Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Meat: An Environment Killer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





Join the Discussion


This article has 240 comments. Post your own!

Sagee said...
Dec. 18, 2010 at 6:28 pm:
Sitting here reading some of these comments that I honestly do NOT agree with.  If you do your research right, you'll find that more and more farms are skipping the part of sending their livestock to companies.  They feed sell them as organic meat.  Which, gives them more money and you a healthier diet.  Plus, if you don't kill animals, they will eventually over populate the Earth.  So, it is a mandatory thing, if you want to save the planet, to eat meat.
 
emoducks replied...
Feb. 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm :

I agree with sagee on this one.  You would be hurting the environment more by not eating meat... I don't understand how just eating meat could take all of that land away... I mean GEEZE! That's just crazy talk right there.... 

But, I do think that some farms and factories take the whole "O we need money thing" way to far.  I watched a movie on how some of these big companies have farms that treat the animals just awful! After watching that, I took more consideration for... (more »)

 
ConstanceContraireThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Mar. 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm :
i think that you should replace the meat farms with plant farms. so we get rid of most of these meat farms and replace them with plant farms. therefore we still get plants not destroying jobs and helping the economy at the same time 
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Sagee said...
Dec. 18, 2010 at 6:17 pm:
Either way
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
kratz said...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 10:09 am:
Which people are "hurt" by my eating of meat?
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
kratz said...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 9:59 am:

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 ... (more »)

 
mikey220 replied...
Dec. 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm :
Um, have you ever thought about how if we didn't butcher animals for meat (which hel-lo is food) how the animals would over-populate, henceforth eating more vegetation which could then be used for saving the world.
 
ConstanceContraireThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Apr. 5, 2012 at 3:17 pm :
mikey220 we have farms meant for breeding cows for meat, man did this, not nature!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
happy said...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 9:40 am:
i totally agree with what you say
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
moneyman12 said...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 7:47 am:
I like what you are saying.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
TheKingThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 1:31 am:
pass on a hamburger!?  youre asking me to give up part of my soul...
 
happy replied...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 9:36 am :
She isn't asking you to give up what you love. shes just telling you what are the major poplutions and what will happen in the futrue if we don't do something to drop the amount of polution coming from the meat factories.
 
mikey220 replied...
Dec. 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm :

No, shes not. The whole point of an opinion article is to persuade someone to believe something.

 and maybe you need to reread that final paragraph. Because you obviously didn't see it the first time.

 
TheKingThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 20, 2010 at 1:00 am :
Unfortunately, it seams people dont have much in the way of humor anymore.  This comment was a simple one, which served two purposes.  One was my dissagreement to the article, the second was a simple stab at humor.
 
mikey220 replied...
Jan. 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm :
My comment was in reply to happy's, not yours, theKing. I agree whole-heartedly with you.
 
TheKingThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 2:30 pm :
Oh, then never mind haha
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Corkyspaniel said...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 11:46 am:
This is amazing. So well-written and informative. Just the reminder I needed to return to vegetarianism.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Corkyspaniel said...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 11:45 am:
Thank you, MangoMadness. Also, I'd like to raise the question, that if your god put animals here to be eaten, then why does eating them destroy his planet?
 
emoducks replied...
Feb. 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm :
Exactly.  If he didn't want them to be eaten, then he wouldn't have put them here
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
WrItEr2010 said...
Nov. 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm:
Here is the problem with your argument, animals were put on this earth for us to EAT. Also, i'd like to add that cattle, when just fed plants, provide manure that makes land fertile, therefore making it possible for plants to grow. 
 
Jet_plane_number_5 replied...
Apr. 23, 2011 at 8:56 pm :

Great article! Very well written, and I agree completely!

I know this is a very controversial subject, but personally, I think being a vegetarian is great! Have you heard of Escherichia coli (E-Coli)? Think about that next time you dig into your hamburger. Speaking of ham, consuming undercooked pork can actually give you brain worms! Suddenly that crispy bacon doesn't look too good either, now does it? And furthermore, there is a reason that many royalties don&rsqu... (more »)

 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback