Dr Colleen Mcduling
Saving Earth’s Wildlife Through a Radical Change
Have you ever wondered what the ratios between wildlife and livestock were? Well, in 2018, three scientists did and they carried out some research to find out the answer. Yinon Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo from Israel and California estimated the biomass of all living things on the Earth. Now, biomass is the weight or mass of a living being. It was the first study of its kind and it gave some rather interesting and alarming results. Their research was published in a journal called The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The research was so significant that it was summarized in The Guardian.
Of all life forms on Earth, comprising animals, plants, bacteria, fungi and viruses, they found that plants made up for 82% of all life on Earth. Bacteria came in second with only 13%. The remaining fraction of 5% comprised everything else including all animals fungi and viruses.
But what made this study so disturbing was the fact that of the mammals, 60% were livestock , 36% were humans, whilst only a mere 4% were wildlife. This is a huge disproportion between livestock and wildlife. These researchers revealed that of the birds, a staggering 70% were being raised as farm animals for food whilst only 30% were wild birds living freely outdoors.
The research also revealed that of all living things on Earth, humans made up for only 0.01%. And yet, since humans appeared on the Earth a few million years ago, they have been responsible for the extinction of a whopping 83% of all wildlife. This is a huge figure. The WWF estimates that 10,000 species go extinct every year. This figure represents both plants and animals, but it is still a massive number.
So, what exactly is driving all of this? Why are so many species becoming extinct? The answer, quite simply, is our lifestyles and the way we grow our food.
Vegans have been blamed for deforestation of vast swathes of land to grow soya. But the actual truth, according to Greenpeace, is that 80% of all soya grown is fed to farmed animals, most of whom are in factory farms. Only about 6% of all soya ends up on our plates. Deforestation leads to animals losing their natural homes, their food sources and their protection. Invariably, this will lead to many, many species dying out. There is nothing to sustain them. Deforestation is carried out not only to grow soya (and also corn which is fed to livestock), but also for mining, logging, urban development and building of roads and railways.
It’s estimated that around 80 Billion land-based animals are killed to feed a burgeoning human population every year. And, until their untimely death, they need feeding! So, you can imagine how much land is used to grow food for them! This land that could be used to grow healthy plant-based food to feed humans. In some countries of the world, global poverty and hunger is rife.
A plant-based diet is highly recommended; it uses up a lot less land to grow enough food for human consumption. Wildlife is thus supported and the threat of extinction of species is greatly reduced.
It’s not only our dietary preferences that need addressing; it’s also agricultural systems as a whole. Growing crops responsibly and veganically supports the emergence of a myriad of both plant and animal species in the surrounding areas. Veganic growing does not use any animal-based fertilizers, any animal manures or any agrochemicals at all. Ecosystems are healthy and biodiversity is given the chance to thrive.
It has generally been accepted that the Earth is experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction Event. Global ecosystems have become unstable and wildlife is disappearing at an exponential rate. In order to prevent any further biodiversity and wildlife loss, organizations such as the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) are strongly advocating a move to a plant-based diet, rewilding of Nature and eco-friendly agricultural systems.
The evidence is there. There needs to be a radical change in mindset. Humans need to go vegan and we need to reform our agricultural systems. And the sooner this is done, the more chance we have in preventing any further wildlife loss.
Bar-On, Yinon M., Phillips, Rob and Milo, Ron; 2018; The biomass distribution on Earth; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; 115 (25); 6506-6511; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1711842115
Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study; The Guardian; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study
Deforestation and food: your questions answered; WWF; https://www.wwf.org.uk/food/deforestation-and-food-your-questions-answered
Are vegans and vegetarians destroying the planet?; Greenpeace Video; https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/soya-meat-vegetarian-vegan/
Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss: Three levers for food system transformation in support of nature; Chatham House Report, February 03, 2021; ISBN: 978 1 78413 433 4; https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/02/food-system-impacts-biodiversity-loss