The Environment and the Vegetarian

Most people are aware that the environment cannot sustain the present demands placed on it by endless consumption, pollution, deforestation, and development.

Most people in the western world today participate in some type of environmentally responsible activity, whether it is recycling paper, plastic and glass, composting the veggie scraps, or more engaging in more active roles as members of environmental groups or political organizations. Most people are aware that the environment cannot sustain the present demands placed on it by endless consumption, pollution, deforestation, and development. Yet there is one environmental problem that many people choose to ignore, namely the massive environmental destruction caused by the slaughtering of billions of animals everyday on a global level.

It is a well-documented fact that the resources required to raise animals for food purposes far exceed those required to raise agricultural crops. For example, up to 50,000 liters of water is used to produce just one pound of beef while most vegetables, such as grains and beans, require a mere 600 liters of water per pound. In fact, the production of livestock accounts for no less than 50% of all water usage in the United States. Livestock production not only demands massive water resources but also requires fuel and refrigeration, two major causes of ozone layer depletion and global warming. 800 liters of fuel is needed to produce the beef eaten by the average American family annually. On one acre of prime land, 20,000 pounds of potatoes can be grown, compared to just 165 pounds of beef.

There are many more major environmental problems arising from meat consumption including the felling of rainforests to create grazing grounds and feed for livestock. Presently, over half of the world’s landmass is used for grazing or to produce feed for livestock. Furthermore, of all the grain grown annually 55 % is consumed by farmed animals while millions of people suffer from starvation. Research also shows that the amount of trees spared by a person on a plant-based diet is the equivalent to one acre per year. To put it simply, burgers cost far more that the 2 or 3 dollars you might pay at your local fast food store.

Another dubious byproduct of the livestock industry is the enormous amount of waste created before, during and after slaughter of the animals. The manure or slurry produced by cows alone runs into the billions of tons yearly. This is disposed of either into waterways or back onto the land where it seeps nitrates, ammonia and other harsh chemicals into natural water tables and ultimately drinking water supplies. This may sound comical but cow flatulence is the major source of the global warming gas methane, a gas that is directly responsible for increased levels of ozone in the atmosphere. Then there is the massive pollution emanating from slaughterhouses around the world. Billions of liters of blood tainted effluent are pumped from slaughterhouses into waterways daily. The parts of the carcass that cannot be used become landfill.

Research also shows that meat consumption is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Figures released show that removing meat from the diet will result in a 90% reduction of the risk of heart attack. Bowel cancer, a huge killer in the western world, is far more prevelant in meat eaters, as is arteriosclerosis, the clogging of the arteries with fats and cholesterol. Then there is the vast array of chemicals and growth hormones that are given to livestock to increase growth rates and prevent disease. More than half of all antibiotics used in the US are given to livestock. The feed given to livestock is often of extremely low nutritional value and is likely to contain the remains of other slaughtered animals. Mad cows disease, an incurable and fatal affliction, originated from this practice of forcing herbivorous creatures to eat other animals and their feces.

Our precious planet is crumpling under the weight of our neglect, one way to halt this rapid decline is to switch to a plant based diet, the earth and the animals will love you for it.

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