Adapted from Good News for All Creation
The apostle Paul taught that we should
take care of our bodies, which are sacred
gifts from God. He wrote to the Corinthians,
"Do you not know that your body is a temple
of the Holy Spirit within you, which you
have from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19) Yet
our bodies are ill-suited to manage the
huge quantities of meat that many people
consume, such as three servings a day,
and modern animal agriculture produces
particularly unhealthy foods. Numerous
studies have shown that meat-based diets
contribute to heart disease, cancer, and
several other diseases.
Vegetarianism substantially reduces the
risk of heart disease in several ways.1
The amount of cholesterol in the blood
correlates strongly with heart disease,2
and diets heavily laden with cholesterol
and saturate fat elevate blood cholesterol.3
Even the leanest meat is high in cholesterol
and saturated fat.4 The Framingham
Study, the longest-running clinical study
in medical history, found that coronary
artery disease was rare among people with
cholesterol less than 150 mg/dL.5
In addition, free radicals contribute
to clogging of the arteries that feed
the heart, brain, and other organs. Iron,
which is concentrated in animal flesh,
promotes free radical formation. Vegetables
contain a wide range of free radical scavengers
(often called antioxidants) that eliminate
free radicals. There is a far greater
range of free radical scavengers in natural
plant foods than in multivitamins.6
The relative importance of cholesterol,
free radicals, and other factors in heart
disease is not clear. However, Dr. Dean
Ornish found that a low-fat vegetarian
diet combined with moderate exercise,
stress management, smoking cessation,
and group support actually reverses obstruction
of arteries that serve the heart.7
Similarly, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr.,
of the Cleveland Clinic followed 18 patients
with known coronary artery disease who
lowered their cholesterol to less than
150 mg/dL with a low-fat plant-based diet
and, if needed, medications. None had
a single heart attack during 12 years
of follow-up.8 The Cornell/China
Project found that rural Chinese, who
eat less animal fat and protein and derive
the bulk of their nutrition from plant
sources, have far less heart disease mortality
than Americans. In people under 65 years
old, heart disease mortality is 16.7 times
greater among American men than rural
Chinese men, and 5.6 times greater among
American women than rural Chinese women.
Rural Chinese typically have cholesterol
levels from 90 to 175, while nonvegetarian
Americans with cholesterol levels below
180 are uncommon.9 Dr. T. Colin
Campbell, a principal investigator of
the Cornell/China project, has concluded
that both animal protein and animal fat
contribute substantially to heart disease.10
By several mechanisms, meat and other
animal products are also associated with
breast, colon, and types of other cancers.11
Cooked meat contains large quantities
of heterocyclic amines, which cause mutations
that lead to cancer.12 Breast
cancer studies have dramatically shown
the impact of Western lifestyles on health.
Japanese women have a much lower breast
cancer rate than American women, which
is likely related to the Japanese diet’s
having a much lower percentage of calories
from fat.13 Countries with
higher fat intakes, particularly animal
fat, have higher rates of breast cancer.14
In Japan, affluent women, who consume
much more flesh, have an 8.5 times greater
risk of breast cancer than women with
low incomes.15 In fact, as
Japanese lifestyles and diets have "westernized,"
rates of cancer of the lung, mouth, throat,
breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, pancreas,
and colon have continued to rise.16
Similarly, vegetarians have reduced rates
of obesity and diabetes.17
While fat in food is converted to fat
in our bodies with about 97 percent efficiency,
converting carbohydrates to fat consumes
about 24 percent of the carbohydrates'
energy content. Fiber in grains and fructose
sugar in fruits help people feel full,
which discourages overeating.18
In study after study, vegetarians are
shown to weigh less and have an easier
time maintaining a healthy weight than
their meat-eating peers. On the other
hand, the Atkins diet, which has been
around since the 1970s, has never been
subjected to a long-term study, perhaps
because Atkins recognized that his diet
would not work over the long term. Like
all fad diets, and unlike healthy long-term
eating strategies, people on the Atkins
diet almost always regain the lost weight.
