I can not stress this point enough: If you eat meat that you did not hunt, you are creating a market for the Amazon to be burned and the earth destroyed. If you eat fish, you are the reason for the majority of ocean pollution. Our farming and harvesting practices are not sustainable, and if you support these industries, you are an active contributor to climate change. Studies quite literally say that foregoing meat and dairy is one of the most effective means to reduce your carbon footprint.
Advertisements show a happy cow, a pasture for chickens, cage-free eggs. Images of healthy animals on green pasture and barns. But that is not the reality of animal agriculture. The reality is death, disease, and high environmental impact, and if you’d like to see the proof, you can watch the documentary film, “Earthlings.”
My issue, as a vegan, is not with individual consumers. I, like many of you, grew up with meat being a regular and delicious part of my diet. I did not give up animal products because I did not enjoy them, I gave them up to separate myself from a system that devalues the lives of animals and the life of the planet because “meat tastes good.” Individual practices are not the sole problem in the animal agriculture industry, but we can destroy the industry only through impacting its sales. Even Tyson, America’s largest meat producer, has responded to the decline in sales of meat by producing a line of plant based proteins.
My issue with the climate movement is that in focusing on small individual responsibilities like paper straws and meatless Mondays, we fail to address bigger, systemic issues like animal agriculture, food deserts, and how billionaires can but are electing to not end hunger in America. There’s a reason that Greta Thunberg both uses a reusable water bottle and eats a vegan diet, and it’s because veganism and environmental action go hand in hand.
Victoria Gagliardo-Silver is a New York based writer. You can find her on Twitter at @viccsilver.