From Issue 2
I was told not to touch the pigs because they connected human touch with pain.
It was 2018. I was attending the Animal Rights National Conferenceーthe largest animal rights conference in the U.S. While there, I learned about a pig vigil, where you stand outside of a slaughterhouse and give young pigs comfort in their final moments. I had never heard of one before. Some friends from the conference and I joined 500 other activists on the street in Los Angeles, CA. We stayed from 11p.m. to 3 a.m., watching trucks enter the slaughterhouse. We gave the pigs water and love before they went in.
Like most kids, I had an affinity for animals at a young age. I remember one day at dinner asking my parents if the chicken on my plate was actually chicken. I didn’t want to eat my friends. Nothing could have prepared 7-year-old me for the answer I was given. I knew from that moment onward I wouldn’t eat another piece of meat. Meat and seafood are a big part of my Mauritian culture, since Mauritius is an island country, and my grandmother heavily disapproved of my choice. I was still determined then to become a vegetarian.
Years later, at the pig vigil, I watched the last truck of the night roll toward the slaughterhouse. One pig screamed the whole way into the gates. That was the moment I knew I would never eat animal products again.
While conducting research online during my vegan transition, I learned how the animal agriculture industry contributes to biodiversity loss, water and air pollution, and climate change. I was in disbelief to learn that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation exhaust. I knew that becoming vegan was great for animals, but for our planet? I had never thought about it before.
As our population continues to grow, so does the demand for food products. The animal agriculture industry has become so massive that humans are outnumbered by livestock. We slaughter billions of animals each year to sustain our current eating habits. By shifting our diets we can tackle the climate crisis from many aspects.
A large amount of food is required to feed livestock, which requires a large amount of land for growing feed and grazing for animals. This is an enormous contribution to deforestation. Studies recently published in the scientific journal, “Nature” showed that portions of the Amazon rainforest are now emitting more CO2 than they absorb. Cutting and burning for animal agriculture is what caused the devastating Amazon Rainforest fire in 2019.
Livestock also emit greenhouse gasses: carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NO2), and methane. The amount of animals raised through factory farming is a climate issue. Cows alone produce approximately 150 billion gallons of methane per day. NO2 and methane are more potent, therefore more harmful, than CO2, rapidly increasing our global temperature. We then have to account for refrigeration, packaging, processing, and transportation of all animal products across the globe that comes afterwards.
There is no way to farm without releasing some greenhouse gases, but it is important to reduce our impact where we can. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet can cut an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 percent. Plant-based foods have a much lower carbon footprint than animal products.
Plants absorb CO2 through photosynthesis. Some even store more carbon than they emit for food production. Going vegan was the path I chose. If you cannot fully transition to a plant-based diet, try to reduce the amount of animal products you eat wherever possible. Participating in Meatless Mondays or Veganuary ーgoing vegan for the month of Januaryー are great ways to explore the lifestyle and if it is right for you.
Over the years, my grandmother has started cooking more vegetarian and vegan recipes as she learns alongside me. Food has an immense impact on our planet, and we can all make a difference every time we sit down to eat.