In addition, the Atkins diet and other
such high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate
diets predispose those who follow them
to heart and kidney disease, gout, and
constipation. In addition, milk consumption
has been linked to juvenile-onset diabetes,19
and pediatricians Dr. Benjamin Spock and
Dr. Charles Attwood are among many physicians
and nutritionists who, for several reasons,
have discouraged dairy consumption among
Animal protein intake strongly correlates
with bone loss and risk of hip fracture,
while nonanimal foods protect the bones.21
Animal proteins are heavily laden with
sulfur-containing amino acids, which metabolize
to sulfuric acid and acidify the blood.
The body leaches calcium from bones to
neutralize the acid, weakening the bones.
In addition, acidic blood directly stimulates
cells that break down bone and inhibits
cells that make bone.22 In
contrast, vegetables and fruits contain
base precursors, not found in animal foods,
that neutralize acids and protect bones.23
Numerous studies have shown that reduced
animal protein and increased vegetable
protein help protect bones.24
Harvard Medical School’s Nurse's Health
Study of 77,761 women, who were followed
for 12 years, found that milk consumption
does not reduce the risk of bone fractures;
in fact, the data suggested that milk
consumption may increase fracture risk.25
An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
review of every study on the issue since
1985 found conflicting evidence regarding
dairy’s effects on bone health and concluded,
“without more well-controlled studies,
the body of scientific evidence appears
inadequate to support a recommendation
for daily intake of dairy foods to promote
bone health in the general US population.”26
The food industry laces animals' feed
and water with antibiotics, including
penicillin, inorganic arsenic (the most
toxic form of arsenic), and erythromycin.
The antibiotics promote growth by reducing
the amount of bacteria in animals' intestines
and by preventing infection, to which
crowded, stressed animals are predisposed.
In addition to other effects (e.g., arsenic
is carcinogenic), routine antibiotic use
leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria,
thereby reducing antibiotics’ effectiveness
when treating people suffering from food
poisoning or other infectious diseases.27
Thoroughly cooking meat kills bacteria,
but also raises the concentration of cancer-causing
The animal agriculture industry also
feeds animals ground-up carcasses–a practice
that appears to be responsible for new
variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the
human equivalent of "mad cow disease."
This devastating condition has killed
more than 140 people in Europe and also
threatens Americans.29 The
U.S. and Canada have ignored the principal
World Health Organization recommendations
to prevent Mad Cow disease, all of which
are legally required in Japan and throughout
Europe, with the result that at least
one infected cow’s flesh has entered the
American food supply.30 Even
today, farmers feed cow intestines, brains,
and other parts humans won't eat to chickens
and then feed chicken parts back to cows.31
Intensive animal agriculture has also
promoted the spread of deadly E. coli
0157:H7.32 Overall, approximately
5000 people die of food borne diseases
in the United States each year;33
more than two-thirds of food poisoning
have animal sources.34 In addition,
many food poisoning cases traced to plant
consumption actually involve plants contaminated
by animal feces or flesh.
To increase growth and productivity,
farmers give hormones to animals. Widely
used in the United States, these hormones
are known to cause several types of cancer
and reproductive dysfunction in humans.
While U.S. farmers claim that using hormones
to promote growth is safe, the European
Union has prohibited this practice since
Many people have turned to fish, which
have health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids.
However, pollution of the waterways has
increased the dangers of eating fish.
For example, much of the salmon consumed
today is from fish farms, which harbor
high levels of organochlorides, including
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Researchers
have linked these compounds to cancer,
developmental defects, and stunted intelligence.36
As discussed in Appendix C, there are
healthy plant-based sources of omega-3
Overall, vegetarianism correlates with
longevity. A vegetarian diet, exercise,
lower body mass index, abstinence from
smoking, and hormone replacement therapy
(among postmenopausal women), taken together,
account for up to ten years’ greater life
While humans can digest flesh, and it
is likely that our early ancestors did
consume some meat, our anatomy much more
strongly resembles that of plant-eating
creatures. For example, like herbivores
(but unlike carnivores), our colons are
long and complex (not simple and short)
and our intestines are ten to eleven times
longer than our bodies (not three to six
times longer).38 With long
gastrointestinal systems, meat decays
as it moves slowly through the gut, exposing
people to meat's harmful by-products.
