In recent weeks, we've been inundated by news of the rising price of chicken, eggs, pork and animal-based foods caused by the worst drought seen in the United States in decades. The lack of rain has damaged or destroyed many of the wheat, corn and soya bean crops that are also imported to feed farmed animals in the UK, leading the British Poultry Council to warn that the amount that the industry spends a year on feed could jump by 35% to £1.9 billion.
Those of us who are concerned about the conservation of water and other resources or rising food bills should view World Water Week as the ideal time to start buying wholesome vegan foods instead of animal-derived ones.
On average, it takes one-third more water and land to produce animal-based foods than plant-based ones - in part because of the extra crops needed to feed farmed animals. According to a 2010 United Nations Environment Programme report, farmed animals are fed more than half the crops currently grown in the world. In fact, the extra water needed - 14,000 litres - to feed a typical meat-eater compared with a typical vegan for a year would fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Since water is becoming increasingly scarce in some regions, and other resources are dwindling as well, it's important that we use the water, land and energy that are currently available as efficiently as possible. Squandering resources on animal agriculture is foolish and wasteful. Watering crops that are grown to feed farmed animals, providing animals with drinking water and washing away the filth on factory farms, on transport trucks and in abattoirs all drain our water supply substantially.
The choice is simple: we can continue wasting the world's resources, or we can help conserve water and other resources by choosing vegan foods. It takes only 1,644 litres of water to grow one kilogram of cereal crops compared to 15,415 litres of water to produce one kilogram of beef.
And while meat-eaters will be expected to pick up the tab for the increased costs of producing meat, milk and eggs, shoppers likely won't see a significant increase in the price of plant-based foods sold in supermarkets. It pays to go vegan on several levels - plant-based foods tend to cost less than animal-derived foods, and since they're also cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat, you are less likely to be overweight and more likely to be in better overall health if you eat healthy vegan foods.
We can't control Mother Nature, but we can control our actions that affect the environment, animals and our health, and by choosing vegan foods, we can have a positive impact on all three. So while we're being bombarded by public service messages that tell us to conserve water, why not commemorate World Water Week by making the truly impactful and positive choice to eat meat-free meals?