Many people say they are concerned about the environment – and with good reason!
As it stands now, by centering our agricultural production around raising animals for meat, we are about to eat ourselves right off the planet. No single behavior is causing more destruction to our environment than raising animals for slaughter. Be part of the solution to the destruction of the environment, rather than part of the cause! By becoming a vegetarian, you will be taking a giant leap towards helping save Mother Earth.
We are now being confronted with environmental disaster on the global scale and this is largely due to the incredible wastes of raising animals for meat. The mass consumption of animal meat is causing us to wantonly rape and pillage our environmental resources at an unbelievable pace.
We use more than half of our agricultural acreage to grow food to feed livestock instead of people. In this way, 90% of the protein, 96% of the calories, and 100% of the carbohydrates of the grain are wasted! The livestock population of the U.S. today consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed over 5 times the human population of this country. The world’s cattle alone, not including pigs and chickens, consume a quantity of food equal to the calorie needs of 8.7 billion people – nearly 2 times the entire human population of the planet.
Meanwhile, according to the Institute for Food and Development Policy, “Forty thousand children starve to death on this planet every day,” In Guatemala, 75% of children under 5 years of age are malnourished. Yet, every year Guatemala exports 40 million pounds of meat to the U.S.!
RAVAGING THE LAND
Using land to raise food to feed slaughter animals is an incredible waste. Any given acreage of farm-land can feed 20 times as many people following a vegan diet than those who follow the standard American meat-based diet.
Our available cropland simply cannot support the demands of the meat-based diet. The phenomenal output required for animal feed is causing us to decimate the fruitful topsoil. The dark, nutrient-rich topsoil holds moisture and feeds us by feeding plants; it is crucial for sustaining agriculture. According to archaeologists, loss of this nutrient-rich topsoil played a major role in the demise of many great civilizations, such as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Mayans.
Two hundred years ago, most of America’s croplands had at least 21 inches of topsoil, today, most have about 6 inches. Annually, we are losing our topsoil at the rate of 7,000,000,000 tons per year! Eighty-five percent of that is directly associated with livestock production. It can take hundreds of years just to replenish one inch of topsoil! On rangelands, overgrazing is causing rapid depletion of the relatively thin layer of topsoil. This practice – subsidized by the government – is the number one cause of man-made deserts.
DEFORESTATION – WHERE DID ALL THE TREES GO?
Forests are a crucial part of sustaining life on earth. They provide oxygen, prevent floods and soil erosion, and recycle and purify water. We need to preserve our remaining forests! Between 1882 and 1952, land classified as “inaccessible forest” declined from 43.9% to 21.1% of the total land area of the world.
Currently, deforestation continues at an even more rapid rate. Our meat-based diet is using available cropland so quickly that we have resorted to clearing our precious remaining forests to graze beef cattle. The United States alone has cleared approximately 260 million acres of forest to sustain the wasteful American diet. Since 1967, the rate of deforestation in this country has been one acre every 5 seconds. At the rate we are going, the United States will be completely stripped of all its forests in 50 years!
The destruction of forests to feed the American meat habit is not limited to the United States. Over the past 30 years, 50 million square miles of virgin tropical rainforests have been destroyed to graze cattle. Rainforests are a major producer of oxygen in the world, and are the home of half of all the species on earth!
A Cornell economist has estimated that for every person who switches to a vegan diet, an entire acre of trees will be spared every year. If the people of the United States were to adopt a vegetarian diet, over 200 million acres of the 260 million acres that have been de-forested for livestock production could be revived.
Our water supplies are being rapidly depleted by the grossly consumptive American meat-habit. More than half of the total amount of water consumed in the U.S. goes to irrigate land for livestock production! On top of that, a tremendous amount more goes to wash away the animals’ excrement.
To produce a single pound of meat takes an average of 2,500 gallons of water. (That’s more than 100 times as much water required to produce a pound of wheat!) A Newsweek article put it this way: “The water that goes into a 1,000 pound steer would float a destroyer.” If water use for slaughter animals wasn’t so heavily subsidized by the national and state governments, then the least expensive hamburger meat would cost about $35/pound.
The waste of water to support the demands of livestock agriculture is causing depletion of our surface and ground water supplies. Simultaneously, wastes from livestock agriculture are a major source of pollution to rivers, lakes, and streams. The livestock population of the U.S. produces 20 times as much excrement as the entire human population of the country and much of the excrement ends up in our water.
E.P.A. agricultural expert Dr. Harold Bernard explains that feedlot wastes are “… ten to several hundred times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage … When the highly concentrated wastes in a runoff flow into a stream or river, the results can be, and frequently are, catastrophic. The amount of dissolved oxygen in the waterway will be sharply reduced, while levels of ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, and bacteria soar.”
The difference of water costs for a vegetarian and a meat-eater are astonishing: it takes less water to produce a year’s supply of food for a pure vegetarian than it does to produce a month’s supply of food for a meat eater!
Our energy resources are also being rapidly depleted to support the meat habit. Livestock production accounts for 1/3 of the total amount of raw materials used for all purposes in the United States. Conversely, the production of grains, fruits and vegetables uses just 5% as much raw materials as does the production of meat.
Corn and wheat provide 22 times more protein per calorie of fossil fuel expended than that of cows raised for slaughter. Soybeans are 40 times more efficient than beef production. If the whole world ate the same way as the U.S., the planet’s entire petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 13 years.
Choosing a vegetarian diet is the very best way you can help protect Mother Earth. Many of us were raised to eat meat, without even thinking about it. Yet we can see that meat consumption is destructive to individuals, society, and the environment. Protection of the environment depends on each of us, individually, taking responsibility for our part in the welfare of the world. No one can honestly consider themselves to be an environmentalist unless they are at least attempting to adopt a vegetarian diet. And consider that “going veggie” is not only great for the environment, it’s great for you! Becoming a vegetarian is fun, easy, and a much more healthy way to live. Make every day an Earth Day, and go the Veggie Way!