Also, those who consume larger quantities
of meat tend to consume less fiber, because
meat contains no fiber. Fiber is vital
to intestinal health, and people in meat-eating
cultures have high rates of colon diseases,
including cancer and diverticulitis. In
addition, lack of fiber leads to hard
stools and straining during bowel movements.
This damages the valves in veins that
drain blood from the body's lower half,
predisposing in hemorrhoids, varicose
veins, and deep vein thromboses.39
Human anatomy and physiology resemble
herbivores in many other ways. Our saliva
contains digestive enzymes (unlike carnivores);
our dental incisors are broad, flattened,
and spade-shaped (not short and pointed);
our canine teeth are short and blunted
(not long, sharp, and curved); our molars
are flattened with nodular cusps (not
sharp blades like many carnivores); and
our nails are flattened (not sharp claws).
Of course, only humans must cook flesh
to make it tender enough to chew and to
kill the bacteria that might otherwise
Is Meat Necessary
Misinformation from the animal agricultural
industry and their friends in government
has convinced many people that animal
products are necessary for human health.
One problem is that the USDA is charged
with the conflicting responsibilities
of promoting American agricultural products
and making dietary recommendations. The
USDA is further compromised by industry
influence. U.S. Circuit Judge James Robertson
ruled that the USDA violated federal law
by withholding documents revealing bias
among its committee charged with drafting
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2000.
The committee was supposed to be unbiased,
but six of the eleven committee members
actually had links to the meat, egg, or
Despite its biases, the USDA has recognized
that vegetarian diets can be not only
healthful, but better for human health
than diets that include meat.41
The American Dietetic Association (ADA)
and the Dieticians of Canada have endorsed
vegetarian diets even more emphatically.42
They found, "Vegetarians have been reported
to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians,
as well as lower rates of death of ischemic
heart disease; vegetarians also show lower
blood cholesterol levels; lower blood
pressure; and lower rates of hypertension,
type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon
cancer.” They concluded, “appropriately
planned vegetarian diets are healthful,
nutritionally adequate, and provide health
benefits in the prevention and treatment
of certain diseases.”43 Indeed,
millions of healthy, lifetime vegetarians
demonstrate that humans can thrive on
Poor and Hungry
Jesus preached, "For I was hungry and
you gave me food ... as you did it to
one of the least of these my brethren,
you did it to me" (Matthew 25:35, 40).
While approximately 1.1 billion of the
world's people are considered overweight,
an equal number are underfed and malnourished.44
Tens of millions die annually from starvation
or disease related to malnutrition, mostly
children. Yet worldwide in 1998, 37 percent
of all harvested grain was fed to animals
being raised for slaughter; 66 percent
in the United States.45 Meat
wastes between 66-92 percent of grains’
proteins and calories.46 While
political and social factors significantly
impact world hunger, meat-based diets
contribute to the problem.47
Some people despair that the problem
of world hunger is so great that our efforts
seem pointless. Yet Jesus looked favorably
upon the Good Samaritan, who rescued one
victim in a world filled with other victims
of violence and injustice. When asked
what is the greatest commandment, Jesus
said, "You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your mind. This is
the great and first commandment. And a
second is like it, You shall love your
neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments
depend all the law and the prophets" (Matthew
22:37-40). This accords with 1 John 4:8,
which says, "God is love." Love includes
addressing the desperate needs of our
neighbors, as best we can. Many people,
usually through no fault of their own,
struggle to feed themselves and their
families. Even if eating meat had no effect
on world hunger, there would remain something
obscene about eating meat when so many
people are chronically hungry and malnourished.
A plant-based diet, similar to that consumed
by our less fortunate brothers and sisters,
helps put us in sympathy with hungry people
and helps remind us to work for ways to
relieve their plight. Saying grace before
a simple vegetarian meal acknowledges
that we are grateful for having food to
It is ironic that vegetarians are often
accused of caring more about animals than
humans, even though they encourage a diet
that feeds humans, not animals. Those
who assert "Humans come first" should
choose to eat lower on the food chain.
The environmental think tank, the Worldwatch
Institute, explains, “grain is used much
more efficiently when consumed directly
by humans. Meat production depends on
feeding nearly 40 percent of the world’s
grains to animals, creating competition
for grain between affluent meat eaters
and the world’s poor.”48
The Bible states “The righteous man has
regard for the life of his beast” (Proverbs
12:10), and Jesus’ central message was
one of mercy and compassion. At one point
Jesus compared his love for humanity to
a hen’s love for her brood (Luke 13:34).
