With 17-20% of the Amazon cut down in the last 50 years alone, natural regeneration rates cannot keep up with our current global eating patterns.
Most people don’t think of the 8-ounce steak on their plate when they think of deforestation. However, approximately 80% of the land cleared in the Amazon is used for animal agriculture. With the average American consuming around 200 pounds of meat per year, it would require 4 planets for the global population to consume this type of diet. The land cleared for meat production is not only used for physical space that cattle take up; in fact, most of this land is used to feed animals, which consume a much denser diet than humans. For just one pound of meat to make it to your plate, 10 pounds of grain are used, not to mention 2,400 gallons of water involved for processing—for an American diet, that’s an average of 2,000 pounds of grain produced per person, for meat consumption alone.
Why Should We Care About Deforestation?
In short, the Amazon is a vital organ of our planet. Its biodiversity, rich canopy, and indigenous population provide the earth with species preservation, freshwater sources, and carbon sequestration just to name a few. As more land is cleared for animal agriculture, there are fewer trees left to offset the effects of global pollution and climate change. The cooling and oxygenating effect of the trees is lessened, and ambient temperatures rise, contributing to the global climate change crisis.
With an estimated 10% of all life on earth residing in the Amazon rainforest, current rates of meat production are threatening a wealth of species whose extinction could disrupt entire ecosystems. Most of all, the western diet is affecting indigenous communities who have been living in harmony with the land for centuries. It is at this point that we must ask ourselves: how much do we really need and how badly do we need it?
In fact, while a plant-based diet requires 1/6th of an acre to feed one person per year, a meat-eater requires 3 acres—that’s 18 times more land!
One thing is for sure—shifting towards a plant-based diet reduces the demand for land-intensive foods such as meat and other animal products. Even though we cannot control how much meat is being pumped out by massive agricultural producers, we can reduce demand by making more sustainable choices. Even swapping out meat a few times a week can save an entire acre of Amazon every year. The next time you are at the grocery store, remember that you have the power to rescue vital rainforest from being cleared, all from the smallest everyday choices.