The bushfires in Australia have been devastating, with many lives and homes – of both humans and other animals – lost. During the crisis, we’ve seen amazing acts of bravery and compassion from people, but you don’t need to run into burning bushland and rescue koalas to help. Every day, our individual actions are affecting our climate and the conditions that have caused the severity of these fires.
Scientists have emphatically stated that climate change has played a key role in this year’s bushfires. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said that “[c]limate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world”.
Sadly, Australia has one of the highest greenhouse-gas emissions per capita of any nation. Citing research done in partnership with Australian Wool Innovation, Dairy Australia, and Meat & Livestock Australia, the Australian government’s own website claims that direct livestock emissions account for about 10% of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions. However, independent scientists place this figure much higher. For instance, University of Tasmania Professor of Environmental Sustainability Dr Barry Brook estimates that raising animals for food is responsible for half of Australia’s short-term emissions.
The story is the same globally. Recently, the United Nations stated that a global shift towards vegan eating is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change and researchers at the University of Oxford concluded that cutting animal products from our diets is the “single biggest way” to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and conserve water and land.
There is absolutely no doubt that we need the energy and transport sectors to move away from fossil fuels, but we can’t simply wait for better technology or for politicians to do what’s right for the environment. We must take individual responsibility and do what we can in our own lives to lower emissions, and that means cutting meat and other animal products from our diets. Not many of us can purchase an electric car or live entirely off the power grid, but we can all choose a veggie burger instead of a beef burger.
Because of the combination of a long drought and fires, Australia’s water stores are plummeting. Sydney’s dam levels currently sit at 46.6%, prompting the state government to issue warnings that level 2 water restrictions could be enforced sooner than expected.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, animal agriculture uses up around a third of Australia’s fresh water supply. A single cow can drink as many as 90 litres of water per day – and Australia is home to 26.2 million of them. That’s up to 2.3 billion litres of water going to animals (whose waste pollutes even more water) – not even counting the water used to grow the crops that feed them.
As the fires continue, it’s time to stop throwing good water after bad. Cut meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet and you’ll also cut your water use by two-thirds.
After weeks of burning fires, the Australian Koala Foundation told media that koala populations have become “functionally extinct”, meaning that their population is “beyond the point of recovery”. No one knows exactly how many koalas there are in Australia, but there is no doubt that their numbers have sustained a huge blow from loss of habitat, not only from the fires but also from land clearing to make way for other animals – namely, the ones humans eat.
Australia ranks among the world’s top 10 nations in deforestation. According to Queensland’s Statewide Landcover and Trees Study, the vast majority (90%) of vegetation clearing in recent years has been for conversion to pasture for grazing purposes. Meanwhile, each year in Queensland alone, 900,000 mammals die because of habitat loss.
How You Can Help Koalas
Eating meat and other animal products is often considered a “personal choice” for privileged Australians to make – but all choices have consequences.
Before reaching for another steak, picture a koala who has been burned and lost his or her family and home.
We can help all Australian native animals affected by fires and deforestation by choosing climate-friendly vegan foods. Take the vegan pledge now, and we’ll help you through your first 30 days with recipes, tips for eating out, and other resources to help save animals.