The Impact of Meat on the Environment part 2

Continued from previous blog…. Air Pollution: burning of oil in the production of feed grain results in air pollution, including carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. Another major source of air pollutions is the burning of tropical forests to clear land for cattle grazing.

The meat industry burns up a lot of fossil fuel, pouring pollutants into the air. Calorie for calorie, it takes 39 times more energy to produce beef than soybeans. The petroleum used in the United States would decrease by almost sixty percent if the people drastically reduced their meat consumption. If a simple and healthful change in eating habits along with localization of most food production and a major shift toward organic farming were to take place, food production and distribution could be weaned from their current heavy dependence on fossil fuels. In the process, the enormous suffering inflicted on livestock would be greatly reduced.

The meat industry, in addition to producing carbon dioxide, is also responsible for other greenhouse gasses, such as methane. Methane is produced directly by the digestive process of cows. This greenhouse gas is considered very dangerous because each molecule of methane traps 20 times more heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide.

So how big a threat to the planet is the methane emitted by cows? Overall, the effect is not significant, certainly not enough to justify fears of cows destroying the planet by global warming. Each year 500 million tons of methane enters the atmosphere contributing about eighteen percent of the total greenhouse gases. Cows account for sixty million tons of the methane, about twelve percent. Therefore, methane emitted by cows’ amount to only two percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions. It should also be kept in mind that feedlot cows, because they eat more, produce more methane than range fed cows. In India there are about 270 million cows, but 99.9 percent of them are range fed and therefore produce less methane.

Water Pollution: about fifty percent of water pollution in the United States is linked to livestock. Pesticides and fertilizers used in helping grow feed grains run off into lakes and rivers. They also pollute ground water. In the feedlots and stockyard holding pens, there is also a tremendous amount of pesticide runoff. Organic contaminants from huge concentrations of animal excrement and urine at feedlots and stockyards also pollute water. This waste is anywhere from ten to hundreds of times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage. A documentary film “Fleisch Frisst Menschen” highlights that nitrates evaporating from open tanks of concentrated livestock waste in the Netherlands have resulted in extremely high levels of forest killing acid rain.

Water Depletion: All around the world the beef industry is wasting the diminishing supplies of fresh water. For example, the livestock industry in the United States uses about fifty percent of the water consumed each year.

Feeding the average meat eater requires about 4,200 gallons of water per day, versus 1,200 gallons per day for a lacto vegetarian diet. While it takes only 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat. Scary to say the least!

Bottom Line: Reducing or eliminating meat consumption would have substantial positive effects on the environment. Fewer trees would be cut, less soil would be eroded, and desertification would be substantially slowed. A major source of air and water pollution would be removed, and scarce fresh water would be conserved. And we come to appreciate the source of our sustenance, the divinely inspired creation that deserves nurture and requires stewardship. Nature is no longer viewed as an enemy to be subdued and tamed.

Other Reasons…: Of course, saving the environment is not the only reason to consider reducing meat intake, particularly beef.

During the process of converting grain to meat, 90% of the protein, 99% of the carbohydrates, and 100% of the dietary fibre are lost.

It is well documented that vegetarians and minimal meat eaters are less likely to contract certain kinds of heart disease and cancer. Better health is one of the benefits of a flesh free or reduced meat diet.

Furthermore, eliminating or reducing meat consumption would release a vast quantity of food grain for human consumption, thus helping solve the problem of world hunger. And on an ethical level, consciousness toward animal killing helps induce a greater respect for all kinds of life, including human.

Acknowledgment: Michael A Cremo; Mukunda Goswami  author “Divine Nature”; World Watch; Physicians committee of responsible medicine; Jeremy Rifkin author “Beyond Beef”;


7 thoughts on “The Impact of Meat on the Environment part 2

  1. LAIRD

    If petroleum/gas was charged at an economical price in the US that would save both the resource and the pollution. If the US beef farmers were not subsidized a typical steak would cost at least 7 times more. In a nation that is supposed to welcome competition get rid of all these perks to farmers. This abolition of subsidies to farmers is happening in the European Union. Why not elsewhere?  Making meat an integral part of the human diet has only been the economic driving force for the last century. The Irish discovered the error of being wholly dependant on a vegetable diet – half the population died.  How much water is wasted filling bottles of cola and watering the gardens of Californians?? This articles frenzied attack on carnivores fails to recognise that since time began Man has, until the last century, consumed a varied, healthy diet and worked with nature. If you really want to save the forests – ban computers and printers !

