Meat: An Environment Killer | Teen Ink

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, 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 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 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 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

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 (! 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!

Similar Articles


This article has 240 comments.

NateM said...
on Feb. 9 2014 at 8:20 pm
NateM, Ormond Beach, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Dear Secuaus Vidushi S.                         I’ve read your article “Meat: An environment killer.” and it was a very well explained article and it left me thinking about what would happen if the majority population did become vegetarian. After some research I found many advantages to this like what you said, the environmental benefits but, I also found some major problems it would possibly see rise to. One of the largest problems that could come about if the world stopped consuming meat would be a large economic one. In 2010 more than 487600 workers were employed in the meat and poultry packing and processing industries. Each year the meat and poultry industry generate approximately $642.8 billion to the U.S. economy, all of this is not even including businesses that require meat such as restaurants. If the meat industry were to suddenly cease to exist millions of people would be unemployed, billions of dollars would be lost and multi-billion dollar companies, like McDonalds, would fail. The overall effects of the meat industry no longer being relevant would be detrimental to the economy of many countries, especially the U.S. In an ideal world we’d be able to all stop eating meat and do better for the enviroment but in today’s world it just isn’t feasible.

on Mar. 12 2013 at 8:57 am
mylifeasapincushion GOLD, Redlands, California
14 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Extremist have shown what frightens them most: A girl with a book"
-Malala Yousafzai

This comment is amazingly (and some might say horrifying) informative article, I feel that we as Americans should join and pick days out of the week to not eat meat like meatless Mondays, slowly but surely we can cut down our meat consumption and dependency.

on Mar. 8 2013 at 6:36 pm
TheBlackCrow901 SILVER, Chatham, Illinois
5 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Let this be your honour: always love more than you are loved and never to be second in this."

I would like to point out to you just as you can not bear to see a bad light shed upon American agriculture, they cannot bear to see the good light. So just as they doesn't tell you her opinion is the only way do not do so with yours.

on Oct. 6 2012 at 11:02 pm
BilbroSwaggins SILVER, Blountstown, Florida
5 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Only the rocks live forever, so it matters not how long we live, but how we live." -Native American Proverb

I'm proud to be an American, and one of the things that makes America so great is agriculture.  In your paper you shed a horrifying light on cattle farming.  However, the cattle industry is the leading portion in all of the United State's agricultural industry, and the agricultural industry is the backbone of the American economy.  You were cleverly inspecefic when mentioning problems like deforestation caused by cattle ranching, because in the U.S. no such problem exists.  Also, if you want to grow a ton of veggies (which is awesome) you are probably going to want some fertilizer.  Cow manure my friend can surley help you with that.  Lastly, the bulk of your information came from, I mean come on that would be like if I wrote a paper on the best NFL team and got all my information from the Denver Broncos website.  I don't want to be mean, but this paper sheds a bad light on American agriculture and I can't stand to see that happen.

on May. 8 2012 at 12:01 pm
You guys do know that we have special farms dedicated to breeding cows, man did this not nature 

on Apr. 5 2012 at 3:17 pm
mikey220 we have farms meant for breeding cows for meat, man did this, not nature!

on 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 

on Mar. 7 2012 at 7:19 pm
sorry meant to say pound

on Mar. 7 2012 at 7:18 pm

Oatmeal has 6 grams of protein

Soymilk 7 grams 

5 oz of firm Tofu 11 grams

1 cup of cook lentil 18 grams 

add all of this up and it is 42 grams of protein and the amount of protein supposed to be consumed for a 150 pond person is 55 grams and that is just four different foods

anonymous said...
on Oct. 4 2011 at 10:30 pm
Fish farming or cultivating still cuts down trees, but not as much. The only problem with eating a lot of fish is that fish (all of them) have some mercury in them, which means that if you have to much fish (i.e. fish every night for a few weeks) you can get quite sick.

