting point.