Most Christians will agree that cruelty
to animals is not just immoral but also
unchristian, yet many people go to great
lengths to deny the suffering of farmed
animals, who are also God’s creatures.
Indeed, even though a Gallup poll in
2003 found that 96 percent of U.S. citizens,
most of whom are Christian, oppose cruelty
to animals, the U.S. meat industry treats
animals with complete disregard for their
God-given needs and desires. Animals on
farms are exempted from even the very
little protections granted other animals
by the Animal Welfare Act, and most states
exempt "standard agricultural practices"
from animal cruelty statutes.49
God created every animal with needs,
wants, and desires. God designed pigs
to root around in the soil, play with
each other, and take mud baths. God designed
chickens to make nests, lay eggs, and
raise their chicks. God designed all animals
with a desire for sunlight, fresh air,
fresh water, and so on, and he designed
all animals to grow at a rate that doesn’t
tax their limbs and organs.
But all of these things are denied to
animals who are turned into food by the
meat industries. Scientists are playing
God by manipulating animals to grow so
quickly that their hearts, lungs, and
limbs can’t keep up. Farmers deny animals
everything natural as they pack them into
excrement-laden sheds. Basically, God’s
will is denied completely by the industries
that have decided that they know better
than God how God’s creatures should live
The trade magazine Hog Farm Management
sums up the industry's attitude: "Forget
the pig is an animal. Treat him just like
a machine in a factory.”50
Indeed, Oregon State University Professor
of Animal Agriculture Peter Cheeke has
Most people who eat meat don't think
too deeply about all the processes involved
in converting a living animal to meat
on their plate ... In my opinion, if
most urban meat eaters were to visit
an industrial broiler house, to see
how the birds are raised, ... they would
not be impressed and some, perhaps many
of them would swear off eating chicken
and perhaps all meat. For modern animal
agriculture, the less the consumer knows
about what's happening before the meat
hits the plate, the better. If true,
is this an ethical situation? Should
we [in animal agriculture] be reluctant
to let people know what really goes
on, because we're not really proud of
it and concerned that it might turn
them to vegetarianism?51
Although animal agriculture industry
representatives routinely assure the public
that farmers must maintain humane standards
or else lose money to death and disease,
in fact, modern veterinary medicine, particularly
routine use of antibiotics, helps prevent
losses that would otherwise result from
the highly abusive environments that typify
modern farms. Furthermore, farmers find
disease and mortality rates acceptable
as long as productivity increases sufficiently
to outweigh death losses. As Dr. Bernard
Rollin from Colorado State University
has pointed out, “chickens are cheap,
cages are expensive.”52 Finally,
since the USDA will certify meat for human
consumption even if the animal arrives
at the slaughterhouse with broken wings
and bones or if the carcass has oozing,
pus-filled wounds, the industry only has
to keep the animals alive, not healthy,
Let’s talk specifics. All of the issues
discussed below come from industry sources.
Everything described is the industry standard.
Although the industry claims that it “cares”
about animal welfare, it will not dispute
any of the facts and figures mentioned
below, because they are all completely
documented and based on the industry itself.
It’s an odd sort of care you’ll read about
below, far from the care offered by the
Good Shepherd, who will lay down his life
for his sheep. And of course, all of this
is abuse beyond simply denying to God’s
creatures everything that God designed
them to be and to do.
Even though most U.S. citizens strongly
oppose cruelty to animals, Americans cause
more animals to suffer and die than ever
before. Annually, the U.S. food industry
slaughters approximately 10 billion farmed
animals–each one with desires, feelings,
and, we believe, a spark of life coming
from God. Before they die, the vast majority
live in misery—approximately 98 percent
of them in severely cramped confinement
on "factory farms.”53 Examples
of animal suffering include:
1. The roughly 300 million egg-laying
hens currently living in the United States
spend their lives in cages so small that
they can't spread even one wing. The wire
mesh damages their feet. The filthy air
is saturated with ammonia from the hens'
feces, and the ammonia hurts their lungs
and eyes. Farmers sear off the end of
each bird's beak–without pain relief–because
otherwise the stressed and crowded birds
would injure and kill each other. When
the hens’ bodies stop making enough eggs,
producers subject the hens to a forced
molt to shock the animals’ bodies into
one more laying cycle. For up to 14 days,
they are denied all food. The starvation
and stress kill 5-10 percent of them.
