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Reduce environmental impact

Reduce environmental impact

Farming puts significant pressure on Australia’s environment. Plant-based food such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, peas, nuts and lentils generally use less energy, land and water to farm and produce far less greenhouse gas emissions than animal agriculture.

Deforestation and land clearing

Research shows that animal agriculture is a driving force behind land clearing in Australia, resulting in habitat fragmentation and threatening precious ecosystems. Animal agriculture occupies a staggering 770 million hectares, which is more than half of mainland Australia. In Queensland alone, 93% of cleared land is used for farming. Source 

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency states that most land cleared in Australia today is used for cattle grazing. Sheep farming comes in second.

Greenhouse gas emissions

About one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions can be linked to our food. Animal agriculture in particular produces large volumes of greenhouse gases.In Australia, direct livestock emissions account for about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions by the agricultural sector and 11% of total national greenhouse gas emissions. This makes Australia’s livestock the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the energy and transport sectors. Livestock are the dominant source of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), accounting for 56% and 73%, respectively, of Australia’s emissions. Source 

Agriculture and land use produce high levels of greenhouse gases as:

  • methane from cattle’s digestive process
  • nitrous oxide from fertilisers used for crop production
  • carbon dioxide from deforestation for farmland expansion
  • other agricultural emissions from manure management, rice cultivation, burning of crop residues and use of fuel on farms.

United Nations Climate Change and Land Special Report  stated that “a shift toward plant-based diets” is one of the most significant ways to reduce greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector.

Natural resources

Natural resources include oil, gas, metals, water, trees and even native animals. Agriculture uses these resources to fuel and farm, with animal agriculture requiring significantly higher amounts of water and land (trees) to produce meat and dairy products.

For example, animal meat uses between 72% to 99% more water to produce than plant-based meat. See more statistics under Mitigate climate change.

Species extinction

Deforestation can directly lead to biodiversity loss, as animals native to that land no longer have their habitat or the ability to relocate. Plant and tree species can also become extinct.

Loss of wild areas to agriculture is in fact the leading cause of the current mass extinction event.

The most recent State of the Environment report released in 2021 indicates that “our inability to adequately manage [environmental] pressures will continue to result in species extinctions and deteriorating ecosystem condition, which are reducing the environmental capital on which current and future economies depend”.