A recent article from USA Today claims that meat consumption has contributed to virtually every environmental problem we face today. For one, the demand for meat has become so strong worldwide that, in order to accommodate all the necessary ranches and pastures, 40% of rain forests have been leveled in the last 40 years. There is also an issue of water; humans already consume half the fresh water of the world, and then require 25,000 liters of water for every 8 ounces of beef. Waste from livestock production outweighs the Earth’s absorption capability, meaning that livestock waste has created over 27,000 miles of unnatural rivers. Global warming is affected as well; it takes more fossil fuel energy to produce and transport meat products than it does to produce an equal amount of protein from other sources. Currently, 56,000,000 acres of American land are allocated to the production of meat, compared 4,000,000 acres for fruits and vegetables, meaning that growth of the human population will outweigh the availability of produce in years to come. Finally, there is an issue of diseases transmitted and spread throughout livestock populations, which can become either infectious or degenerative.
The reasons meat consumption is bad for the environment are numerous; energy, resources, land erosion, etc.. But waste also plays a factor and is often overlooked. Nearly 2 billion tons of animal waste is created in the U.S. each year from livestock. This pollutes are waterways, lakes, streams, rivers and oceans. To put it a bit more plainly, according to VegFam, a 10 acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn or a puny two cattle. Yes, that’s right, only two cows. As more and more people face starvation, malnutrition and hunger daily, the meat industry becomes more and more culpable and it behooves us to take action in our own lives to cut down or eliminate our meat consumption altogether.
Methane gas emissions from cattle livestock also pose a problem. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps 20% more heat than carbon dioxide. I was very surprised to hear that India’s famous and sacred cow populations may actually create more greenhouse gas emissions than India’s cars. While Indians don’t use these animals for meat consumption, cattle farms elsewhere in the world are contributing to global warming by their inordinate bovine populations.
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