Moms were right all along, we do need to eat our veggies. As it turns out, the consumption of meat causes a litany of negative impacts on our environment and health.
The process of rearing animals is very resource intensive, meaning, to get to the meat that the majority of Americans eat takes a significant amount of land, water, and feed. According to the documentary on animal agriculture, Cowspiracy, 45% of the Earth’s land is used for livestock. Even more shockingly, “Seven football fields’ worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them,” says a One Green Planet article. The same article states that approximately half of all the water used in the US goes to raising animals and, furthermore, it takes more than 2400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, compared to 25 gallons to produce one pound of wheat.
The land needed to produce animals for consumption requires the destruction natural ecosystems. In order to create these spaces for animal production, hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest and natural landscape are leveled. That is just the beginning, too. When you have animals that are natural grazers that need to move around, yet keep them confined, that land slowly becomes arid and devoid of greenery and moisture. These massive areas of once healthy ecosystems are eroded and enter the downward spiral of desertification.
The change that occurs to the land that these animals are reared on is not the only detrimental effect of animal agriculture. Global warming is accelerated by producing large quantities of animal meat. This applies to all animal farming, but primarily cow farming. Cows that chew and break down grass and grain release huge quantities of methane through their burps and farts. Yes, cow farts are warming our planet. The effect of these methane emissions from cow farming is even more detrimental than the effects of the entire transportation system combined. Methane is about ten times as damaging to the atmosphere than carbon.
To raise the number of animals needed for our ravenous appetite for animal flesh, we need to use an unimaginable amount of water. Growing the grain and feed, and providing drinking water to the animals uses about half of all the water used in the US. That is a staggering impact on natural resources. Water runoff from industrial animal farms has lead to complete dead zones in certain sections of our waterways. The excrement of these animals is so voluminous and has nowhere to go. It piles up and leaches pollutants into the water.
“Polluted agricultural runoff is the leading source of water pollution in rivers and lakes, according to a federal report. It can also trigger algae blooms in coastal waters, and produce “dead zones” in the ocean where there is no oxygen and few fish or wildlife can survive. In cities and suburbs, urban and industrial runoff is also a major source of water pollution.” -(Agricultural Runoff, Tox Town, 9/2/17)
Americans, on average, consume a very meat-heavy diet. MarketWatch reports that “the average American now eats roughly 193 pounds of beef, pork and/or chicken a year (or more than 3.7 pounds a week), up from roughly 184 pounds in 2012.” Shockingly, “Rabobank projects that by 2018 meat consumption will be at record levels of more than 200 pounds a year per capita,” says the same MarketWatch article. An informative NPR article reports that Americans are second in meat consumption per capita worldwide only to Luxembourg.
So how does eating all this meat affect one’s body and health? Well, as it turns out, the health impacts of a meat-based diet in comparison to a plant-based diet are well documented. “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat as a carcinogen…And it has classified red meat as a probable carcinogen,” says the American Cancer Society. The documentary, What the Health, based on researching and reporting, says that “one serving of processed meat per day increases the risk of developing diabetes by 51%.” Meat eaters report much higher levels of cholesterol and blood-pressure, leading to early heart disease. Conversely, the ADA reports that vegetarian or vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” (Peta)
“Research shows that people who eat red meat are at an increased risk of death from heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Processed meats also increase the risk of death from these diseases.”-Mayo Clinic
A meat culture has infected our society. We are destroying our planet and our bodies by eating the flesh of other animals. The resources used and the polluting effects of rearing animals is wreaking havoc on our environment. There is no health reason to eat the amount of meat that we do, in fact, there are countless health reasons not to eat meat, at all even.
It has become so ingrained in our society to eat other animals because they are lower in the food chain. We have allowed ourselves to become so desensitized to the point that we enslave hundreds of millions of animals, keep them confined, force feed them unnatural grain diets, pump them full of antibiotics and growth hormones, and then send them to the slaughterhouse. These are sentient beings with emotions and family ties that want to enjoy the same freedoms and feeling that humans do. We must force ourselves to re-understand this and switch to a plant-based diet for the planet, for our health, and for all living animals.