World Water Day is held on 22 March every year to raise awareness about the importance of freshwater. On this day, many misuses of water are highlighted and we try to mend our ways to become a more responsible user of this precious resource. What we forget is that animal agriculture is one of the main users and polluters of fresh water and puts a huge strain on our water resources and compromises our water security. Water security today has become one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, so World Water Day is the ideal opportunity to tackle one of the biggest causes of water usage and pollution– the meat, dairy and egg industry.
With more than 83 billion animals reared and slaughtered globally for the food industry every year, industrial scale animal agriculture impacts our environment in enormously detrimental ways (Humane Society International). It is not only one of the leading contributors to climate change and deforestation, but it also uses vast quantities of water. Research shows that switching to more plant-forward diets could cut our water footprint in half, so by changing our diet to reduce or replace meat, dairy and eggs with more water-friendly plant-based foods, we can all help to preserve the world’s water. Between watering the crops that are meant for the consumption of farmed animals, providing billions of animals with drinking water each year, and cleaning away the filth from farms, trucks, and slaughterhouses, the animal-agriculture industry places an unfathomable strain on the world’s water supply.
But somehow this issue remains not so heavily discussed and we still continue to live in ignorance by not acknowledging how detrimental the animal agriculture industry is to the environment. The real solution to the alarming issue of water scarcity lies in agriculture: about 90 per cent of our global water footprint relates to food. But how can one change their diet to save water? Reducing animal products in the human diet offers the potential to save water resources, up to the amount currently required to feed 1.8 billion additional people globally (IOPScience 2014). If you don’t trust this statement, you’ll surely trust the figures – According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 322 litres of water to produce one kg of vegetables. In contrast, the production of animal products uses much more water: one kg of milk requires 1,020 litres, one kg of eggs requires 3,265 litres, one kg of poultry meat requires 4,325 litres, one kg of pork requires 5,988 litres, one kg of mutton requires 8,763 litres, and one kg of beef requires a staggering 15,415 litres.
Today, even you can take a step towards becoming a more environment-friendly consumer whose food habits will also benefit your health and animals alike. You don’t necessarily have to change your entire diet in one night. But what we can do is take a step. No matter how big or small, just a step in the right direction. Cut your consumption of meat in half, reduce the frequency of your consumption, try mock meat, plant-based eggs and dairy alternatives and give this your best shot. Let’s celebrate this World Water Day by going Vegan!