A volunteer holds a severely burnt brushtail possum rescued from fires near Australia's Blue Mountains. Pic: REUTERS/Jill Gralow

We are currently seeing the greatest destruction of the Earth and the Oceans in the history of mankind, the extinction of over 10 000 species of fauna and flora every year – this is the 6th mass extinction – and at the same time are seeing an explosion of non-communicable lifestyle diseases with 50% of humans suffering from chronic lifestyle conditions which are preventable. 

As I write this, Australia is committing climate suicide, with over 14.5 million acres burnt to the ground, and over 500 million animals losing their lives, and the numbers continue to rise.  

Among the hardest hit are the Koalas who move too slowly to escape from the highly flammable eucalyptus trees. Almost a third of the entire Koala population of NSW is now dead, burnt at the stake for a crime they did not commit.  

The planet is suffering, the animals are suffering and all this because of one species, our own. The sky here is red, the smoke plume now covers an area half the size of Europe.  

A volunteer holds a kangaroo with burnt feet pads after being rescued from bushfires in Australia's Blue Mountains area. REUTERS/Jill Gralow

Nothing will change unless every individual that inhabits this precious earth starts taking steps to change the status quo.  

Governments and leaders need to take action and start believing that climate change is real. Retailers must continue to recognise the importance of the products that they sell and take responsibility not only for their bottom line, but for the products and brands that they sell that should stand with the highest ethics and values when it comes to sourcing and ingredients.  Manufacturers and producers must take a long careful look at their impact too.  

For too long we have put our head down and kept our blinkers on, because to look up and see the damage will not only scare us, but it will mean that we will recognise our own need to change how we live and consume, how we cook, how we shop. 

Animal agriculture is responsible for between 15-51% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Methane and nitrous oxide gases from the industry are 75x and 296x respectively, more powerful than CO2 in their global warming potential. 76 trillion gallons of water (140060236008000 liters) is used in the industry every year, and to put this in perspective, by committing to not eating meat for one day of the week, you save 5,530 litres of water which equates to a 7-minute shower every day for 50 days.   

The vast scale of monoculture crops such as soy to rear chickens, cows, pigs and other animals puts an enormous strain on natural resources leading to the wide-scale loss of land and species – 75% of all cropland is used to feed livestock.  

As Phil Wollen said “every time you eat a steak, you slap the tear stained face of a starving child”.

Animals are seen in Cobargo, as bushfires continue in New South Wales. Pic: REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy

A recent WWF report finds 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to meat-based diets. 

I urge people to start changing now.  There is no better time, because there is no time left.  It’s not about how much you love the taste of meat, or how much protein you think you need.  It’s about much more than just you. 

Going plant-based is a decision to side with Mother Earth, a decision to make food choices that align with your values and desire to see compassion in the world.  

There is still hope

Last year 250 000 people signed up for Veganuary 2019, and the numbers this year are at 350 000! In 2019, 1 in 6 new products launched in retailers carried a vegan claim.

Dairy milk sales are falling by 3-6% each year and plant milks grew by 13% in 2019. Data and estimates show that by 2040 only 40% of the global population will be consuming meat. 

Thank you to everyone who is committed to conscious living. 
Thank you to the animal activists around the world.  
Thank you to the manufacturers of plant-based meats.  
Thank you to the influencers, the educational and advocacy groups.  
Thank you to the children who are standing up for what is right. 
Thank you to the vegan who has taken on the management of their child’s school tuckshop and changed the menu.
Thank you to the petition signers and the digital warriors.  

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead.

Tammy Fry is the founder and director of Meat Free Mondays in Australia and South Africa.