As Green Monsters, we have a pretty good understanding of how our food choices impact other living creatures. For example, many of us don’t see a cow and think “burger,” but rather think of a living, feeling animal who deserves to live as much as any human.

But as we’re quickly learning that the impact of our food choices extend far beyond farm animals.

Over the past 40 years, nearly 52 percent of the world’s wildlife have disappeared from the face of the earth due to habitat loss, climate change and poaching. All of which can be tied back to our consumption habits. Yup, who would have ever thought that the burger on your plate represents such a trifecta of destruction – bummer.

So how can this be? Well, for the most part, our diets rely heavily on meat, dairy and eggs. While this is especially true in the U.S., the rest of the world follows a similar trend. Meeting this high demand for meat and animal products, requires a whole lot of space and resources. Around 26 percent of the earth’s surface us used just for grazing livestock and another 33 percent of land is allotted to grow livestock feed. 

There is only a limited amount of land on the surface of our planet, and most of it is not flat grassland, ideal for grazing livestock or growing feed. So, this means that we have to convert the open land we do have – mostly rainforests – to agriculture land.

In the Amazon, agriculture related deforestation runs rampant. In the Brazilian region of the Amazon, nearly 80 percent of deforestation is caused by cattle ranching and this rate increased by 29 percent in the past year alone. Clear-cutting forests to make way for soy plantations that produce livestock feed is a burgeoning problem in the Amazon and across South America.

The rapid, systematic destruction of this rainforest has a serious impact on endemic animal species. In fact, a new report warns that one-third of the Amazon could lose 44 percent of its species in the next 15 years due to agricultural expansion!

Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that given current deforestation rates, between one to two major species groups are wiped out for every 10 percent of forest cover that is cleared. What is more frightening is that once forest cover falls to around 43 percent, between eight and 10 major species will be lost for every 10 percent of forest that is cleared.

Around 75 percent of species in the Amazon are confined to about 22 percent of land. Imagining how all these animals balance on one tiny speck of land just breaks our hearts. Especially considering the fact that we can stop this destruction just by making more mindful food choices.

Leaving meat off your plate here in the U.S. can help protect the Amazon from agricultural expansion. If we can drive down the demand for animal products, then less land in the Amazon will be clear-cut to make room for cattle and livestock. It’s time for us to start connecting the dots between our food choices and their peripheral impact on the planet and animals. We’re all in this together!

Image source: Tambacko the Jaguar/Flickr