Why Eating Meat Is Like Butchering the Rainforest

Look at the picture above. Do you think you can eat this? How would you feel eating it?

Now, look at this fact sheet:
• Eating one pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving an SUV for 40 miles.
• Meat production takes up 70% of the world’s agricultural land.
• Britain eats a million tons of beef a year, 1.3 million tons of pork and 1.8 million tons of poultry.
• Just one quarter-pound hamburger requires the clearing of six yards of rainforest and the destruction of 165 pounds of living matter, including 20 to 30 plant species, 100 insect species and dozens of birds, mammals and reptiles (according to ChooseVeg.com).
• Exactly 441 gallons of water are required for each pound of cattle raised, compared to just 14 gallons for growing a pound of grain (according to ChooseVeg.com).
• Animal agriculture creates five tons of waste per person over a typical lifetime in the U.S. That’s 87,000 pounds of waste each second. (according to ChooseVeg.com).
• According to EPA, over 200 manure discharges and spills from U.S. animal farms between 1990 and 1997 have killed more than a billion fish.
• A single acre of farmland can, over the course of a year, produce 250 pounds of beef or 40,000 potatoes. The choice is yours.

Yes, the ‘meat industry’ is an often-overlooked factor in environmental destruction, existing almost unnoticed as a major source of deforestation, wasted natural resources and pollution. We are unaware of the fact that by eating chickens, fish, turkeys, pigs, cows, milk or eggs, we are doing nothing but wasting resources and destroying our environment.

Meat production takes up 70% of the world’s agricultural land and in return, consumption of meat itself produces a massive amount of waste. Not to forget that “a meat-based diet requires 7 times more land than a plant-based diet.”

Australian Rainforest plantPhoto: Tatters:)

The question is how rainforests are affected when we eat meat? What is the connection between these two? Rainforests are dense forests characterized by high rainfall and they are tremendously rich in animal life and hold a wealth of plants. Amazingly, rainforests cover only 6-7% of the total land surface on Earth, but over 50% of the world’s species of plants and animals are found in it.

Rainforests are full of large trees, which are natural air filters, pulling harmful carbon dioxide from the air and converting it to oxygen. Rainforests are also home to almost every kind of species on Earth. According to the United Nations, “ranching-induced deforestation is one of the main causes of loss of some unique plant and animal species in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America as well as carbon release in the atmosphere”.

It is sad that today, the meat industry, particularly cattle ranching, kills millions of acres of rainforest each year. A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

Chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, fish, ducks and geese all fall under the meat category. To raise these animals or grow food for them, the rate of deforestation has been one acre every five seconds, since 1967. No doubt that the meat industry causes immense, irreversible harm to the Earth’s rainforests.

Another very important factor is the pollution these factories are producing. Animal waste from factory farms seeps into groundwater, thus contaminating it. Chicken, hog and cattle manure has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated water in 17 states of the United States. EPA reports that pollution from livestock farming is a leading cause of water contamination in the U.S., killing marine life and making drinking water unsafe.

We should not forget that the rainforest is a vital lifeline of the Earth, as well as one of the most unique ecosystems of our planet. It’s very important for balancing nature. While it is not too late to save the rainforest ecosystems of the world, there is still much work to be done if we want to succeed in protecting this valuable resource.

According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian food instead, the carbon dioxide saving would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.

Cattle in FeedlotPhoto: H2O

Cattle,especially when kept on enormous feedlots (as shown above) has been shown as a contributing factor in the rise in greenhouse emission. There is no doubt that meat production harms the environment by contributing to deforestation, global warming, wasted resources and pollution.

atmospheric Carbon Dioxide chartPhoto: Sémhur

The diagram above is a great piece of evidence of the man-made increases in greenhouse gases that are believed to be the cause of global warming, measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. The grey curve shows the average monthly concentrations, and the red curve is a moving 12-month average. It is clear that concentrations have increased from about 313 ppm in 1960 to about 389 ppm in 2010. The current observed amount of CO2 exceeds the geological record maxima (~300 ppm) from ice core data.

Hence, we can’t ignore the fact that the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. It produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2). These numbers are confirmed in a 2007 article in the British medical journal The Lancet that concludes that “reducing the consumption of animal products should be a top priority, especially in developed countries where such a measure would also entail substantial health benefits.”

Lots of fruitsPhoto: User:Sting

So, going vegetarian is the greenest thing individuals can do to save the environment. It is 50% more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse emissions. Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the Worldwatch Institute, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists and even Al Gore’s Live Earth have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do.

Last but not the least, remember: “The average vegetarian spares the lives of over 50 animals each year.”

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