Clara SILVER said...
on Aug. 3 2011 at 9:50 am
Clara SILVER, Holland, Michigan
5 articles 0 photos 5 comments
Whoops, I meant 'disappoint'. And sorry for the weird spacing. :)

Clara SILVER said...
on Aug. 3 2011 at 9:47 am
Clara SILVER, Holland, Michigan
5 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Hooray for this one! I especially admire the connects you made so well. I was raised a vegetarian, not only for the animals and the environment, but also for my own safety. There are a lot of things in meat that can be hazardous (given there are hazards in anything you eat, of course) and it's expensive. I have never had any health problems, never been sick because I was 'malnourished' and it's no problem. I don't support the way it's made and I don't think, even if someone gave me a supply of organic, local, meat of any kind, I would eat it. The nutritional value can be made up for if you're not adjusted to it. I have a friend who is a vegetarian for her love of animals, and she does have to eat a lot of protein-rich foods, but I think that it's the right decision to make, whether for you, the earth, or the animals.




(PS I really like your mentioning of the dropping of meat meals once in a while. If it's hard to not eat meat, (and I can't really empathize because I've never had it) then don't kill yourself by trying to hard - or worse, by not trying at all. Vegetarian meals cannot dissapoint.

on May. 29 2011 at 8:57 am
JustAnotherOwl SILVER, Unknown, New York
6 articles 0 photos 378 comments

Favorite Quote:
"See, we don't really care who you are;
Everyone is capable of looking up and wishing on a star.
So catch it, so contagious, this day-dreamer's disease,
And hope can be your sword, slaying darkness with belief."

"Sanctuary"- Paradise Fears

Vegetarians get plenty of protein from soy products. I eat tofu, black bean burgers, chick-pea patties, etc. There are actually many different options. And some vegetarians eat fish as well (that is a rule with my parents- that I eat fish), which provides me with other nutrients I need. So in reality, I am very healthy being a vegetarian.

on May. 29 2011 at 8:42 am
JustAnotherOwl SILVER, Unknown, New York
6 articles 0 photos 378 comments

Favorite Quote:
"See, we don't really care who you are;
Everyone is capable of looking up and wishing on a star.
So catch it, so contagious, this day-dreamer's disease,
And hope can be your sword, slaying darkness with belief."

"Sanctuary"- Paradise Fears

Well written article! (:

To everyone who is complaining that the facts aren't right: Why does it matter? Overall, meat is bad for the environment. It's true. Maybe a few facts were off, but the concept is the same and she is right about it in general.

And she is NOT asking everyone to become vegetarians. Everyone seems so hung up on that, but that isn't what she said. She said just to cut down. Just reduce your meat intake and you'd be helping.

With that said, I've been a vegetarian for a few months and it's surprisingly easy and I feel like I'm actually helping work toward something important (not that my being a vegetarian alone will do much, but still...If no one becomes a vegetarian, how will we help as a whole?)

on Apr. 27 2011 at 5:32 pm
ninjadragon56 SILVER, Denver, Colorado
6 articles 4 photos 37 comments

Favorite Quote:
Private favorite personal quote, do not read, all violaters will be prosicuted.

i agree! its not the actual maet that is a problem but were we get it from, factory farms are wrong but if we switched to more wholesome methods (such as organic farming) then it would approve!

Someone understands what i'm saying!

on Apr. 27 2011 at 5:30 pm
ninjadragon56 SILVER, Denver, Colorado
6 articles 4 photos 37 comments

Favorite Quote:
Private favorite personal quote, do not read, all violaters will be prosicuted.

i don't believe it is a selfish need. I agreew that people everywere should have food, its awful that they dont.

as to the predator comment i think that saying being a protector is like asking a lion to defend zebras. Before you get going on how  that is innacurratre and not the same as humans i know, but it is simmilar. I think that being a vegitarian is fantastic, don't get me wrong there. I think that its a good choice. Predators are designed to eat meat and we havn't been evolved to be herbavores. 

