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Plant-based diets are environmentally friendly 

When Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 350 into law earlier this month, he was praised for putting California at the forefront of energy and climate policy. But if the governor wants to make an even bigger impact on the environment, he should turn his attention to the meat and dairy industries and their devastating impact on global warming.

The U.N. singled out both in a sweeping study that called for the world to shift to plant-based diets. It found that agriculture, particularly meat and dairy production, accounts for 19 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, 38 percent of land use, and 70 percent of freshwater consumption. Given the state’s water crisis, that last statistic raises a red flag. So does this one: It can take more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. By contrast, 25 gallons are needed for a pound of wheat.

Roughly 80 percent of California’s water is used for agricultural purposes. It has the nation’s fourth-largest cattle herd (5.2 million). It is the largest milk-producing state.

That is not sustainable. But an environmentally friendly, plant-based diet is. A study by Loma Linda University found that vegans have a greenhouse-gas footprint that is nearly 42 percent smaller than that of meat eaters.

-- Craig Shapiro - PETA Foundation, Norfolk, Virg.

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