Updated: Aug 26, 2020
"We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet - for the sake of hamburgers." -Peter Singer
As we discussed in our "Save the Animals; Save the Earth" blog post last month, we are witness to the 6th mass extinction event of our planet. This time, though, the extinction wasn't triggered by natural climate shifts, massive volcanic activity, or an impacting asteroid. This time, humanity created the extinction event. From carbon emissions to deforestation to over fishing and habitat destruction, up to 1 million species are threatened with extinction, many within the next few decades. The Red List report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) analyzes 105,732 species of plants and animals, categorizing threatened species as vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered. When the list is updated annually, the IUCN is usually able to remove species from the critically endangered list due to conservation efforts. However, the 2018 Red List reported that species either maintained their status or moved into a higher risk category. The numbers demonstrate that current conservation efforts are not enough to curb the effects of destruction (IUCN).
An effective way to address environmental destruction and curb species extinction rates is to adopt a vegan lifestyle. One of the single largest impacts on greenhouse gas emissions is animal agriculture. As of 2018, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions came from agriculture, the majority of which was attributed to animal agriculture (Linzey & Linzey 2019). The World Wildlife Foundation (2017) stated, "So how can we feed the world and have enough space for wildlife at the same time? Simply put, we need to consume and produce food differently. If everyone ate the nutritionally recommended amount of animal products, we’d need 13% less land to grow feed. This means we’d save an area the size of the European Union from agricultural production."
In addition to changing diets, it is also important to consume animal-free medicine and supplements. While most active ingredients in medicine are animal-free, many inactive ingredients are not. According to Reker, et al (2019), lactose is present in 45% of all oral medications. A cow emits 19 grams of methane for every liter of milk (Linzey & Linzey 2019). This results in a large impact to global warming due to inactive ingredients in our medications.
So many species have gone extinct in just the past two decades. The last Pinta tortoise died on June 24, 2012 on the Galapagos Islands (Klassen 2020). The Caribbean Monk Seal was declared extinct in June 2008 (Baker 2012). On January 28, 2016, the Red List declared the Madagascan Dwarf Hippopotamus extinct (IUCN). Between 1960-1995, poachers killed more than 98% of the West African Black Rhinoceros population, and the species was declared extinct in 2011 (Platt 2013). In just the past ten years, the IUCN declared 467 different species extinct.
The forecast for biodiversity in the next thirty years is bleak. Extinction rates are up 100 times higher than past rates (Ceballos, et al. 2015). In the next twenty years, 70 to 90% of all coral reefs will disappear (Nace 2020). As these coral reefs disappear, so will African elephants, tigers, and leatherback sea turtles (Chwalibog, Ngcobo, Nedambale, Nephawe, & Sawosz 2018, USFW, and Cadei 2019).
But it isn't too late! There are ways to start making a difference now! If you've already embraced a vegan lifestyle, here are a few more ways to make a difference.
Reduce your single-use plastic consumption
Encourage and support local initiatives that protect habitat and decrease biodiversity threats
Learn as much as you can about nature and share your knowledge with others. Visit ecological interpretation centers, natural history museums, and native fish hatcheries to study local ecosystems. Volunteer at an organization that focuses on conservation or restoration of habitat.
Maintain wetlands by conserving water, reducing irrigation, and avoiding draining water bodies on your property.
Monitor and assess your pets’ impact on biodiversity. Some domestic animals, especially cats, are predators of wild animals and can devastate local population of native species. Cats have been estimated to kill tens of millions of birds each year in North America.
Things may be bleak, but it isn't too late! We are not in a hopeless situation. Every individual person can make a difference. Nature Trust British Columbia has even more ideas to inspire change!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead
Disclaimer: The product and/or medical information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product.
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Baker, Kyle. “Caribbean Monk Seal: Gone but Not Forgotten.” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service, 8 Aug. 2012, www.fws.gov/endangered/news/bulletin-summer2009/caribbean-monk-seal.html.
Cadei, Emily. “Leatherback Sea Turtles Likely to Go Extinct under Trump Administration Policy, Lawsuit Argues.” Phys.org, Phys.org, 11 June 2019, phys.org/news/2019-06-leatherback-sea-turtles-extinct-trump.html.
Ceballos, Gerardo, et al. “Accelerated Modern Human–Induced Species Losses: Entering the Sixth Mass Extinction.” Science Advances, vol. 1, no. 5, 19 June 2015, doi:10.1126/sciadv.1400253.
Chwalibog, André, et al. “The Future Survival of African Elephants: Implications for Conservation.” International International Journal of Avian & Wildlife Biology, vol. 3, no. 5, Sept. 2018, doi:10.15406/ijawb.2018.03.00123.
IUCN. “The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.” IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, www.iucnredlist.org/.
Klassen, Christopher. “Why Did La Pinta Island Tortoise Become Extinct despite All Efforts?” Yacht La Pinta Galapagos Cruise & Tours, 20 Feb. 2020, www.lapintagalapagoscruise.com/extinction-pinta-island-tortoise/.
Linzey, Andrew, and Clair Linzey. Ethical Vegetarianism and Veganism. Routledge, 2019.
Nace, Trevor. “Nearly All Coral Reefs Will Disappear Over The Next 20 Years, Scientists Say.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Feb. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2020/02/24/70-90-percent-of-coral-reefs-will-disappear-over-the-next-20-years-scientists-say/#1a6419a67d87.
Platt, John R. “How the Western Black Rhino Went Extinct.” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, 13 Nov. 2013, blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/how-the-western-black-rhino-went-extinct/.
Rekker, Daniel, et al. “‘Inactive’ Ingredients in Oral Medications.” Science Translational Medicine, vol. 11, no. 483, 13 Mar. 2019, doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aau6753.
USFW. “Tigers.” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service, www.fws.gov/international/animals/tigers.html.
WWF. “Appetite for Destruction.” World Wildlife Foundation, 3 Oct. 2017, www.wwf.org.uk/updates/appetite-for-destruction.