Forests are cut down for numerous reasons, but by far the major cause of deforestation is animal agriculture. Farmers clear forests to provide land that can be used to graze cattle and for the planting of crops to feed livestock. Around 5 million acres of Amazon per year is cleared of which over 90 percent has been contributed to raising animals for food.
A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists has resulted in a call to reduce meat consumption in order to fight deforestation. Even though vegetarianism is increasing in Europe and America globally the demand for meat has risen.
From the UCS report:
“ Global meat consumption has increased in recent years—and much of the new land for meat production has come from clearing tropical forests. This trend is a leading driver of deforestation and a significant contributor to global warming emissions.”
The Union of Concerned Scientist names Beef production as one of the biggest culprits:
“Beef production uses more agricultural land than all other food sources combined.”
“Nearly 60 percent of the world's agricultural land is used for beef production, yet beef accounts for less than two percent of the world's calories.”
In a recent food report, What's Feeding Our Food? Friends of the Earth estimated that approximately 6 million hectares of forest land a year which is an area of land equal to the size of Latvia is cleared and transformed to farmland the majority of which is used for livestock or to grow feed for cattle. Millions of hectares of trees have been felled to provide meat for the US and more recently animal feed for the farms of Europe, China and Japan.
As soya becomes a massive crop used for chicken feed, so the industry is pushing agriculture deeper into the forests.
Vegetarian diets require far less land. This would reduce the need to clear forests and would also free up land that could be cultivated with forest gardens to create agricultural land that produces a wide variety of foods in an environmentally beneficial way.