Meat and the Environment
by Kurma Dasa
"Today, millions of people are consuming countless hamburgers,
steaks, and roasts, oblivious to the impact their dietary habits
are having on the biosphere and the very survivability of life on
earth. Every pound of grain-fed flesh is secured at the expense
of a burned forest, an eroded rangeland, a barren field, a dried-up
river or stream, and the release of millions of tons of carbon dioxide,
nitrous oxide, and methane into the skies." from "Beyond
Beef" by Jeremy Rifkin.
animals for food, fur, leather,
and cosmetics is one of the most environmentally destructive practices
taking place on the earth today.
Consider these facts:
1. Half of the annual destruction of tropical rain forests
is caused by clearing land for beef cattle ranches. Each pound of
hamburger made from Central
American or South American beef costs about 55 square feet of rain
forest vegetation. Each person who becomes a vegetarian saves one
acre of trees per year.
2. Another devastating result of deforestation is the loss
of plant and animal species. Each year 1,000 species are eliminated
due to destruction of tropical rainforests for cattle grazing, and
the rate is growing yearly.
3. About half the world's grain is consumed by animals that
are later slaughtered for meat. This is a very inefficient process.
It takes 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to produce 1 pound of feedlot
4. If people were to subsist on grains and other vegetarian
foods alone, this would put far less strain on the earth's agricultural
lands. About 20 vegetarians can be fed from the land it takes to
feed 1 meat-eater.
5. If all the soybeans and grain fed yearly to US
livestock were set aside for human consumption, it would feed 1.3
6. Overgrazing and the intensive production of feed grains
for cattle and other meat animals results in high levels of soil
erosion. One pound of beef from cattle raised from feedlots represents
the loss of 35 pounds of topsoil. In Australia, cattle grazing and
feed-crop production has contributed greatly to desertification.
7. Burning of oil in the production of feed grain results
in air pollution, including carbon dioxide, the main cause of global
warming. Another major source of air pollution is the burning of
tropical forests to clear land for cattle grazing. The meat industry
is also responsible for other greenhouse gases, which is produced
directly by the digestive process of cows.
8. About 50% of the water pollution in the United States
is linked to livestock. Pesticides and fertilizers used in helping
grow feed grains run off into lakes and rivers, and pollute ground
water. Organic contaminants from huge concentrations of animal excrement
and urine at feedlots and stockyards also pollute water. This waste
is anywhere from ten to hundreds of times more concentrated than
9. All around the world, the beef industry is wasting the
diminishing supplies of fresh water. For example, the livestock
industry in the United States takes about 50% of the water consumed
each year. Feeding the average meat-eater requires about 4,200 gallons
of water per day, versus 1,200 gallons per day for a person following
a lacto-vegetarian diet. And,while it takes only 25 gallons of water
to produce a pound of wheat, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to
produce a pound of meat.
In conclusion, reducing or eliminating meat consumption would
have substantial positive effects on the environment. Fewer trees
would be cut, less soil eroded, and desertification would be substantially
slowed. A major source of air and water pollution would be removed,
and scarce fresh water would be conserved.
"To go beyond beef," says Jeremy Rifkin, "is
to transform our very thinking about appropriate behaviour towards
nature. We come to appreciate the source of our sustenance, the
divinely inspired creation that deserves nurture and requires stewardship.
Nature is no longer viewed as an enemy to be subdued and tamed".
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