The Naked Truth: Why Animals Lives Matter
Any talk surrounding eco-living is a complex one and is fraught with friction and uncomfortable truths. However, as we find ourselves in the midst of several different environmental crises, it can be useful to focus on just one area at a time. In this Naked Truth, we look at why protecting the future of diverse animal species is vital to our survival, and why we should protect animals regardless of whether or not we choose to eat them.
Animals and sustainable agriculture
There are many studies that show a predominantly plant based diet can deliver numerous health benefits and be kinder on the environment. However, in order to grow produce on a vast scale, we need to increase biodiversity.
Bees play an integral role in agriculture and are responsible for roughly one in three mouthfuls we eat. However, as many of you will know, the bee needs our help. With bee colonies collapsing at an alarming rate, companies now transport and rent out hives on a rolling contract in order to adequately pollinate farms. While planting wild flowers and restoring habitats for wild bees is a great start, there is also a problem with bees being wiped out from chemical exposure.
Big agriculture currently relies on a pretty terrifying cocktail of pesticides, herbicides and other chemical sprays that help produce bigger yields and reduce blight. Over time, this has resulted in poor soils and strains of crops that struggle to grow without this heady mix. And the problem gets worse. Scientists who have been studying the threats to bees and pollinators in agriculture have found that a class of insecticides called Neonicotinoids are incredibly toxic to bees and is responsible for the colony collapse of pollinators all over the globe.
Since 2017, World Bee Day has been taking place to raise awareness of the plight of the bee. It’s an initiative supported by the United Nations and through education and events, aims to help protect this endangered species that can ensure food security for the future, but only if we act now!
The careful balance of the eco-system
The food chain is a precarious system that requires balance. As natural predators have been overhunted, or succumbed to disease, this has led to some species becoming overpopulated. In Yellowstone National Park, deer populations got so large that they were grazing the vegetation down to almost nothing. Despite, attempts at controlling the population numbers through culling, this problem persisted until in 1995 the park introduced wolves. As this native species hunted on elk and deer, the grazing was reduced, and the herds of deer and elk changed their behaviors and headed away from valleys and areas where they could be easy prey. This led to trees growing taller, and faster, which over time allowed for beaver numbers to increase, eating and felling those trees. The beavers then build their dams and created a vibrant ecosystem for river animals. As well as this, the thick vegetation that could now grow more abundantly helped reinforce riverbanks, making them less susceptible to erosion, and changed the shape and dynamics of local river flow.
While Yellowstone may be a long way away from you, this example shows the ripple effect of the integral role animal species play in the eco-system and how drastically things can change if native species begin to disappear. This is something to take serious note of. Especially after a recent UN report stated that one million species are at risk of imminent extinction.
This UN report was written by almost 150 authors and points out that as sea temperatures rise and oceans become more acidified, the human race will suffer. As coral reefs die and fisheries all over the world start to collapse, this in turn will affect coastal communities, who rely on seafood for protein.
Plastics role in the problem
Plastic pollution is not just an ocean problem but the reason ocean plastics get so much attention is that when it rains, a great deal of litter in the countryside eventually finds its way in to rivers and streams with the eventual resting place being the sea.
As well as ocean acidification and temperature rise, plastic poses a considerable threat to the eco-system. During this spring, record numbers of whales have been found washed up along the Pacific migration route with large-scale plastic ingestion, not to mention the alarming levels of micro plastics found within the fish we buy, which presents a risk to human health.
Many of you will also have seen the heart wrenching video of a turtle having a straw removed from its nose and understand the destructive, man-made environment that wild creatures are having to live in. On 23rd May it’s World Turtle Day, which aims to aid the survival of tortoise and turtle species all over the planet, but it’s not just the turtle that needs our help. You’ll find countless other initiatives helping to raise awareness around the threats numerous species are facing.
As this UN report explains, if we let theses species die out, we face grave consequences. These losses will have an effect on food and water security, as well as human health. The Washington Post reported that we extract 60 billion tons from nature each year to satisfy the worldwide demand for crops, fish, minerals and other goods.
All is not lost though; there is a glimmer of hope. The scientists behind the UN report say ‘it’s not too late to make a difference.’ Providing we help more than 100 developing and non-developed nations to work together to bring about change.
This issue goes far beyond whether we chose to eat meat or not but affects complex corners of the wider ecosystem. Those working to find and implement solutions to this problem need our help and support.
“It is one world. And it’s in our care. For the first time in the history of humanity, for the first time in 500 million years, one species has the future in the palm of its hands. I just hope he realises that that is the case.”
~ Sir David Attenborough ~