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How Your Love for Burgers is Driving Wildlife to Extinction
A new campaign launched by the Center for Biological Diversity hopes to make people aware of the connection between eating meat and the endangered status of animals like wolves and bears. The initiative, called “Take Extinction Off Your Plate,” shows that meat production is one of the main causes of environmental degradation globally, and that by eating meat, we are helping to drive important predators and wild grazing animals to their permanent death.
The moment humans moved from a hunter/gatherer species to an agricultural species, we set ourselves at odds with the very wildlife that sustained us for so long. Once we staked our claim, and began to cultivate the space where wild animals used to hunt and graze freely, those same animals became a threat to our livelihood.
“Production of beef, poultry, pork and other meats tripled between 1980 and 2010 and will likely double again by 2020,” explains the Center for Biological Diversity. “This ever-increasing meat consumption in a world of more than 7 billion people is already taking a staggering toll on wildlife, habitat, water resources, air quality and the climate.”
Wolves, elk, prairie dogs, and numerous other wild animals “pay the price of meat production,” points out the Center. “Some are killed because they prey on cows; others die en masse to make room for agricultural operations; still more are put in harm’s way by pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change.” Grazing also degrades grassland habitats, destroying vegetation and damaging soil and stream banks.
NPR agrees, pointing out that ranchers also all but wiped out the Mexican gray wolf, the most endangered wolf species in the world, in the U.S. “The California grizzly subspecies, for example, was driven extinct in the 1920s by hunters assisting farmers and ranchers, according to historical documents at the University of California, Berkeley.”
And speaking of exacerbation, the Center claims that “meat production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions” and “nearly 60 percent of the carbon footprint of the average U.S. household diet comes from animal products.” So animals aren’t the only ones with a future at risk. We’re literally putting our own species at jeopardy, just for the chance to raise, consume, and waste a food that we should arguably eat in moderation.
And though it’s doubtful that the world will go vegetarian any time soon, the Center for Biological Diversity claims merely reducing the amount of meat each person consumes could go a long way toward easing the pressure on wildlife.
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