  2. Rog

    Hi Kate I have to say I have a level of agreement with the Laird here. Especially as there is still no clear link between co2 and climate?
    Sun spot activity yes, co2 no. I think this is simply an imaginary industry paying thousands of folks loads of money to perpetuate the myth, which of course provides governments with another suit of armour so that they can deal with another dragon on our behalf! Then we will all believe in them again instead of seeing them as a bunch of egocentric fat cats hogging the trough that we all have to fill for them by working!
    There, I got that off my chest now.
    please don’t take offence, nothing personal I assure you!

  3. Coffee With Kate

    Thank you for your comment Dodge, and no I don’t take it personally. It is a theory that has been tabled which I find interesting and have posted extracts of it for comment. I am always curious to hear the views of others and sometimes out of discussion will come great pearls of wisdom.

  4. Suki x

    Hi kate well I jumped the gun on the emmissions by cows, I did not know it was a fact, but like you I believe in the earths cycle of events and what ever man may do the world is bigger and more powerful.    This evening I went to a discussion group for a Market Research Company on environmental issues only covered what we would ‘buy’ to save the plannet and as I don’t believe in over consuming or waste I was not much help to them but I had my say and I enjoyed it and got paid £30 into the bargain.
    Keep up the good work I believe in protecting this beautiful world as much as possible but sure as hell there are forces much stronger than little old homosapian!!
    Hope this makes sense I have just had an encounter with a bottle of Rose
    Love Suki x

  5. carole

    Hi Kate. Thanks for dropping by. Interesting debate going on here. Personally I feel that a reduction in beef consumption will have little impact on world hunger. Many areas are unable to sustain arable growth due to the terrain, climate & soil quality. Areas such as Wales & Scotland are notoriously bad for the growth of arable crops, hence why they farm livestock. Arable growth is extremely precarious being so dependant on the weather & in warmer climates huge quantities of water are required to ensure a viable harvest. Livestock aren’t obviously just reared for the food value; there are also numerous valuable by-products such as lanolin & leather. To reproduce synthetic replicas of these products will have a greater environmental impact surely?  In areas of the UK where livestock farming has declined, the land hasn’t been replaced by crops but by development, releasing just as much if not more CO2. Vast amounts of our food are now imported which also increases the amount of CO2 emissions. All in all, the Utopian dream of replacing meat with a vegetarian society is just not realistic.
    Evidence-based research does not advocate a meat-free diet for better health althogh it appears to depend on which side of the fence you sit on. Iron, protein, calcium & vits B12 & D & mineral deficiencies are well documented in vegetarians. However, higher levels of saturated fats causing diabetes, stroke & heart disease & low fibre which is attributed to some types of bowel cancer are attributed to eating meat. Personally, I feel that it is the change in lifestyle & the type of food that forms the average Western diet that is responsible for the increase in morbity, not the actual act of eating meat. A vegetarian meal can have a higher fat content than a meal with meat in it as I’m sure you already know.  
    Ultimately I feel that there are two important issues; the environmental impact of mass farming & importation of food & the lifestyle choice of many which seems to dictate such demand for vast quantities of unhealthy food. Whether it’s meat or grain appears to make small difference.  
    Sorry to go on a bit. Just wanted to offer another view. Peace & good health. x   

  6. Kenneth

    I am a great believer in saving the Earth from becoming a treeless and waterless wasteland, I am also a beefeater, (no, I dont work in the bloody tower) and to forgo my intake of beef only to satisfy the conscience stricken pottato heads is preposterous.
    These facts and figures are the amunition the pottato heads use against those who spill blood, to them I would just like to say,
    if you do not eat meat you are still costing something it’s blood, one cup of coffee results in one dead songbird somewhere in the jungle.
    So, shall we all stop drinking coffee, I don’t think so !!!


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