There is little doubt about it; animal agriculture is destroying the world’s resources. The world of meat eating has changed since our time as hunters. Taken out of their natural setting, bred for efficiency, and held in captivity, animals are now seen by the industry as nothing more than a commodity for money. The demand for meat is so extreme that the supply can barely meet it. It is estimated that 10 billion animals are raised for consumption every year, which has lead to factory farming in extreme conditions, and the mass industrialization of the animal agriculture.
The methods used in modern animal agriculture are not only cruel, they are also bad for the body and bad for the environment. It is up to us to reduce our consumption of animal foods and products so that we can help to prevent animal agriculture from destroying the world’s resources. Here are some of the ways in which the planet suffers from the meat industry:
Waste and Water
Animal agriculture produces an obscene amount of waste; factory farms produce approximately 500 million tons of manure every year, three times more than is generated by humans in the whole of the US. Larger companies can produce as much waste as an entire city. In smaller scale farming this manure can be used to fertilize the land, and the process is balanced, but this can not be done in the case of factory farms, who do not have the land to handle the amount of manure their animals produce.
The mass industrialization has lead to animals being reared in confined spaces, and often indoors. Farms are left with no natural way of disposing of the waste. The costs of delivering the manure to a place which could use it are often high, and the companies do not want to cut into their precious profits, so the manure is often over-spread on nearby land, where it can run off and contaminate water sources with harmful pathogens, nitrogen, and phosphates.
As well as manure waste, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides can all infiltrate water supplies, and have caused human health problems, and environmental damage to coasts, rivers, and coral reef.
Water supplies are also needed to rear the animals, and a shockingly high percentage of the water in the US is used for this purpose. The amount of water needed has been estimated to be as high as nearly fifty percent. The production of meat takes nearly 2500 gallons of water per pound, and a meat based diet subsequently leeches water supplies compared to a vegan, or vegetarian diet.
The amount of land now required for the production of our food is extreme. A staggering 30 percent of the landmass for the planet is used for animal agriculture. The majority of the agricultural land in the US is used for animals. The land is needed not only for the livestock, but also to grow the food needed to keep them. Additionally the amount of calories needed to feed all of the animals in the agriculture industry is more than enough to feed the whole world. Something doesn’t quite add up!
A lot of the time land is stripped down for pasture with little concern for the environmental effects. The baron land is then seeded for animal food, or for grazing land. Areas of particular concern include the Amazon, where the cattle industry has seen huge areas of the vital rainforest stripped away and burnt for the sake of pasture. The industry is damaging the balance of the ecosystem, by removing crucial forest which provides biodiversity, clean air and water.
Like much mass industry, animal agriculture consumes the planet’s fossil fuels. The scale of the demand and consumption of meat has lead to the industry becoming one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels in the country, with nearly one third of annual supplies used to in relation to the production of meat. One calorie of meat requires the use of ten times more fossil fuels than one calorie of plant protein.
One of the world’s most valuable resources is air. Clean air. Not only does the meat industry effect the air indirectly, through the deforestation, it also effects it very directly through the aforementioned manure. The animal waste, often not dealt with properly, releases harmful gases into the air, including roughly 80 percent of the USA’s ammonia gas emissions. Restrictions placed on water pollution lead some badly operated farms to spray liquid manure into the air, in order to avoid limits.
The pollution can be so damaging that workers have died working in manure pits, often through hydrogen sulphate poisoning.
The consumption of meat is damaging the environment. Even if you can not currently see yourself becoming a vegetarian or vegan, I ask you to become more aware of what it means to eat an animal; the treatment in factory farms, the whole process which has become uprooted from nature, and the negative impact the mass animal agriculture industry has on the planet; how it destroys the world’s resources.