Despite this high mortality, the forced
molting boosts profits. Farmers slaughter
the hens when the hens' egg-laying permanently
in battery cages. Inset: chick beak-searing.
2. Turkeys and chickens raised for meat
also suffer from severe crowding, and
turkeys are subjected to painful procedures
such as partial beak and toe amputation
without pain relief.54 Farmers
receive many chicks via the U.S. Postal
Service, and up to 30 percent (millions
annually) die in transport. Since chicks
are cheap and their suffering has no economic
cost, mail service is less costly than
more humane alternatives.55
Farmers crowd up to 30,000 chickens in
enclosed sheds with automatic feeders
and waterers. Chickens and turkeys, who
are selectively bred for excessive muscle
growth, develop painful lameness and suffer
from lung collapse, heart failure, and
crippling leg conditions. Even though
chickens are sent to slaughter at six
to seven weeks of life, about 5 percent
die during this period, primarily because
their bodies grow too quickly for their
limbs and organs. Turkeys are so obese
that they are often unable to stand and
are forced to sit in their own waste,
which predisposes them to diseases. Typically,
there is little ventilation, and the droppings
result in an air thick with ammonia, dust,
3. Farmers castrate calves, pigs, and
lambs without pain relief. Typically,
farmers cut open the pigs' scrotums and
cut or pull out the testicles. Branding
steers, also done without pain relief,
inflicts a third-degree burn. In addition,
farmers scoop out or cut off the horns
of calves without applying painkillers.56
4. Pigs react to the stress of severe
crowding with pathological behaviors such
as tail biting. Rather than alleviate
the conditions that prompt destructive
behaviors, farmers simply cut off pigs'
tails, again without pain relief. For
easy identification, farmers also cut
off parts of pigs’ ears. Farmers impregnate
sows repeatedly to maximize the number
of piglets born. Sows are confined for
years in narrow and barren stalls that
don’t allow them to even turn around,
and the hard floors hurt their feet and
joints. A similar crate keeps them completely
immobile for weeks while nursing.57
pigs confined to metal and concrete
pens (left), gestation crates (top
right), and farrowing stalls (bottom
5. Cows farmed for milk suffer from any
array of diseases and problems, including
hoof rot, udder infections, and more.
Because they are hooked up to machines
two or three times per day and pumped
dry, while in nature cows would nurse
their young throughout the day, about
one-third of dairy cows have udder infections.
Bovine growth hormone, which stimulates
milk production, worsens these problems.
The cows are only permitted to nurse their
young for less than one day–just long
enough to get the mother’s colostrum–and
mother and calf both bellow after the
farmers separate them. Most male calves
are either slaughtered immediately or
raised for "special-fed veal."
raised for veal. Inset: Cows in a
6. Farmers feed calves raised for veal
an iron-deficient diet so that the calves'
flesh will stay pale and white–the color
consumers expect. The calves become anemic,
weak, and prone to infection. To prevent
muscle development (that is, to keep the
calves' flesh tender), producers also
confine the calves to crates less than
two feet wide–so narrow that the calves
can't turn around or even lie down comfortably.
Denied their natural desires to suckle
and play, they often engage in neurotic
behaviors such as sucking the boards of
crates and tongue-rolling.58
7. Many animals suffer and die en route
to slaughter. According to the industry,
400,000 pigs arrive at slaughter unable
to walk off the trucks, and 100,000 arrive
dead.59 One study found that
29 percent of "spent" hens had freshly
broken bones prior to preslaughter stunning.60
This is not a problem for producers, because
spent hens yield poor quality meat, which
is chopped up into fine pieces and used
primarily for chicken soup or animal feed.
Transporters severely crowd animals, deny
them all food and water, and expose them
to extremes of weather.
transported to slaughter.
