Meat: An Environment Killer | Teen Ink

Meat: An Environment Killer MAG

October 30, 2009
By Vidushi Sharma BRONZE, Secaucus, New Jersey
Vidushi Sharma BRONZE, Secaucus, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

We’ve all seen our share of scientists in white coats, explaining what global warming is, why it’s dangerous, and what we can do to stop it. We encounter protests against fossil fuels and auto emissions. But the one industry that produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, ships, planes, and trucks in the world combined, according to, has carefully avoided this scrutiny. The meat industry is an often-overlooked factor in environmental destruction, existing unnoticed as a major source of deforestation, wasted natural resources, and pollution.

Rainforests hold a wealth of plant and animal life. Trees are natural air filters, pulling harmful carbon dioxide from the air and converting it to oxygen. The meat industry, particularly cattle ranching, kills millions of acres of rainforest each year.

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 Small amounts of beef in an individual’s diet soon add up and do great harm to the environment.

Cattle farming turns fertile land into barren desert, threatening or eliminating more plant species in the U.S. than any other cause. Livestock grazing can be a huge threat to endangered species and may contribute to extinctions.

There is no doubt that the meat industry causes immense, irreversible harm to the earth’s rainforests. But this is not the only victim of the meat industry. Meat consumption also produces a massive amount of waste.

Four hundred and forty-one gallons of water is required for each pound of cattle raised, compared to just 14 gallons to grow a pound of grain, according to Three days of a typical non-vegetarian diet requires as much water as the average person uses showering for an entire year. An individual can save more than 3,700 gallons of water per day by eating a plant-based diet. Ogallala, the largest aquifer in America, is depleted by 12 trillion gallons a year, mostly due to soaring meat production. Besides draining our water supply, meat production leads to food shortages as well.

World hunger is a severe problem, with millions of men, women, and children going hungry each day. Most people do not realize that not eating meat could relieve starvation worldwide. Meat production takes up 70 percent of the world’s agricultural land. A single acre of farmland can, over a year, produce 250 pounds of beef or 40,000 potatoes. Yet it is not only land usage that prevents food from getting to the people who need it most. Twenty percent of the world’s population (1.4 billion people) could be fed with the grain and soy beans currently consumed by U.S. cattle alone. By adopting a vegetarian diet, individuals could cut the amount of land used to produce their food by a magnitude of ten.

Another unpleasant side effect of meat production is the pollution it produces. Animal agriculture creates five tons of waste per person over a typical lifetime in the U.S., according to That’s 87,000 pounds of waste each second. Animal waste from factory farms seeps into groundwater, contaminating it. Chicken, hog, and cattle manure has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated water in 17 states. The 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.

Meat production is also a major cause of global carbon dioxide and methane pollution. These greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Colossal amounts of fossil fuel are used to grow food for livestock, dispose of remains, and transport the meat. Cows are a major cause of methane pollution because their waste contains large amounts of the gas. In America, cattle have altered the environment more than all the highways, strip mines, dams, and power plants combined, according to

Producing a single pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving an SUV 40 miles – 500 pounds of carbon dioxide for just a quarter-pound hamburger. Worldwide petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 11 years if the rest of the world started eating meat like the United States does. But if Americans skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted a vegetarian meal instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads (! Despite these undeniable statistics, some people ­defend eating meat and deny the impacts of an ­omnivorous diet on the environment.

There is no doubt that meat production harms the environment by contributing to deforestation, global warming, wasted resources, and pollution. The United Nations has said that going vegetarian is the greenest thing individuals can do to save the environment. The University of Chicago reports that going vegetarian is 50 percent more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse emissions.

What did the great thinkers Aristotle, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Mohandas Gandhi, and John Lennon have in common? They were all vegetarians. But don’t worry, there is no need to swear off meat all at once! By simply reducing your meat consumption (especially beef) you can take steps to help save the environment and stop global warming. Cut down a little bit each week at a pace that suits you. Refrain from eating that hamburger – our earth will thank you for it!

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This article has 241 comments.

BillyBob said...
on Jan. 20 2010 at 2:02 pm
Cows are necessary for survival!!! And if we stopped eating them they would keep producing more cows. Unless we had all you vegetarians castrate them all. But then they would become endangered.

dancer123 said...
on Jan. 20 2010 at 1:57 pm
I think this makes a very valid point but I also thing cutting off meat completely is a bad idea.. what about cows for milk we still need to raise them? They'll over populate us if we don't eat them and take the vegetation. So what about that!

Hello!! said...
on Jan. 20 2010 at 11:49 am
Does this mean giving up cows we have to give up milk?!?!? Cows are necessary to survival!!

babe892 GOLD said...
on Jan. 13 2010 at 9:09 pm
babe892 GOLD, Suffern, New York
15 articles 6 photos 10 comments
What a great piece. So many people do not know about the many harmful ways of the way our meat is produced today. And so well-written!

