It's World Water Week, and right now, experts, decision-makers, and business innovators from a range of sectors and countries are meeting in Stockholm to develop solutions to today's most pressing water-related challenges.
As individuals, we can and should play our part in achieving a water-wise world. Taking shorter showers, turning the tap off when we brush our teeth, watering the garden with a watering can rather than a hosepipe are all simple ways that we can save water. But considering that animal agriculture uses a third of the entire world's fresh water, these actions all pale in comparison to the single most important thing that we can do – and that's to adopt a vegan diet.
Between irrigating the crops produced to feed animals raised for their flesh, milk, and eggs; providing billions of animals with drinking water each year; and washing away the filth of factory farms and abattoirs, animal agriculture places a tremendous strain on our limited water supply.
A 2006 United Nations report, entitled "Livestock's Long Shadow", highlighted freshwater scarcity among the many environmental problems caused by animal agriculture and called the livestock sector "a key player in increasing water use" and "probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution". It takes, on average, 15,500 litres of water to produce just 1 kilogram of beef. To put this in context, that's the equivalent of taking 50 baths to produce one steak – 15 times more water than is needed to produce 1 kilogram of wheat. The diet of a typical meat-eater requires the equivalent of 5,000 litres of water per day – enough to water not just your garden but also the gardens of all your neighbours.
In addition to being terrible for the environment, today's factory farms cram intelligent animals by the thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, into dark, filthy cages or windowless sheds, where they are denied everything that makes life worth living. Then, they are strung upside down and their throats are slit, all so that humans can eat their flesh. Switching to plant-based foods would put an end to the cycle of misery and abuse that these sensitive animals endure and is by far the best way to reduce our water consumption – meaning that you don't need to feel guilty about what you're eating or taking a little bit longer in the shower.
PETA offers a free vegan starter kit for anyone who wants help making the switch.
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