8. Slaughterhouse workers "process" animals
with maximum speed, resulting in rough,
careless treatment. Slaughterhouse workers
use whips and electric prods to move the
killing line forward, because the animals
are terrified by the sights and smells
of slaughter.61 Gail Eisnitz
has reported widespread cruelty such as
skinning live cows and drowning conscious
pigs in scalding hot water (for hair removal).62
Chickens have the worst experience of
all: They are snapped into metal shackles
by their often-broken legs, their throats
are slit open, and they’re immersed in
scalding hot water (for feather removal),
often enduring all of this while they
are fully conscious.
|Left: Inside a
"broiler house," where chickens
are raised for meat. Right: Turkeys
entering a slaughterhouse.
The number of animals who suffer and
die on farms is staggering, and the number
of fish consumed worldwide appears to
be far greater. Each year, fishers remove
86 million tons (172 billion pounds) of
fish from the oceans alone,63
and this does not include "by-catch”–discarded,
commercially undesirable fish and other
marine creatures. In the oceans, nets
catch most fish. After struggling for
hours or days, often suffering severe
flesh damage, fish usually die from rapid
decompression that ruptures their air
bladders or from suffocation on ships’
decks.64 Fish surely suffer
when caught by anglers, because their
mouths and lips are richly endowed with
pain receptors. A hooked fish typically
pulls against the hook and line, damaging
sensitive tissues. Gradually, the fish
suffers oxygen deprivation as the angler
"plays" the doomed creature. Fish farms,
like those confining birds and mammals,
intensely crowd the fish, causing oxygen
deprivation and parasitic, bacterial,
and viral infections.65
Author Carol Adams has noted that every
time you make a purchase, you make a statement.
You are telling producers, "I approve.
Do it again.”66 Since the average
American consumes about four thousand
animals from farms in a lifetime, a decision
to abstain from animal flesh is good news
for God's creatures.
Genesis describes God reviewing the entire
Creation and declaring it "very good"
(1:31). Then, God instructed Adam to "till
and keep" the garden (2:15), not to exploit
it. According to the Bible, God laid out
a plan for keeping the earth and its resources
fruitful and bounteous by ordaining a
host of protective laws. Chief among these
laws were the stipulations for the Sabbath
and the Jubilee years, which are set aside
as times of regeneration for animals and
the earth (Leviticus 25). In the book
of Leviticus, God’s commands are made
even clearer when we are told that all
Creation belongs to God and that we are
simply caretakers of Creation, saying
explicitly that humans are travelers in
borrowed bodies and on a borrowed planet
(Leviticus 25:23). We are to treat our
bodies and the earth with respect and
Similarly, Paul wrote, "All things were
created through him [Christ/God] and for
him" (Colossians 1:16). This accords with
the Psalmist, who wrote, “The earth is
the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the
world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalms
24:1) However, modern animal agriculture
has proven harmful to the environment.
Simply put, raising crops to feed animals
is an inefficient and vastly polluting
way of feeding ourselves, and it seems
to us to violate humankind's sacred task
to care for God's Creation.
Animal agriculture is a major force behind
projects to clear forests and drain wetlands.
These activities dramatically change ecosystems,
resulting in ecological imbalances and
a high rate of species extinctions. Before
humans existed, an estimated one to three
plant and animal species became extinct
each year. Scientists estimate that now
at least one thousand species become extinct
Between 1960 and 1990, one-fifth of the
world's tropical forest cover was lost,
largely to clear land for cattle grazing
in order to export beef to the United
States and Europe.68 From 1985
to 1990 alone, an estimated 210 million
acres of tropical forests were cut or
cleared69–an area nearly the
size of Texas and Oklahoma combined. Farming
tropical rainforests quickly depletes
the nutrient-weak soil, rendering it essentially
infertile. When farmers remove the trees
to clear the land, they deprive the soil
of deep roots that prevent deadly mudslides.
Since trees regulate water storage and
release, deforestation increases rainfall,
furthering topsoil depletion, flooding,
and mudslides.70 Denuding tropical
rainforests also hastens global warming71
and alters weather patterns so that destructive
storms occur more frequently.72
While wealthy nations plunder the rainforests,
regional poverty remains widespread.
Intensive agriculture, in large part
to satisfy the international market for
meat, degrades soils throughout the world.
