Deforestation causes drastic loss of tropical forest biodiversity, and most deforestation occurs due to animal agriculture. Remaining areas of undisturbed and recovering forest provide the last refuge for many species unable to withstand the impact of human activity.
As one of the most comprehensive surveys of the impacts of disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity ever conducted, an international team of scientists found where forests had been cleared for animal agriculture, plant and animal life was impoverished and remaining species invariably consisted of the same subset of the original flora and fauna. There is irrefutable evidence that biodiversity is declining across the tropics due to animal agriculture.
The rapid growth of animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation. 70% of the Amazon Rainforest has already been destroyed and is now occupied by pastures and feed crops. One of the main crops grown in the rainforest is soybeans used specifically for animal feed. Tropical deforestation and forest clearing have adverse consequences that contribute to climate change, biodiversity loss, reduced timber supply, flooding and soil degradation.
Deforestation through farming also has a major effect on species loss and simplification across large areas. The lower species diversity in degraded forests indicates that many species are restricted to undisturbed forests. And the way in which they are altered by human activity has an impact on which species survives.
To preserve maximum species diversity, we must shift from animal-based agriculture to plant-based agriculture. Already 56 million acres of land are used to feed farmed animals, while only 4 million acres produce plants for human consumption. It takes 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant based diet than it does to feed meat eaters.
Studies have also determined that reserves should not be concentrated in one part of a region, but as a widespread network of forest reserves. These should include secondary forests where no primary forests remain. While there remains a widespread assumption that concentrating conservation efforts on the protection of isolated reserves is the best way to safeguard biodiversity, areas of private land already disturbed – which dominate much of the tropics – need to be maintained and protected as a wide network of forest areas. Without such a landscape-scale approach, many species will go regionally extinct.
The unsustainable ways in which we produce eggs, meat and dairy is damaging our environment. Switching to plant-based agriculture results in significant reductions in climate change, rainforest destruction and pollution of our air, water and land.