Let's begin this thought experiment with paper from PNAS 2017(1)…
US agriculture was modeled to determine impacts of removing farmed animals on food supply adequacy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This debate is so tiresome because you can very easily go directly to the EPAs own data to see the tiny impact that livestock has on total GHG emissions. Indeed this paper also found that removing animals decreased agricultural total US GHG by 2.6%. Low hanging fruit my friends. But if you’re not serious about solving a problem, you create straw man arguments to push an agenda.
Of course this is also a one sided debate and does not take into account the immense nutritional value of animal products. Luckily this paper did explore that argument as well and found this… “Compared with systems with animals, diets formulated for the US population in the plants-only systems had greater excess of dietary energy and resulted in a greater number of deficiencies in essential nutrients.”
More calories, less nutrition…the very opposite of nutrient density. A term the plant based crowd has tried to commandeer.
For example choline was deficient in all scenarios except the system with animals that used domestic currently consumed and exported production. In the plants-only diets, a greater number of nutrients were deficient, including Ca, vitamins A and B12, and EPA/DHA.
The simulated diets in this paper support the idea that essential micronutrients, rather than macronutrients, are a critical challenge in scaling diets from individuals to a population.
The crowd that continues to look at food as simple calories is just as guilty as the crowd who things cattle are destroying the environment. Both lack the nuanced understanding and are repeating lines fed to them by other’s pushing political, social or personal agendas.
A dietary pattern void of animals and animal products is actually bad for you and bad for the planet. How so?
“Emissions from ruminants like cattle are part of a natural biogenic cycle, where short-lived methane converts to carbon dioxide and water, which become part of the photosynthetic process and water cycle. By contrast, emissions from tilling crops and the fossil fuels needed to power crop equipment and processed meat alternative factories comprise a one-way road of pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
And don’t forget EPA’s own data…Agriculture only represents 9.4% of total GHG emissions and of that 50% belongs to crop agriculture while only 44% belongs to livestock. Inconvenient facts…along with 70% of all the world's freshwater withdrawals going towards irrigating crops!
Even in conventional farming systems, cattle use the same or less groundwater (“blue water”) compared to many crops like almonds, rice, avocados, walnuts, and sugar. In well-managed grazing systems, cattle actually improve the water-holding capacity of the soil, reducing soil erosion and run off.
There is so much nuance here and yet people love overly simplistic explanations and will make excuses even for the most egregious overreaching policies.
In this case, consent has truly been manufactured.
White RR, Hall MB. Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017;114(48):E10301-E10308. doi:10.1073/pnas.1707322114