The Answer is Veganism.

I was asked in an interview question yesterday if I could change one thing about the world what would that be? Without a thought my answer was to turn everyone in the world vegan, or, to be mindful about where his or her animal products are coming from.

Some people may think that such an answer is to ignore greater problems that exist in the world. But I would be so bold to answer that reducing the world’s intake of meat and dairy, and resorting to more traditional methods to rear animals intended for human consumption, would positively benefit all of the leading causes of concern we face in the world today.

Lets look at a handful of examples.

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Water. Water is possibly the most significant resource on the planet. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, we can last only a mere day or two without it. Yet our access to safe, clean water is diminishing. Our water is becoming polluted, it is becoming scarce and in many countries, every drop is sacred.

Of all the water on earth, only 2.5 percent is freshwater. Most of this freshwater however is used for agriculture, and a great deal of this agricultural water is used to grow food for livestock. It has been estimated that the livestock sector may account for 45 percent of the global budget of water used in food production.

Every kilogram of beef requires around 100,000 liters of water to produce. Studies have shown that it takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater. Refusing a pound of beef would save more water than refusing to shower for an entire year.

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The meat and dairy industries are also major culprits when it comes to pollution and CO2 omissions. Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs. Although these measures help, science shows that going vegan is one of the most effective ways to fight global warming.

A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. According to the United Nations, raising animals for food is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. Al Gore has stated that not eating meat is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your impact on climate change.

Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. Raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous-oxide emissions. A vegan is responsible for the release of approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year than is a meat-eater.

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Lets look at famine. There is more than enough food being produced to feed everyone in the world twice over, yet some 800 million people are still malnourished. The problem is that a meat-based diet means that land, water and other resources that could be used to grow food for human beings are being used to grow crops for farmed animals instead. Every day, between 6,000 and 43,000 children die of starvation, while about 40 per cent of fish, 50 per cent of the world’s grain harvest and about 90 per cent of the world’s soy harvest are fed to farm animals in the meat and dairy industries.

Eighty per cent of the children who go hungry live in countries that have a surplus in food production, but the children remain hungry and die of starvation because the grain surplus is exported to be fed to animals.

It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh, making meat consumption a very inefficient use of grain. About 20 percent of the world’s population, or 1.4 billion people, could be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone.

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A major cause for pain in the world today is the rise of deforestation. Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world’s forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland and feed crops cover much of the remainder.

It is far more economical to use land to grow crops than to farm animals. Two and a half acres of land used to grow potatoes will feed 22 people, while the same amount of land used to raise cattle will only support the energy requirements of one human being.

Deforestation due to animal farming is happening on a daily basis around the planet. Cutting down forests to make way for grazing livestock is still an overwhelming cause of global deforestation. The escalating demand of meat-eaters is directly causing the eradication of pristine virgin rainforests.

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Aside from the environmental factors that a vegan diet can help to alleviate, studies are showing that eating less meat and dairy could actually be beneficial on a human psychological level. San Bernardino County in California in the late 90’s was facing rising crime rates and finite lockup space. At the time, the State of California had a recidivism rate of 95%. This is the percentage of former prisoners who are rearrested.

The Victor Valley facility enjoyed a recidivism rate of less than 2%. What was the key factor behind this success? A vegan diet.

Inmates were given the choice whether they wanted to live under the standard California Department of Corrections guidelines and food menus, or, they could enroll in the “NEWSTART” program which included a vegan diet, bible studies, job training and anger management.

The Victor Valley nutrition services coordinator Julianne Aranda explained that “what we eat not only affects us physically, but it affects our mental attitude, our aggressiveness and our ability to make good decisions”. It was agreed that the mind and body must be cleaned up in order for the inmates to achieve positive behavioral changes.

The State of California told Moorland that inmates would probably “burn the place down before they became vegetarians”. However, once the program was in progress, the opposite became true. On average, 85% of the inmates chose NEWSTART while only 15% chose the CDC program.

The remarkable behavioral changes could even be seen outside in the prison yard where according to prison officials, nobody “owned” or controlled the yard. Typical lines drawn between blacks, whites, hispanics, gang members and other groups were non-existent. On the NEWSTART side, everyone played basketball together and had great fellowship. The CDC side of the house had the same racial divisions experienced at any other prison.

In testimonials, inmates assert that the surprisingly good-tasting food led them to feel better, have greater energy, increased stamina and reduced problems with acne. Indeed the effectiveness of a vegan vegetarian diet in rehabilitation has been scientifically validated.

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Vegans tend to get a bad wrap. The are ridiculed, they are taunted for being extremists, they are considered to be out-there, outlandish, hippies; a minority that the mainstream sectors of society continually disregard.

Well you know what?

It is the vegan population that is changing the world. It is the vegan population that cares about reducing famine, greenhouse emissions, global warming, water scarcity, crime, deforestation, cruelty, injustice and inhumanity. It is the vegan population, in their commitment to saying no to contributing to these crimes against humanity, against Mother Earth and against the animals we share this world with, that care about the future of this planet we call home.

So, what one change would I make to the world? Make the population of this planet vegan. Allow compassion and mindfulness to conquer greed and insanity. Allow gentle kindness to conquer over brutality and suffering. Allow sustainable plant-based living to conquer unsustainable and unethical meat production. And then, only then, can we take a real step forwards in the right direction.

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