Deforestation


Animal farming and fishing occupies approximately 43% of global ice- and desert-free land [1], meaning that these industries have eradicated vast amounts of wilderness. In fact, animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation [2], being accountable for 67% worldwide [1]. Whilst this releases substantial amounts of CO2 back into the atmosphere, it also significantly reduces or totally removes a forest’s capacity to produce oxygen and remove carbon from the atmosphere [3]. Then, as a result of the subsequent grazing of animals, the deforested land becomes vulnerable to soil erosion and desertification [3]. 

The UK is also a significantly deforested country: 48% percent of the land area is used for animal agriculture [4]. However, this is often overlooked as the deforestation did not happen in living memory. If all UK pasture was reforested, over 3 million tonnes of CO2 could be absorbed: this is equivalent to offsetting 9 years’ worth of the UK’s CO2 emissions [4]. This could be increased to 12 years of emissions if cropland used to feed animals was also restored [4]. Not only would rewilding cause such a decrease in emissions, it allow wildlife populations impacted by human activity to recover [5].

Citations
  1. Poore, J. & Nemecek, T., 2018. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360 (6392), 987-992. – https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6392/987
  2. Machovina, B., Feeley, K.J. & Ripple, W.J., 2015. Biodiversity conservation: The key is reducing meat consumption. Science of the Total Environment, 536, 419-431. – https://www.medicosadventistas.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Biodiversity-conservation-The-key-is-reducing-meat-consumption..pdf
  3. Oppenlander, R.A., 2011. Comfortably Unaware: Global Depletion and Food Responsibility… What You Choose to Eat Is Killing Our Planet. Hillcrest Publishing Group.
  4. Harwatt, H. & Hayek, M., 2019. Eating Away at Climate Change with Negative Emissions: Repurposing UK agricultural land to meet climate goals [online]. Harvard Law School: Animal Law & Policy Program. [viewed 19 July 2019]. Available from: https://animal.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/Eating-Away-at-Climate-Change-with-Negative-Emissions––Harwatt-Hayek.pdf
  5. G. Monbiot, 2017. Goodbye – and good riddance – to livestock farming. The Guardian. [viewed 14 January 2019]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/04/livestock-farming-artificial-meat-industry-animals