Worldwide, topsoil erosion greatly exceeds
soil reconstitution, and this renders
15 million acres infertile annually.73
A leading cause of topsoil erosion in
the United States is monoculture of corn
and soybeans for pig and chicken feed.74
The Bible calls for Sabbath years for
the land, which is good ecological advice,
but farmers never allow the land to rejuvenate.
Crop rotation would help prevent soil
erosion, help replenish nutrients naturally,
and help resist destruction by insects
and infectious organisms, but intensive
monoculture often provides greater short-term
yields. As crops become increasingly vulnerable,
many farmers seek genetically modified
strains, but these new entities pose significant
risks to the environment and human populations.75
Many people argue that we need intensive
agriculture to feed the world's hungry.
Yet as discussed above, hunger does not
reflect the world's agricultural production,
which is more than sufficient to feed
all people. The problem is food distribution,
including the fact that farmed animals
consume much of the world's harvest.
Animals, like humans, expend the vast
majority of the calories they consume
simply existing, which is why raising
animals for food in North America requires
70 percent of all the crops that we grow.
That alone would justify a vegetarian
diet, from the perspective of someone
who felt that good stewardship includes
conservation, rather than wastefulness.
But things are actually even worse: It
takes resources to grow the massive amounts
of crops needed to feed animals, of course,
and in addition meat production requires
the massive amounts of fossil fuels necessary
to run slaughterhouses, factory farms,
and processing facilities; to move all
the trucks that get grains to farms, animals
to slaughter, and meat to grocery stores;
and to refrigerate the meat. Growing worldwide
demand for meat has contributed to rapidly
declining world energy supplies, and severe
worldwide oil shortages are likely by
Similarly, growing all those crops to
feed animals, as well as operating those
factory farms and slaughterhouses, squanders
water, a dwindling resource and often
the limiting factor in soil productivity.77
Intensive irrigation depletes water reserves,
including aquifers that require thousands
of years to replenish. In the United States,
the huge Ogallala aquifer's water table
has fallen dramatically because farmers
drain about three cubic miles per year.
Kansas has pumped 40 percent of its share
of this aquifer, and many wells in north
Texas have run dry. Overall, roughly one-third
of the Ogallala aquifer's volume was pumped
between 1960 and 1990,78 and
the average rate of Ogallala depletion
is equivalent to roughly two-thirds the
flow of the Colorado River.79
Because intensive farming and irrigation
have depleted topsoil, and topsoil is
needed to retain rainwater, the Midwest's
fertility increasingly depends on diminishing
aquifer reserves. At current Ogallala
aquifer usage, the "world's breadbasket"
in the Midwest will become largely a dust
bowl by the mid-21st century.80
Worldwide, the annual groundwater net
deficit is about ten times the Colorado
River's annual flow.81
Animal agriculture also contributes heavily
to pollution. In the United States, according
to a U.S. Senate report, animals raised
for food produce 130 times as much excrement
as humans,82 and unlike human
waste, its disposal is largely unregulated.83
Much of this waste ends up in wells and
waterways, contaminating drinking water
and killing aquatic life. Nitrogen, phosphorus,
and pesticides also contaminate water
through runoff from fields.
Animal agriculture also adds to global
warming by adding carbon dioxide and methane
gas to the atmosphere.84 Deforestation
increases carbon dioxide levels, as does
burning fossil fuels to satisfy animal
agriculture's energy requirements.
Fishing is also environmentally destructive.
Huge trawlers damage fragile ecosystems
on the ocean floor. Giant fishnets, sometimes
miles long, reduce fish populations and
indiscriminately catch and kill huge numbers
of "by-catch," including dolphins and
turtles, whom fishermen discard overboard.
Today, drift nets are often made of monofilament
nylon, which is very strong and is not
biodegradable. Frequently, whales run
into the nets and drag them far from their
original positions. The whales often die
of starvation or infection, and the dislocated
nets continue to catch and kill fish and
other marine life indefinitely, perhaps
for hundreds or even thousands of years.85
The widespread, self-serving view that
the world was made for humans has encouraged
people to despoil the earth. Ironically,
ecological devastation now constitutes
the greatest long-term threat to human
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