Insights on Nature


Overcoming Desertification
through the Vegetarian Diet

By Sister-initiate Lefki Pavlidis, Brisbane, Australia (Originally in English)

“It is said that many wastelands, many deserts, are the result of raising animals in the past because wherever cows are raised the land is frequently unable to be used for growing crops. … I’m not yet telling you about the moral obligation and guilty feelings that go along with the animal diet. I’m just telling you science-wise, the scientific aspect.”~ Supreme Master Ching Hai

As Master states above in response to a question about the purpose of animals’ lives and whether they should be eaten, the meat-based diet is both harmful to human health and detrimental to animals, and also has widespread environmental implications. More specifically, it can lead to overgrazing by cattle, sheep, goats and other livestock, and in turn to desertification, or the transformation of arid or semi-arid lands into deserts.

The present high global demand for meat requires animals to be placed on vast tracts of pasture land for grazing, and over time this practice exhausts the soil’s natural vegetation layer, making it vulnerable to erosion by wind and rain, which in turn leads to infertile topsoil and the inability to grow crops. For example, from 1950 to 1975 in the Sahel, the boundary zone in Africa between the Sahara Desert to the north and the more fertile region to the south, the desert moved an incredible 100km southward, illustrating the destructive impact of excessive animal grazing and erosion.

This occurrence is not difficult to fathom considering how rapidly the human demand for meat has increased in recent decades. For example, between 1950 and 2002 the cattle, sheep and goat population of China tripled, and these animals collectively destroy the protective layer of vegetation in the country’s western and northern provinces where the livestock graze. Strong winds then pick up and remove the exposed soils turning the regions into desert lands. Under these conditions millions of tons of topsoil may be removed in a single day, adversely affecting the local rural population as dust storms and creeping deserts infiltrate their lands.

If humans continue to increase their meat consumption at the current rate, more of the world’s land will be needed for grazing, resulting in continued loss of fertile soil, further expansion of desert areas and even more damage to our already fragile environment. Moreover, many more people will be rendered homeless. As the reputable scientific website states, “Desertification puts some 135 million people worldwide at risk of being driven from their lands.”

However, if Earth’s population turned vegetarian, all tree cutting to produce grazing land would cease and far less land for crops would be required since currently 70% of grain grown is used to feed livestock. In the state of Queensland, Australia alone a remarkable 95% of forest clearing is done for grazing! So if everyone became vegetarian many areas formerly used for grazing could be reforested, thus improving the environment by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, improving degraded soil and rainfall patterns, and causing fewer natural disasters from landslides and extreme flooding.

In light of these facts, it is time for humankind to stop its onslaught on Earth’s precious lands and on its brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom. As Quan Yin practitioners we can help in this process by setting good examples for others, following Master’s teachings, leading noble lives as vegetarians and praying that our fellow humans soon turn toward a more loving, environmentally friendly lifestyle that includes the vegetarian diet. Moreover, now that Master has elevated the world’s consciousness to a higher plane, and through Her continued grace and blessings, humanity will hopefully change to embrace greater compassion for animals and respect for Mother Nature.