and the Environment" at
Animal Agriculture Equates to Wasted Resources and Environmental Degradation
...In return, this
relays to human and animal suffering.
Raising animals for food requires massive amounts
of land, food,
energy, and water. Furthermore, it contributes
to polluting the water we drink,
the air we breathe,
misery for the world's hungry,
and animal suffering.
Vast tracts of land are needed to grow
crops to feed the billions of animals we raise for food each year.
According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institute, the equivalent of
seven football fields of land is bulldozed every minute, much of it to
create more room for farmed animals. Of all the agricultural land in the
U.S., nearly 80 percent is used in some way to raise animals—that's
roughly half of the total land mass of the U.S.10
More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create
cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals.11
The U.S. certainly isn't alone in its
misuse of land for animal agriculture. As the world's appetite for meat
increases, countries across the globe are bulldozing huge swaths of land
to make more room for animals and the crops to feed them. From tropical
rain forests in Brazil to ancient pine forests in China, entire
ecosystems are being destroyed to fuel our addiction to meat. According
to scientists at the Smithsonian Institute, the equivalent of seven
football fields of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room
for farmed animals.12
In the United States and around the
world, overgrazing leads to the extinction of indigenous plant and
animal species, soil erosion, and eventual desertification that renders
once-fertile land barren.13 Livestock
grazing is the number one cause of threatened and extinct species both
in the United States and in other parts of the world.14
Philip Fradkin, of the National Audubon Society, states, "The impact of
countless hooves and mouths over the years has done more to alter the
type of vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water
projects, strip mines, power plants, freeways, and subdivision
developments combined."15 As more and
more land both in the U.S. and around the world is irreparably damaged
at the hands of the meat industry, what little arable land does remain
may not be enough to produce crops to feed the burgeoning world human
While factory farms are ruining our land,
the commercial fishing industry is pushing entire oceanic ecosystems to
the brink of collapse. Commercial fishing boats indiscriminately pull as
many fish as they can out of the sea, leaving ecological devastation and
the bodies of nontarget animals in their wake. Fishing methods like
bottom trawling and long-lining have emptied millions of miles of ocean
and pushed some marine species to the brink of extinction.
10 Vesterby and Krupa.
11 Earth Talk, "The Environmental Beef With
The Bay Weekly, 6 Jan. 2005.
12 Smithsonian Institution, "Smithsonian
Researchers Show Amazonian Deforestation Accelerating,"
Science Daily Online, 15 Jan. 2002.
13 Danielle Knight, "Researchers Highlight
14 Jennifer Bogo, "Where's the Beef?"
E, Nov. 1999.
15 Robbins, p. 250.
16 CNN, "Study: Only 10 Percent of Big Ocean Fish
CNN Online, 14 May 2003.
It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to
produce just 1 pound of meat.
Raising animals for food is grossly inefficient, because while animals
eat large quantities of grain, they only produce small amounts of meat,
dairy products, or eggs in return. This is why more than 70 percent of
the grain and cereals that we grow in this country are fed to farmed
animals. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of
meat, and even fish on fish farms must be fed 5 pounds of wild-caught
fish to produce one pound of farmed fish flesh.17,18
All animals require many times more calories, in the form of grain,
soybeans, oats, and corn, than they can possibly return in the form of
animal flesh for meat-eaters to consume.
The world's cattle alone consume a
quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more
than the entire human population on Earth.19
About 20 percent of the world's population, or 1.4 billion people, could
be fed with the grain and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone.20
17 Gold and Porritt.
18 Robbins, p. 298.
19 Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt, "The Global Benefits of
Eating Less Meat," 2004, p. 22.
20 Ibid. .
E, the respected environmental magazine,
noted in 2002 that more than one-third of all fossil fuels produced in
the United States are used to raise animals for food.21
This makes sense, since 80 percent of all agricultural land in the U.S.
is used by the meat and dairy industries (this includes, of course, the
land used to raise crops to feed them).
Simply add up the energy-intensive
stages: (1) grow massive amounts of corn, grain, and soybeans (with all
the required tilling, irrigation, crop dusters, and so on); (2)
transport the grain and soybeans to manufacturers of feed on
gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing 18-wheelers; (3) operate the feed mills
(requiring massive energy expenditures); (4) transport the feed to the
factory farms (again, in inefficient vehicles); 5) operate the factory
farms; (6) truck the animals many miles to slaughter; (7) operate the
slaughterhouse; (8) transport the meat to processing plants; (9) operate
the meat-processing plants; (10) transport the meat to grocery stores;
(11) keep the meat refrigerated or frozen in the stores, until it's
sold. Every single stage involves heavy pollution, massive amounts of
greenhouse gases, and massive amounts of energy.
Most of us turn off the lights when we
leave a room and attempt to conserve energy in other ways, but eating
meat is the most inefficient and resource-intensive thing we do. If we
Americans cut our meat consumption, our oil problems would be
Between watering the crops that
farmed animals eat, providing drinking water for billions of
animals each year, and cleaning away the filth in factory farms,
transport trucks, and slaughterhouses, the farmed animal
industry places a serious strain on our water supply. Nearly
half of all the water used in the United States goes to raising
animals for food.22
It takes 5,000 gallons of water
to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of wheat only
requires 25 gallons.23 A
totally vegetarian diet requires only 300 gallons of water per
day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons
of water per day.24,25 You save
more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not
showering for an entire year.26
While millions of people across
the globe are faced with droughts and water shortages, much of
the world's water supply is quietly being diverted to animal
agriculture. As the Western diet spreads to the rest of the
world, even desert nations in Africa and the Middle East are
pouring what little water they have into meat production.
It is clear that raising animals
for food puts a tremendous strain on our already limited water
supply, and water is used much more efficiently when it goes
toward producing crops for human consumption.
22 Robbins, The Food Revolution, p. 238.
23 Robbins, The Food Revolution, p. 236.
24 Robbins, Diet for a New America, p. 367.
25 Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet, Ballantine
Books: New York,1982.
26 Robbins, The Food Revolution, p. 236.
The Water We Drink
Much of the millions of pounds of
excrement and other bodily waste produced by farmed animals every day in
the U.S. is stored in sprawling brown lagoons. These lagoons
occasionally spill over into surrounding waterways and cause massive
numbers of fish and other animals to die. When 25 million gallons of
putrid hog urine and feces spilled into a North Carolina river in 1995,
between 10 and 14 million fish died as an immediate result.33
This spill was twice as large in volume as the Exxon-Valdez oil
disaster, but even smaller amounts of factory-farm runoff can wreak
havoc on the environment—the pesticides, antibiotics, and powerful
growth hormones that are concentrated in animal flesh are also found in
their feces, and these chemicals can have catastrophic effects on the
ecosystems surrounding factory farms. In West Virginia and Maryland, for
example, scientists have recently discovered that male fish are growing
ovaries, and they suspect that this freakish deformity is the result of
factory-farm run-off from drug-laden chicken feces.34
The EPA reports that chicken, hog, and
cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and
contaminated groundwater in 17 states.35
Besides the environmental problems caused by farmed animal waste, the
dangerous fecal bacteria from farm sewage, including E. coli, can also
cause serious illness in humans.
The pollution from animal factories is
also destroying parts of the world’s oceans. In the middle of the United
States, streams and rivers carry excrement from animal factories to the
Mississippi River, which then deposits the waste in the Gulf of Mexico.
The nitrogen from animal feces—and from fertilizer, which is primarily
used to grow crops for farmed animals—causes algae populations to
skyrocket, leaving little oxygen for other life forms. A 2006 report by
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the Gulf
of Mexico’s “dead zone”—an area in which virtually all the sea animals
and plants have died—is now half the size of Maryland.36
In 2006, a separate study by Princeton University found that a shift
away from meat production—as well as Americans’ adoption of vegetarian
diets—would dramatically reduce the amount of nitrogen in the Gulf to
levels that would make the dead zone “small or non-existent.”37
Fish farms also contribute to water
pollution—farmers cram thousands of fish into tiny enclosures, and the
accumulation of feces and other waste means that aquafarms are little
more than open sewers. The massive amounts of feces, fish carcasses, and
antibiotic-laced fish food that settle below fish farm cages have
actually caused the ocean floor to rot in some areas, and the sludge of
fish feces and other debris can be toxic for already-strained ocean
Amazingly, the federal government
continues to allow animal factories to negatively impact the health of
Americans who live near animal factories. In 2006, public-interest and
environmental advocates expressed shock and anger when the EPA proposed
a new loophole that would make it even easier for giant animal factories
to pollute the water and air without any oversight. Ed Hopkins, director
of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program, said that the new
loophole “essentially means that these facilities are going to be able
to continue to use our streams and rivers as sewers.”39
33 Natural Resources Defense Council, "America's Factory Farms:
How States Fail to Prevent Pollution From Livestock Waste,"
Natural Resources Defense Council, Dec. 1998.
34 David Fahrenthold, "Male Fish Bass in Potomac Producing
Eggs," The Washington Post 15 Oct. 2004.
35 Environmental News Network, "Environmental Issues Specific to
the Agriculture Industry," ENN Online 2004.
36 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “NOAA
Forecasts Larger Than Normal ‘Dead Zone’ for Gulf This Summer,”
24 Jul. 2006.
37 Simon D. Donner, “Surf or Turf: A Shift From Feed to Food
Cultivation Could Reduce Nutrient Flux to the Gulf of Mexico,”
Global Environmental Change Jun. 2006.
38 Pollution Control Authority, "Water Pollution: Fish Farms,"
State of the Environment Norway, 2004.
39 Michelle Chen, “Giant Factory Farms Encroach on Communities,
Evade Regulation,” The New Standard 3 Jul. 2006..
The Air We Breathe
Factory farms also produce massive
amounts of dust and other contamination that pollutes our air. A study
in Texas found that animal feedlots in the state produce more than 14
million pounds of particulate dust every year and that the dust
“contains biologically active organisms such as bacteria, mold, and
fungi from the feces and the feed.”40
The massive amounts of excrement produced by these farms emit toxic
gases such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air. The EPA reports
that roughly 80 percent of ammonia emissions in the United States come
from animal waste.41
As if the chemicals and particulate
matter from animal waste weren’t bad enough, the meat and dairy
industries often knowingly add to the air-quality crisis. When the
cesspools holding tons of urine and feces get full, factory farms will
frequently get around water pollution limits by spraying liquid manure
into the air, creating mists that are carried away by the wind.42
People who live nearby are forced to
inhale the toxins and pathogens from the sprayed manure. Learn more
about how pollution from factory farms affects human health. According
to a report by the California State Senate, “Studies have shown that
[animal waste] lagoons emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause
inflammatory, immune, irritation and neurochemical problems in humans.”43
40Consumers Union, “Animal Factories: Pollution and Health
Threats to Rural Texas,” May 2000.
41Environmental Protection Agency, “Review of Emission Factors
and Methodologies to Estimate Ammonia Emissions From Animal
Waste Handling,” EPA Online Apr. 2002.
42Jennifer Lee, “Neighbors of Vast Hog Farms Say Foul Air
Endangers Their Health,” The New York Times 11 May 2003.
43California State Senate, “Confined Animal Facilities in
California,” Nov. 2004.
the World's Hungry
There is more than enough food in the
world to feed the entire human population. So why are more than 840
million people still going hungry?1
Our meat-based diet is partly to blame,
as land, water, and other resources that could be used to grow food for
human beings are being used to grow crops for farmed animals instead.
According to a recent report by Compassion in World Framing, "[c]rops
that could be used to feed the hungry are instead being used to fatten
animals raised for food." It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce
just 1 pound of edible animal flesh.
The average adult human burns about 2,000
calories per day, just living his or her life. We use almost all the
calories that we consume to move around, breathe, and do everyday tasks.
The same is true of farmed animals. For every pound of food that they
are fed, only a fraction of the calories are returned in the form of
edible flesh. The rest of those calories are burned away raising the
animal to slaughter weight or contributing to feathers, blood, and other
parts of the animal that are not eaten by humans. This is why animals
raised for food have to eat as many as 16 pounds of grain to create just
1 pound of edible flesh.2
Because the industrial world is exporting
grain to developing countries and importing the meat that is produced
with it, farmers who are trying to feed themselves are being driven off
their land. Their efficient, plant-based agricultural model is being
replaced with intensive livestock rearing, which also pollutes the air
and water and renders the once-fertile land dead and barren.
If this trend continues, the developing
world will never be able to produce enough food to feed itself, and
global hunger will continue to plague hundreds of millions of people
around the globe. The Guardian explains that there's only one solution:
"It now seems plain that [a vegan diet] is the only ethical response to
what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue."3
1 Alex Kirby, "Hungry World 'Must Eat Less Meat,'" BBC Online,
15 Aug. 2004.
2 Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt, "The Global Benefits of Eating
Less Meat," 2004, p. 22.
3 George Monbiot, "Why Vegans Were Right All Along," Guardian
Unlimited, 24 Dec. 2002.
Caring for the environment means
protecting all of our planet's inhabitants. Animals on modern factory
farms are deprived of everything that is natural to them, and they are
treated in ways that would warrant felony cruelty-to-animals charges if
the victims were dogs or cats. Chickens' beaks are sliced off with a hot
blade, pigs' tails are chopped off and their teeth clipped with pliers,
and male cows and pigs are castrated, all without any pain relief. The
animals are confined to crowded, filthy warehouses and dosed with
powerful drugs to make them grow so quickly that their hearts and limbs
often cannot keep up—they frequently become crippled or suffer from
heart attacks when they're only a few weeks old. Finally, at the
slaughterhouse, they are hung upside-down and their throats are slit,
often while they are still conscious. What kind of environmentalist can
support any of that?
All-Creatures.org - Becoming Vegan
Diet and Health
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