as i said before, i think the matter isn't the eating of meat but were the meat comes from. If we switched to organic meat rather then factory made stuff then it would improve a lot. The factory meat is bad but with organic farming there is less wase, because it fertalized the grass they eat, its more eco-friendly and a much better chioce. 

the argument here isn't wether or not to eat meat, its about were it comes from.

on Apr. 27 2011 at 11:11 am
theskeptist BRONZE, Colleyville, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The reason why I refuse to take existentialism as just another French fashion or historical curiosity is that I think it has something very important to offer us... I'm afraid were losing the real virtues of living life passionately in the sense of taking responsibility for who you are the ability to make something of yourself and feel good about life. Existentialism is often discussed as if it were a philosophy of despair, but I think the truth is just the opposite. Sartre, once interviewed, said he never felt once minute of despair in his life. One thing that comes out from reading these guys is not a sense of anguish about life so much as a real kind of exuberance, of feeling on top of it, its like your life is yours to create. Ive read the post modernists with some interest, even admiration, but when I read them I always have this awful nagging feeling that something absolutely essential is getting left out. The more you talk about a person as a social construction or as a confluence of forces or as being fragmented of marginalised, what you do is you open up a whole new world of excuses. And when sartre talks about responsibilty, he's not talking about something abstract. He's not taling about the kind of self or souls that theologians would talk about. Hes talking about you and me talking, making descisions, doing things, and taking the consequences. It might be true that there are six billion people in this world, and counting, but nevertheless -what you do makes a difference. It makes a difference, first of all, in material terms, to other people, and it sets an example. In short, I think the message here is that we shouuld never write ourselves off or see eachother as a victim of various forces. It's always our descision who we are."

Do you like the fact that you are a "predator", why can you not be a protecter. Pick and choose, your selfish need for meat, or thousands of people who have no food. 

on Apr. 23 2011 at 8:59 pm
Consulting-Detective GOLD, Andover, Massachusetts
13 articles 8 photos 38 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progresses can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~Gandhi

I agree! :)

on Apr. 23 2011 at 8:56 pm
Consulting-Detective GOLD, Andover, Massachusetts
13 articles 8 photos 38 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progresses can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~Gandhi

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’t eat seafood, especially shellfish, because of the risk of red tide and food poisoning.

Additionally, have you ever been to an industrial dairy farm? I have, and it’s just horrible what those cows have to go through. They need to wait for days, weeks, even, to be milked, and then by that time, they are supremely uncomfortable. I’ve seen the metal milking machines suck the teats to the point that they bled. How’s that milk tasting right now?

Factory farms are just disgusting, too. Imagine being a chicken, destined for slaughter, shoved in a tiny metal box along with thousands of your kin, being injected with chemicals to increase your growth, and covered in the feces of the other doomed creatures around you.

We breed these creatures until they have no resistance to any diseases and have terrible existences. There is Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which we, as the “wisest” creatures on Earth, seem to have deemed worthy for only ourselves. So no, the animals wouldn’t overpopulate the Earth, they would simply choose their own mates, instead of two fertile animals being trapped in a cage to mate, with no choice of their own.

The bottom line is that, in my opinion, humans should step aside and let actual NATURE take place, as opposed to our sick and twisted ideas of the world. It’s okay to be an omnivore once and a while, but seriously, is it necessary to eat meat every day?

kelsee727 said...
on Apr. 19 2011 at 6:03 pm
kelsee727, The Plains, Ohio
0 articles 0 photos 16 comments
Although I'm not a vegetarian and may never be, I do like the having a vegetarian meal once a week. My family...they will never be vegetarians, but I'm going to keep this in mind. I will not give up meat, but I will consider the having a vegetarian type meal once a week. This article is well written. Lots of facts to support everything. I'm glad the entire world does not eat meat because for now we need that petroleum. Great article.