Go Green, Go Vegetarian

January 12, 2012
10000 gallons of water. 10000 gallons of water can produce over 80 pounds of fruit, and 10000 gallons of water can produce merely one pound of steak. 10000 gallons of water used to produce an abundance of fruit or a single dinner entrée; which would you choose? According to the Vegetarian Journal, there were approximately 4.8 million vegetarians in the United States in 2000. That number continues to rise as people realize the many health, economic, and environmental benefits of vegetarianism. Adapting a meatless diet, which will sustain the planet and make the environment greener, eliminates the need for livestock raising and meat production. Yet, many still don’t understand the environmental impact of raising and consuming livestock. Deforestation, energy wastes, and pollution caused by raising animals are three strong reasons to become a vegetarian.
The livestock sector causes deforestation in many parts of the world, especially in Latin America. Farmers often burn forestlands to make the ash suitable for farming; some may clear out acres of vegetation in order to raise animals. 70% of the forests cleared in the Amazon are used as grazing land for livestock. The effects of deforestation are various, ranging from soil loss and soil compaction to desertification. 55% of soil erosion in the world is caused by livestock raising. If livestock raising continues at such a rapid rate, the earth might be deplete of all forests soon!
Feeding a population with meat requires more energy and resources than feeding it with vegetation and grains. One of the most important resources used in the production of modern meat is petroleum, which is already scarce on the planet. For a steer to reach full grown slaughter weight, it would have used up 35 gallons of oil to maintain its life. If everyone in the U.S replaced one pound of meat with one pound of bread, around 21 million barrels of oil would be saved each year. And think about the chemicals used for feed, medication, and pest controls, etc of livestock; with all the chemical costs of raising animals, farmers can feed the vegetarian world.
The livestock sector causes many types of pollution, ranging from air to water. Today, the waterways are polluted by manure, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones from raising animals. These harmful substances run all the way from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. Also, livestock raising produces 65% of all human induced nitrous oxide- a greenhouse gas almost 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in global warming; produces 68% of human induced ammonia, which causes acid rain; and uses the largest amount of freshwater in the industrial 21st century. As the livestock sector continues to expand, the environment is critically ailing.
People who oppose vegetarianism argue that livestock raising is only a small, inevitable part of a larger problem; factors like industrialization, corporate abuse, and global warming all contribute to current environmental issues. Even though livestock raising is not the only contributor to environmental problems, statistics above show undeniably that it is a big one.
Taking all the harmful effects of raising livestock for human consumption into consideration, a meat eater might be doing more to harm the planet than greenhouse gas. Cutting the meat from a diet is more effective than many pro environment campaigns combined. Crops get energy from sunlight; however, livestock must be fed and housed and transported and slaughtered and processed and cooked in order to be on the dinner plate. How many trees were cut for that piece of succulent steak? How much energy did all those processes waste? How much pollution did all those processes generate? Think about these questions next time before taking a bite of that mouthwatering steak. Go green, go vegetarian.

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