SDG13 - Climate Action

We are eating our planet, and our demand for more meat is the leading cause of deforestation

Deforestation of the Amazon, near Santarém, Brazil. Photograph: Brazil Photos/LightRocket/Getty Images

The tens of billions of chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals we raise, and slaughter for food annually account for around 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from cow burps, animal manure, and the fertilizer used to grow the corn and soy they eat. Over one-third of the Earth’s habitable land is used for animal farming — much of it cleared for cattle grazing and growing all that corn and soy — making animal agriculture the leading cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss globally.

Deforestation causes emissions itself, but it also represents a missed opportunity to sequester carbon. If that land were “rewilded” or retired as farmland, it would act as a carbon sink, sucking massive amounts of climate-warming carbon out of the atmosphere. But we keep clearing more and more forestland, especially in the Amazon rainforest and elsewhere in the tropics, mostly for beef, pork, and poultry.

Kenny Torella, Vox

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