by Michele McKay
Surveys indicate that three-quarters of Americans see themselves as having concern for the environment. Many of us make an effort to recycle, to reduce our energy and water consumption, and to protect our air, water, and ecosystems.
et many people who care deeply about the health of our planet do not realize that buying meat means that with every purchase they are supporting an industry that is the single largest contributor to environmental destruction. If we really want to help make the world a better place, we can not do it on a diet of animal flesh. Many environmental organizations – including the National Audubon Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists – now understand how much environmental havoc is being wreaked by raising animals for meat:
- Pollution: In the United States, 130 times more sewage waste comes from factory farms than from people, causing more water pollution than any other activity. Rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states have been polluted by animal excrement. The livestock industryis responsible for contamination of soils with pesticides and heavy metals, and for acid rain from ammonia emissions.
- Water: Raising animals for food requires more water than all other uses put together. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
- Soil erosion: Animal farming is responsible for 85 percent of soil erosion in the United States, and has already caused the permanent loss of three-fourths of our topsoil.
- Fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, and air pollution: One-third of all fossil fuels used in this country go to factory farming, and are responsible for associated emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution.
- Land use and world hunger: 80 percent of our agricultural land is used to raise farmed animals, and 70 percent of the grains that are grown in the United States are used to feed them. World hunger could be overcome if we fed grains to people, not animals.
- Deforestation: In the United States and South America, many millions of square acres of forest and rainforest have been stripped in order to raise livestock for slaughter.
Beyond the environmental damage caused by the livestock industry, raising animals for meat inflicts pain and suffering in violent and inhumane slaughter practices.
As individuals, we can reject the environmental damage and the violence of factory farms/slaughterhouses by choosing a vegetarian diet. Truly informed environmentalists have no place for meat on their plate.