South Africa is currently experiencing its worst drought in 100 years, with record-high temperatures hampering rainfall and destroying crops. This year’s drought exceeds last year’s already exceptionally dry conditions, showing that extreme weather events are intensifying and increasingly taking their toll on people and animals.

Indeed, droughts are just one type of the many extreme climactic events growingly wreaking havoc on different parts of the planet in recent years. Experts believe that while dry spells are common to South Africa, this year’s particularly devastating drought is caused by climate change and El Niño, a rise in the temperatures of the Pacific Ocean which results in a reduction of rainfall across Southern Africa. Dr. Mathieu Rouault, an associate professor at the University of Cape Town, states that South Africa’s overall weather patterns are strongly impacted by climate change, which has resulted in abnormally high temperatures in the country.

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The effects of this exceptionally destructive climate change-caused drought are being felt by the country’s human population as well as the afflicted region’s wildlife. One photograph vividly captures the devastating consequences of record-high temperatures on South Africa’s wild animals.

This individual animal, pictured painstakingly seeking to extract the smallest scrap of nourishment from a barren, drought-stricken landscape is just one of the countless victims of this extreme weather event.

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The poor creature’s protruding ribs and pelvis portray the gravity of the region’s food and water shortage and stress the urgency to take action. SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary, who posted the photo, highlight the harsh conditions faced by “the many wild animals [fighting] for their very survival […] as the drought tightens its grip on large parts” of South Africa, adding that “the situation is dire and expected to intensify as the prospects of rain diminish.”

While this animal and others waste away from malnourishment, many of us are surrounded by more food than we could ever need. We are spoilt for choice in terms of quantity and variety of food items, yet what we choose to eat — or rather, what not to eat — can have a huge impact on starving animals continents away.

Most people now realize that climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet because of our unbridled consumption patterns and intensified exploitation of the planet’s resources. What is less well acknowledged is that one industry, in particular, is chiefly responsible for the overuse and destruction of our natural resources. Animal agriculture is one of the main drivers of land degradation, deforestation, food scarcity, the thawing of the Artic and species extinction among others. According to estimates from Worldwatch Institute, it accounts for a staggering 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is extremely water-intensive. A study at Cornell University revealed that producing one pound of meat uses 100 times more water than one pound of grain. This means the best way to save water and fight climate change is to forgo animal products for a plant-based diet.

Alongside supporting organizations on the ground working hard to provide these starving animals with food and water, the best thing you can do is to stop financially supporting the devastation animal agriculture causes to the planet and its residents by switching out meat, dairy and eggs for plant-based foods. Aside from being healthier, kinder and much more sustainable than animal products, plant-based meals are also varied and delicious.

As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future. By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies, help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than animals killed for meat, and help save vulnerable wildlife from the devastation caused by droughts and other extreme events triggered by climate change.

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Image source: SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary