Meat: An Environment Killer MAG

October 30, 2009
By Vidushi Sharma BRONZE, Secaucus, New Jersey
Vidushi Sharma BRONZE, Secaucus, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

We’ve all seen our share of scientists in white coats, explaining what global warming is, why it’s dangerous, and what we can do to stop it. We encounter protests against fossil fuels and auto emissions. But the one industry that produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, ships, planes, and trucks in the world combined, according to GoVeg.com, has carefully avoided this scrutiny. The meat industry is an often-overlooked factor in environmental destruction, existing unnoticed as a major source of deforestation, wasted natural resources, and pollution.

Rainforests hold a wealth of plant and animal life. Trees are natural air filters, pulling harmful carbon dioxide from the air and converting it to oxygen. The meat industry, particularly cattle ranching, kills millions of acres of rainforest each year.

Just one quarter-pound hamburger requires the clearing of six yards of rainforest and the destruction of 165 pounds of living matter, including 20 to 30 plant species, 100 insect species, and dozens of birds, mammals, and reptiles, according to ChooseVeg.com. Small amounts of beef in an individual’s diet soon add up and do great harm to the environment.

Cattle farming turns fertile land into barren desert, threatening or eliminating more plant species in the U.S. than any other cause. Livestock grazing can be a huge threat to endangered species and may contribute to extinctions.

There is no doubt that the meat industry causes immense, irreversible harm to the earth’s rainforests. But this is not the only victim of the meat industry. Meat consumption also produces a massive amount of waste.

Four hundred and forty-one gallons of water is required for each pound of cattle raised, compared to just 14 gallons to grow a pound of grain, according to ChooseVeg.com. Three days of a typical non-vegetarian diet requires as much water as the average person uses showering for an entire year. An individual can save more than 3,700 gallons of water per day by eating a plant-based diet. Ogallala, the largest aquifer in America, is depleted by 12 trillion gallons a year, mostly due to soaring meat production. Besides draining our water supply, meat production leads to food shortages as well.

World hunger is a severe problem, with millions of men, women, and children going hungry each day. Most people do not realize that not eating meat could relieve starvation worldwide. Meat production takes up 70 percent of the world’s agricultural land. A single acre of farmland can, over a year, produce 250 pounds of beef or 40,000 potatoes. Yet it is not only land usage that prevents food from getting to the people who need it most. Twenty percent of the world’s population (1.4 billion people) could be fed with the grain and soy beans currently consumed by U.S. cattle alone. By adopting a vegetarian diet, individuals could cut the amount of land used to produce their food by a magnitude of ten.

Another unpleasant side effect of meat production is the pollution it produces. Animal agriculture creates five tons of waste per person over a typical lifetime in the U.S., according to ChooseVeg.com. That’s 87,000 pounds of waste each second. Animal waste from factory farms seeps into groundwater, contaminating it. Chicken, hog, and cattle manure has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated water in 17 states. The EPA reports that pollution from livestock farming is a leading cause of water contamination in the U.S., killing marine life and making drinking water unsafe.

Meat production is also a major cause of global carbon dioxide and methane pollution. These greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Colossal amounts of fossil fuel are used to grow food for livestock, dispose of remains, and transport the meat. Cows are a major cause of methane pollution because their waste contains large amounts of the gas. In America, cattle have altered the environment more than all the highways, strip mines, dams, and power plants combined, according to ChooseVeg.com.

Producing a single pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving an SUV 40 miles – 500 pounds of carbon dioxide for just a quarter-pound hamburger. Worldwide petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 11 years if the rest of the world started eating meat like the United States does. But if Americans skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted a vegetarian meal instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads (ChooseVeg.com)! Despite these undeniable statistics, some people ­defend eating meat and deny the impacts of an ­omnivorous diet on the environment.

There is no doubt that meat production harms the environment by contributing to deforestation, global warming, wasted resources, and pollution. The United Nations has said that going vegetarian is the greenest thing individuals can do to save the environment. The University of Chicago reports that going vegetarian is 50 percent more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse emissions.

What did the great thinkers Aristotle, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Mohandas Gandhi, and John Lennon have in common? They were all vegetarians. But don’t worry, there is no need to swear off meat all at once! By simply reducing your meat consumption (especially beef) you can take steps to help save the environment and stop global warming. Cut down a little bit each week at a pace that suits you. Refrain from eating that hamburger – our earth will thank you for it!



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This article has 240 comments.


on Mar. 9 2010 at 8:08 am
DalekJast BRONZE, Cochranville, Pennsylvania
4 articles 0 photos 6 comments
The only reason that there are so many livestock animals that produce carbon dioxide is because people eat them. If we reduced the consumption of meat drastically, in theory, the supply would go down, lowering the amount of carbon dioxide produced by livestock. If the demand increases, however, carbon dioxide levels produced by livestock go up because there are more animals being farmed.

on Mar. 7 2010 at 8:33 am
I'm an off again, on again vegetarian, and what actually made me quit was the vast amount of blowing things up peta was doing on their web site, they had no credibility. I just want straight facts; and you've provided some very important ones here. Thank-you.

i<3steven! said...
on Mar. 5 2010 at 3:39 pm
i<3steven!, Newcastle, California
0 articles 0 photos 95 comments

Favorite Quote:
*john-son-johnson*
Inside Joke

yep yep yep!!

on Mar. 4 2010 at 5:48 pm
guinea_pig_girl BRONZE, Centennial, Colorado
3 articles 0 photos 23 comments
To dancer123, cows will not overpopulate us- the ones we use for meat are specifically raised for that purpose. And humans don't really need milk- I'm not saying it's bad, but we're drinking milk that was meant for calves. We are only "supposed" to drink milk as infants.

on Mar. 4 2010 at 5:41 pm
Well, there are many opinions on this, but mine is that if you eat poultry and fish, you aren't a vegetarian. They are animals, too, right? However, it is better to eat only fish and poultry than all meat, of course. :)

maggermufin said...
on Feb. 27 2010 at 5:50 pm
Wow. I'm not going to argue with you anymore because I really doubt you're over like 13-14 max. You obviously have no idea what you're talking about. You're logic is flawed. You haven't even considered poplulation growth over centuries, the fact that technology did allow for people to realize that animals don't need to die to provide people with healthy living. And if you are so into living like an aboriginal....why don't you go do that. Get rid of all you modern day objects, including your electric-wired house, your shoes and synthetic clothing, and live in the woods. People centuries ago had a way shorter life expectancy, had to kill their food themselves, grow their food themselves (which I really really doubt you do) and struggled to survive, especially in the winter. When you get sick from living this way, you won't be able to seek any medical help due to the fact that that is modern too. Maybe you can find a nice witch doctor or whatever.

People centuries ago had a greater respect for the environment and their food source. They killed what they needed for survival. There is no possible way for you to compare today's society to older times because of a) a massive increase in population b) practices c) technology of the time.

PS. I'm not ignorant to the fact that other animals kill other animals to survive. I am also aware that they don't hold their prey in holding pens, and then stun them, beat them over the head and slit their throats so that they will bleed out.

on Feb. 27 2010 at 4:45 pm
AnneOnnimous BRONZE, Peterborough Ontario, Other
3 articles 0 photos 147 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."
— John Green

but again, you are wrong. Just because I am using technology (a fact which i am perfectly aware of) does not mean that is a good thing. And just because it has allowed animals to not be killed (which it hasn't really; you overlook that they are killed all the time by other animals, hence the all important circle of life that is overlooked by many vegetarians), that does not mean that is a good thing either. It disrupts the balance of life; so no, you are laughably wrong, vegetarianism does most certainly NOT help it. Humans have eaten meat for centuries; notice that native peoples ate much more meat than those in, say Europe, and maintained the environment much better. Trust ME, "kid", i would know.

And again, i know the modern world is bad, or whatever. But technology is a big part of that. And, by the way, you can't "get the same stuff from plants". It's similar, but not the same.

And, of course, about those silly studies of yours. I googled it and found just as many studies, form all over the world, for vegetarianism as against. So that proves a fact that requires very basic amounts of logic; that studies can, and often will, be biased. Obviously a study from a website promoting vegetarianism is going to say it's healthiest!

maggermufin said...
on Feb. 27 2010 at 8:32 am
I never said that technology is ruining everything. You're using it right now. It's helps us learn what's in our foods so we can make wiser choices. It has allowed us to see that killing animals isnt necessary because we can get the same stuff from plants. By going vegetarian you're helping to correct the balance of life by taking out of the food chain the one species that is dominating the planet. As humans we are already destroying natural habitats, draining land for farming and raising animals in huge crowded spaces. One species ruling over the world is not haw the "aboriginal" people lived, nor did they have factory farms.

As for the studies. They DO mean something and they will continue to mean something until you take the time to refute them with your own scientific facts. Until then, everything you've said is just nonsense and an uneducated opinion. Trust me, kid, I did extensive research before I became a vegetarian so that I knew exactly why and how I'd go about it.

on Feb. 26 2010 at 4:20 pm
AnneOnnimous BRONZE, Peterborough Ontario, Other
3 articles 0 photos 147 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."
— John Green

I never said that I like the modern way of making food; everything is processed, or else expensive. I agree with you on the technology ruining everything. And i suppose it is true that we have already disrupted the balance of nature; but is it right to make something worse just because it is already bad enough? I think it would be better if humans could go back to how we used to live, like aboriginal people, and eat what we ate then.

and, as for those studies you mentioned, that is just biased and insignificant. I am sure that i could go online and find studies proving that eating meat is healthier. So that doesn't mean anything .

maggermufin said...
on Feb. 26 2010 at 7:58 am
Actually, that's not true. Vegetarians are much more healthy than omnivores because they get closer the the proper servings of everything. That means, not too much and not too little. We get the proper servings of vegetables, fruit, grain, fats and oils, dairy, and protein. For the last two, many of us take supplements to help but we're still a lot healthier. This is because in modern society, too much meat is consumed and it has become the focus of any dinner...even though it's actually supposed to be a fairly small portion of it.

It's scientific fact that vegetarians live longer. Vegans have a longer life expectancy than vegetarians. They just have to be more careful that they make up for anything they are not eating that their bodies need. As for the balance of life....we messed that up a long time ago. Humans were originally built with a working appendix to cope with raw meat..but we've moved on from that. It's called evolution and advances in technology and knowledge have made the need of the brutal killing of animals, the housing them in horribly confined areas, the filth, the pollution, the need for the huge amount of resources to raise them, obsolete.

on Feb. 26 2010 at 7:46 am
xAllegria BRONZE, Singapore, Other
1 article 2 photos 112 comments

Favorite Quote:
Ça fait tellement du bien d’aimer les gens qu’on aime, que ça finit par faire mal. Je sais pas comment on survit a ça. Non franchement, je sais pas. LOL (laughing out loud) ®, Lola.

The most water we consumed is wasted on food, and probably most on meat. The statistics here are frightenning... good article.

on Feb. 25 2010 at 7:17 pm
AnneOnnimous BRONZE, Peterborough Ontario, Other
3 articles 0 photos 147 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."
— John Green

vegans may survive, but they're not as healthy. Humans were built to be omnivores; we disrupt the balance of life by not doing so.

i<3steven! said...
on Feb. 25 2010 at 3:25 pm
i<3steven!, Newcastle, California
0 articles 0 photos 95 comments

Favorite Quote:
*john-son-johnson*
Inside Joke

i recently turned vegetarian because of a pita video i saw on yutube, i think that you make a good point and i was wondering how many people who are vegetarians eat poultry or fish?

Beatman said...
on Feb. 18 2010 at 11:25 am
I've been a vegetarian for many years, but I respect people who eat meat. It's their choice after all, and we can't say that the whole world should be vegetarian. It's too much of a personal choice.

on Feb. 18 2010 at 7:54 am
DalekJast BRONZE, Cochranville, Pennsylvania
4 articles 0 photos 6 comments
Why are cows necessary for survival? Somehow lactose intolerant people and vegans survive without milk or meat. And the population of cattle would go down because of natural predators in the wild that ate some of them.

Vegetarian for life!

on Jan. 28 2010 at 7:06 pm
Bricheze SILVER, Salt Lake City, Utah
8 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There are three kinds of people in the world: those who make change happen, those who watch change happen, and those who ask what happened. Be one of those who make change." -Robert Buchanan

As an agriculturalist and environmentalist I can tell you that while livestock production does release a large amount of green house gases, use a fair amount of resources, and otherwise pollute a large amount; it's also something we need.

Crop land is not the same as pasture land. Pasture land is not sustainable enough to produce crops, only to raise livestock. We don't have enough sustainable crop land to support a world of vegeterians.

So while, yes, we do need to find away to reduce pollution from raising livestock and we could cut down on meat eating for both health and environmental reasons, everyone going fully vegeterian would make agriculture very unstainable and we would most likely have to cut down more rainforests (slash & burn agriculture) to keep even first world countries from starving to death.

Just a tip for the future, you only list one source in your piece, I would suggest looking up more sources to gain a less biased more well rounded opinion.

on Jan. 23 2010 at 5:39 pm
bass_rockrgrl13 PLATINUM, Burlington, Massachusetts
21 articles 0 photos 73 comments
I just wanted to say that according to the law of conservation of matter, matter cannot be created or destroyed. Your essay was proving a good number of points, though.

veggieme said...
on Jan. 20 2010 at 10:26 pm
thats a really good point i dont know about that

dancer123 said...
on Jan. 20 2010 at 2:04 pm
Valid points.. but you need to come from both sides.

BillyBob said...
on Jan. 20 2010 at 2:02 pm
Cows are necessary for survival!!! And if we stopped eating them they would keep producing more cows. Unless we had all you vegetarians castrate them all. But then they would become endangered.


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