There are many reasons not to eat meat, including health, ethics, and cost, but there is another equally important reason that many may not know about. Deforestation for cattle ranching is that reason. Cattle ranching for beef production is the second largest driver of deforestation in the world after agricultural expansion. In the Amazon alone, 75% of deforestation has been directly linked to cattle ranching. But why beef? Beef is now the second most consumed meet in the United States, after recently being overtaken by chicken in the last few years. The U.S. also consumes almost twice as much beef as any other country in world! Our American obsession with burgers and steak is now not only affecting our health, but is also compromising global biodiversity and the rain forests that are the "lungs of the world."
Rain forests play a vital part in the global climate by being a carbon sink and serves as a climate stabilizer. Trees preform the important job of respiration, in which they adsorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen; cleaning the air in the process. Rain forests are also home to over half of the world's animal species and at least 2/3 of plant species. When deforestation occurs, these plant and animal species are often lost, which can lead to total collapses of ecosystems and complete extinctions of species. They areas are also a huge source for many modern pharmaceuticals and play an important role in the discovery and creating of new drugs that may save lives. Medical purposes are not the only reason that rain forests are important to people. There any numerous indigenous tribes that make their home in rain forests and have relied on the plant and animal species there for hundreds of years in order to survive.
Every year, approximately 2.71 million hectares of rain forest are cut down for beef production alone, not to mention the immense area that is also removed for cattle that are used for leather and other products. There are many programs that have been created to solve these problems, such as the UN REDD+ program, but with the vast area that global rain forests cover, they are very hard to enforce. Some suggest privatizing rain forests or using new satellite monitoring technology to help locate illegal deforestation and farming, but these can be exclusionary and expensive. One thing that can be done is for consumers like us to send signals to producers that these products are not desirable. If there is no market for these products then production will inevitably decrease. So what can you do? To start, you can cut out meat and especially beef from your diet, as well as reducing your consumption of leather and other cattle products. However, soy is also one of the leading causes of deforestation, so if you are looking for other sources of non-animal protein, make sure it is locally sourced. Just remember that sustainability is the name of the game and consider the affects that your action might have on the environment.