WATCH: What if the whole world went vegetarian?

We'd free up an entire continent's worth of land.

1 APR 2016

Chances are, if you're not a vegetarian yourself, you probably know at least one person who is. And depending on where you live in the world, the vegetarians you know could belong to a large chunk of the general population that foregoes meat, or a very small one. For example, in the US, the percentage of vegetarians is 4-5 percent, whereas in India, it's around 30 percent. But what would happen - scientifically speaking - if that percentage suddenly skyrocketed to 100 percent of humans all across the globe?


As the latest episode of AsapSCIENCE explains, about 20 billon chickens, 1.5 billion cows, more than 1 billion sheep, and nearly 1 billion pigs that had been raised for their meat would suddenly have no use.

It's not nice to think about how we'd get rid of them all when we can't exactly eat them out of existence, but let's just say that enormous herds of domesticated animals would pretty quickly disappear when there's no market to keep them around. This would free up vast quantities of land all around the world - about 33 million square kilometres, according to the video above. How big is that? Oh, about the size of Africa.

And that's just the land used to house farm animals - that figure doesn't even include the vast amounts of land used to grow crops that are fed exclusively to animals. 

So we've now got a crap-tonne of free land, what do we do with it? Well, we're going to have to grow a whole lot more vegetable crops now that everyone in the world has ditched meat, but the problem is that while some of these vacant pastures would be suitable, much of it would be too dry to grow crops on, without bucketloads of artificial nutrients.

"Without humans adding artificial nutrients, this land could turn into desert," the boys from AsapSCIENCE explain.

But some of this land, if handled right, could actually return to its natural state of grassland or forest, and that could help mitigate the effects of climate change.

And speaking of climate change, just getting rid of all the cows and the polluting gases they emit in terrifying quantities every single day could have a huge effect on the state of the planet.

Another big, awesome effect ditching the meat on a global scale would have? We'd save huge amounts of water, considering that around 70 percent of world-wide fresh water consumption is used in agriculture.

So case closed, we all go vegetarian for the planet tomorrow, right? Well, actually, it's not that simple. I'll let the episode of AsapSCIENCE above explain that one to you, but let's just say this is not a mess we're going to get out of so easily... (if you call convincing every single human being on Earth to swear off steaks "easy").

More From ScienceAlert

China says its world-first 'exascale' supercomputer is almost complete

1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second.

20 minutes ago