-Proud Vegetarian of 4 Years

Stina said...
on Jan. 13 2010 at 9:53 am
Great article! I agree with everything you have said, though I think most humans do need to eat at least some meat. Though nowadays I think most people eat FAR too much meat, and the way the raise many animals in farms is terrible. I was a vegetarian for some years but now I eat meat again though I try and only eat organic meat and mostly eat seafood. I think it would be good for you to also talk about other options. Because for example I know some people with the blood type "O" who need to eat alot of red meat. Some who try being vegetarian get seriously sick from not getting enough iron and so fourth. And for example just 100 years ago in Sweden (where I live) anyway it would have been impossible to be a vegetarian. It would be interesting to discuss the other side of this coin anyway :) But great article all the same!

AmnyR BRONZE said...
on Jan. 13 2010 at 7:46 am
AmnyR BRONZE, Clifton, Texas
4 articles 0 photos 134 comments

Favorite Quote:
To the world, you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the whole world. ~unknown

well written article. two things though... 1) try having at least one more source

2) disscuss the other side of the argument so that readers know why the whole world hasnt given up meat already! other than that, your article was very impressive!

on Jan. 6 2010 at 4:23 pm
sillyaardvarkabc BRONZE, Riverside, Connecticut
4 articles 0 photos 63 comments
I'm a vegetarian and this is basically the reason why. I have only convinced 3 people to do it with me though. My whole family only eats meat twice a week and we haven't eaten red meat in a couple years. I'm doing all I can to help, but I don't think just a few people supporting vegetarianism will change the world. I do think, however, that we should try.

on Dec. 20 2009 at 5:18 pm
Mary Gallagher BRONZE, Ann Arbor, Michigan
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments
No...the population of cattle would go down, because most are raised specifically for the purpose of eating. If there was less demand for beef, they would bring the supply down accordingly. This isn't like humans are going into the wild and keeping down the populations of herds -- these are human-created populations, and humans can adjust the number.

on Dec. 13 2009 at 8:32 pm
miranda_n BRONZE, Anchorage, Alaska
3 articles 2 photos 17 comments
I really like how your article includes citations, but I think more source variety would give it more creditability. Still, this proves it is more than just your opinion talking. Also I would like to point out that it would take a significant decrease in the consumption of meat to even change the supply a little. A few people who decrease the amount of meat they eat will not change the production of meat at all. I do realize, however, this is why people try to get the word out there, like this article has done. Spreading awareness is the only way to make change.

tayamazing said...
on Dec. 6 2009 at 6:29 pm
Ok here's the thing. The article said that yes, cattle produce methane gas, but if we all turned to vegetarians, the population of cattle would increase severly, also causing MORE methane!!

Sunshine said...
on Dec. 5 2009 at 11:01 am
This article really changed my mind and I am going to try eating less meat.

on Dec. 3 2009 at 9:10 pm
ninster900 BRONZE, Clifton Park, New York
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Every body has the possiblitie to be a good artist it just takes focus." Mrs. Shea

i know its true, i hope that by being a vegetarian i ve done something to help

veggieme said...
on Nov. 30 2009 at 6:00 pm
nope i have no idea

veggieme said...
on Nov. 30 2009 at 5:59 pm
for your info. im a female and that was my first post to any of these articles okay!

An admirer said...
on Nov. 29 2009 at 11:59 pm
I like the girl in photo.

Why does all "Go Veggie" ads come with HOT girls ?

any clue?

on Nov. 29 2009 at 9:04 am
I think that even though this article did shed some light on the whole vegitarian thing, i think that you aso have to look at the flip side of the arguement. By eating more plants, we are eating the natural oxygen giving lifeforms in our ecosystem, and by eating meat, we are taking away more sources of carbon dioxide.

karly2413 said...
on Nov. 28 2009 at 6:22 pm
I think your piece was totally wik(wiked). I've learned alot from it. I believe that I will be trying to cut down on my meat eating. I see that eating more meat is very problematic in ways to a very high extent. I'm impressed by your article.

on Nov. 28 2009 at 5:09 pm
Vidushi Sharma BRONZE, Secaucus, New Jersey
2 articles 2 photos 4 comments
I'm glad the article told you things you might not have known before! I always tell my friends that my goal is not to convert everyone to vegetarianism but to make them realize the impacts of their actions--and hopefully cut down on their meat consumption just a little bit afterwards.

on Nov. 28 2009 at 10:36 am
TalktalkKC SILVER, West Chicago, Illinois
9 articles 4 photos 4 comments
Excellent article, I went vegetarian a year ago last wednesday because of the animal lover in me, but now, you've reinforced my stance. Thanks a lot, there was a lot in that piece that I didn't know, but I'm glad I do now.

shoshone17 said...
on Nov. 27 2009 at 8:41 pm
Good point! You got me convinced.