Bolivia Is on Fire, Too—How Many Forests Will Burn Before We All Go Vegan?

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3 min read

As record-breaking fires blaze on in the largest rainforest on Earth—the Amazon—neighboring Bolivia is facing flames of its own. Nearly 2 million acres of the country’s vital Chiquitano forest burned to the ground between August 18 and 23.

Just like fires in Brazil’s Amazon, Bolivia’s fires rage on.

And just like the ones in Brazil’s Amazon, these fires are largely because of animal agriculture.

According to reports, Bolivia’s fires were likely started deliberately to clear land for farming but quickly became uncontrollable. Such practices aren’t uncommon—cattle ranchers in Brazil are also known to start illegal wildfires in order to make room for more animals, which could very well have caused the Amazon’s current crisis.

And just as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (known in the country as “Captain Chainsaw”) champions deforestation efforts and vowed to cut rainforest protections, Bolivian President Evo Morales has similarly justified these devastating practices. “If small families don’t set fires, what are they going to live on?” Morales reportedly said.

Not only do these fires cause massive deforestation, displace countless Indigenous peoples, and contribute to climate change in a devastating way, they’re also responsible for the deaths of many animals. According to experts, at least 500 species are being put at risk because of Bolivia’s flames. The Chiquitano dry forest is home to jaguars, giant armadillos, tapirs, and other wildlife.

Some of the species who live there have only ever been found in the Chiquitano. And these fires along with the meat industry are killing them.

So stop crying over rainforest destruction if your mouth is full of meat.

Earlier this year, 16-year-old vegan environmental activist Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Switzerland.

“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. … I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is,” Thunberg said.

Less than seven months later, our planet is—truly—aflame. And Thunberg was spot-on: We should be panicking, and we must act now.

So what’s a meat-eater to do?

Actor and animal activist Harley Quinn Smith also chimed in, urging her nearly 250,000 followers to go vegan and reminding them that “[e]veryone has to take responsibility for their actions and figure out what they can do to help because at this rate, we might not have a planet to live on in the upcoming decades.”

Make no mistake—deforestation is not just a Latin-America problem. Roughly 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared in order to create cropland to feed animals raised for food. Global farmland could be reduced by more than half if we all just went vegan. Plus, the fires are raging in Brazil and Bolivia so that cows can be raised for meat—and some of that meat is sold in the U.S. So if you eat meat, this devastation is happening partially because of you.

And now we’re urging you: Help save the world’s rainforests by going vegan—before it’s too late.

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