Animal agriculture is the leading cause of desertification, Amazon rainforest destruction, species extinction, solid waste and dead zone creation, and is a one of the top, if not the leading emitter of greenhouse gases rivaling all of transportation combined. By eating plant foods instead of animal products you no longer contribute to this destructive force. Below is a catalogue of damages by environmental category with all statistics hyper-linked to their source.
While fishing has profoundly negative effects on ocean habitat, it is more than just the decision to have fish on your plate that affects the health of the oceans. Animal products made on land also have a detrimental outcome for marine species through indirect forces like nitrogen-rich waste and CO2 emissions.
Species collapse from overfishing is rampant. 80% of fish populations are depleted, overexploited, or fully exploited from fishing. Many species have lost 95-99% of their population primarily due to fishing. Much of this damage is due to bycatch or by-kill, the non-targeted species that die during fishing. In shrimp fishing this is often 5 lbs of by-kill for every 1 lb of shrimp caught.
Coral reefs hold 25% of the Earth’s marine life and 55% of reefs are threatened or endangered by fishing practices, making fishing more destructive to reef species than any other direct human source. 27% of reefs have are now destroyed, primarily driven by climate-related coral reef bleaching. Bleaching is caused by the increased acidity of the ocean due to the CO2 absorption. The ocean absorbs 30% of CO2 emissions and livestock is responsible for 14.5–51% of those emissions. Deep sea trawling (dragging nets) is also a major cause of deep sea reef destruction. As Jason Hall-Spencer, a researcher from Census of Marine Life stated about deep reefs:
“It doesn’t matter what ocean you go to, these habitats are being trashed by international fishing fleets.”
Dead zones now number 550 worldwide. They are caused by a eutrophication or blooming of algae species from excess nitrogen which leads to oxygen depletion and mass fish die offs. The majority of these nutrients come from crop fertilizers and solid waste from livestock (poop).
Our choices to eat animal products has led livestock farming to balloon into the largest single endeavor that humanity is engaged in. According to the FAO, “Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface.” But according to the International Livestock Research Institute, “Livestock systems occupy 45% of the global surface area.” This is primarily from growing feed and grazing animals.
Amazon rainforest destruction is mostly caused by the livestock industry, with estimates ranging at 70%, 80%, or even 90% of total deforestation. This is important because not only is the Amazon the lungs of the Earth, responsible for 1/4 of the world’s land-based carbon sequestration, but it is a hotbed of biodiversity. So much so that we are losing approximately 137 species of plants, animals and insects every single day because of rainforest deforestation.