“Aren‘t ‘humane’ animal products more sustainable?”
Answer (from Humane Myth):
[...]At first glance, this may seem to be true. When one pictures a traditional small-scale farm with large open pastures, and then, in contrast, a huge industrial facility surrounded by giant lagoons of waste products slowly leaching into the countryside, it seems clear that producing animal products on a small scale is better for the environment. However, the reality is far more complicated than these simple images may suggest. A more fundamental question to ask is whether any form of animal agriculture, if practiced on the scale needed to meet existing demand for animal products, is good for the environment, or sustainable. [...]
[...I]f we don’t make major changes in the way we live, there are going to be drastic consequences, not in the distant future, but much sooner than most of us realize.
A recent study carried out by United Nations scientists demonstrated that animal agriculture is the number one source of greenhouse gas impact, making a greater contribution to global warming than all cars, trucks, buses, air planes, trains, and ships combined. [...] Regardless of the style of production, from the smallest scale farms to the largest industrial operations, the level of greenhouse gas impact per unit of animal products created is going to be in the same catastrophic range. [...]
Producing “humane” animal products requires at least double the amount of land required for the industrialized style of farming adopted in wealthy countries over the last several decades. In some cases, it takes several times more land to convert to “humane” methods.
So while the immediate surroundings of smaller scale pasture-based farm operations may have less concentrated pollution and less soil erosion than that produced by large-scale industrialized farms, the reality is that vastly more high quality farmland would be needed to convert existing production to “humane” farming. That amount of land is simply not available on the scale needed to meet the rapidly growing worldwide demand for animal products. [...]
[S]tep back and take a wider view of what is happening on our planet now, and what is projected to come to pass if we keep living the way we are, we’re obligated to consider our individual responsibility. Wouldn’t it be great if each took steps toward living in a way such that if everyone on the planet lived as we were, human civilization would be sustainable?
The reality is that moving toward consumption of “humane” animal products does not meet this standard. Instead, it is a time and resource-wasting distraction[...]
It has been demonstrated that human beings can be perfectly healthy living on a vegan diet based on grains, vegetables and fruits. Each time we take a step toward adopting such a diet we’re acting as responsible global citizens, dramatically reducing our contribution to global warming, resource depletion, deforestation, pollution, species loss, poverty, and hunger, and animal exploitation.
There are very few actions [besides veganism] we can take as individuals that have such a tremendous positive impact, and negligible negative side effects. [...]
Need help going vegan? Here are some starter kits with recipes and resources: