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.

on May. 25 2010 at 3:56 pm
Ink_Stained_Fingers BRONZE, Coeur D&#39Alene, Idaho
2 articles 2 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
If love isn't a game, how come all I'm seeing are players?

I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I'm not.

Micheal, close your mouth! We are not a codfish!
~Mary Popp

That's what my grandfather does! In fact, it's better for the Earth than just leaving the fields for nothing.

on May. 25 2010 at 3:55 pm
Ink_Stained_Fingers BRONZE, Coeur D&#39Alene, Idaho
2 articles 2 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
If love isn't a game, how come all I'm seeing are players?

I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I'm not.

Micheal, close your mouth! We are not a codfish!
~Mary Popp

Its well written, but the problems with this article are:

No. 1: Global warming is not man-made. Its a natural fluctuation of the Earth's has been going on since the Earth began. Plus, has anyone noticed how the ice caps haven't been melting, and there has been record cold throughout the world lately?

Hmmmm...of course its global warming! The heat is making it get colder!!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!

How about we just leave the Earth alone?


No. 2: Cows have always existed. And the Earth is still around. *shock* People have been eating meat forever, and nothing has changed. So what are we supposed to do? Kill off every cow on the surface of the Earth? let them rot?


Otherwise, you put this information in a very intelligent  format, and the article was well written.

on May. 25 2010 at 3:49 pm
Ink_Stained_Fingers BRONZE, Coeur D&#39Alene, Idaho
2 articles 2 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
If love isn't a game, how come all I'm seeing are players?

I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I'm not.

Micheal, close your mouth! We are not a codfish!
~Mary Popp

vegetarianism is not for me!

haha going vegi is probably a little healthier, but i eat meat and i'm fine.

plus, i think its delicious. humans have been eating ever since we've been around, and it hasn't killed us all off yet!

on May. 25 2010 at 11:12 am
SashaaFiercex3 PLATINUM, Flushing, New York
25 articles 28 photos 42 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Don't look back unless you're planning on going in that direction"

i really like this article i think more people should become vegetarian/vegan. i've been a vegetarian for over a year and i plan to stay vegetarian maybe turn vegan too :)

on May. 15 2010 at 7:42 am
BeYOUtiful_13 BRONZE, Tinley Park, Illinois
4 articles 1 photo 98 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
~Marilyn Monroe

I was a vegatarean but I can't go vegen

on May. 12 2010 at 3:40 pm
temerick BRONZE, Warwick, New York
4 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life is my college."

SO excited to see this article, and you did a marvelous job of presenting the case in a persuasive and fully supported manner. 

I recently went back to meat due to weight loss but still avoid beef. I'm also big on free range. It amazes me how easily people turn a blind eye to such a major issue. It's beyond easy to cut back on a little bit of meat, and it makes a world of a difference. That tiny bit less is not tiny at all, when you look at how that small effort translates in the big picture. It's time for people to stop focusing on nothing but convenience and desire, and give a thought to the world surrounding them.

Safeleo said...
on May. 11 2010 at 11:29 pm
Safeleo, Iwakuni, Other
0 articles 0 photos 118 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Looking up into the night sky is like looking into infinity - the distance is incomprehensible and therefore meaningless."
-Douglas Adams

Plus, meat uses a lot of water to make. One pound of beef can use 3,000 gallons of water to make, from the begining of the cows life to the end, with shipping and packageing.

on May. 3 2010 at 4:05 pm
SundanceKid SILVER, Hailey, Idaho
8 articles 1 photo 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is like a box of never know what you're gonna get. -Forest Gump

I watched the movie, Food Inc last two weeks ago. I never thought i would be a vegitarian, i love meat too much. But when i saw this movie, i gave it up cold blood. Even Shrimp which i love.

RachelSaysHi said...
on May. 3 2010 at 3:51 pm
Proper vegetarians don't eat fish, but some do. They aren't Vegetarians, they are Pesco-Vegetarians

on May. 3 2010 at 9:30 am
Swindlewick SILVER, ..., Washington
8 articles 2 photos 50 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ~Voltaire

Nothing wrong with being a vegitarian (though personally, I couldn't go a week without a little steak and salmon). Never really thought of the meat industry as a source of pollution, but I guess it is! What I don't get is why vegatarians eat fish, because fish is the muscle of an animal, just like beef and chicken.

on May. 2 2010 at 8:21 pm
I agree with this! This is one reason I became a vegitarian. Also its a lot healthier! The human intestines are too long to digest meat and it rots in your intestines. I am very glad to see someone who shares my belief system. :)

i<3steven! said...
on Apr. 29 2010 at 2:55 pm
i<3steven!, Newcastle, California
0 articles 0 photos 95 comments

Favorite Quote:
Inside Joke

it's not dumb. it's cool. i am the only one in my family that does that so yeah, it sucks...

on Apr. 27 2010 at 6:54 pm
curlikap18 BRONZE, Newark, Delaware
2 articles 0 photos 14 comments
good for you. it was just because i bit into some chicken and it had flubber and i didnt like it, so i just quit with meat. and i know it sounds kinda dumb, but...

Schism said...
on Apr. 26 2010 at 10:38 am
Schism, Blenheim, Other
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -Martin Luther King Jr.

It seems like most of your sources come from extremely biased websites. I did a little research and found no evidence supporting that Charles Darwin was a vegetarian, and Einstein was only a vegetarian for the last year of his life.


I do support the idea of vegetarianism to a degree. But spreading the idea with sensationalist "facts" and appealing to our emotions is not the way to do it.

on Apr. 22 2010 at 8:08 am
Thinker PLATINUM, Na, Connecticut
47 articles 0 photos 82 comments

Favorite Quote:
A wise word does not make the speaker wise.

Aside from the ammout of wasted raw material, there are the ill health effects of eating a cow that ate a cow, that ate a pig in the grain it was given. Or the massive cost of growing corn for a more than 70% loss, by the goverments expense. If those facts disturb you, don't read the works of Temple Grandin, Ph.D. or watch the movie "Food Inc."

on Apr. 13 2010 at 2:50 pm
curlikap18 BRONZE, Newark, Delaware
2 articles 0 photos 14 comments
uhhh... well thanks anyway, but i will not eat seafood. I just dont like it, and am afraid to try it. but i do eat nuts and i put cheese on everything and i do eat dairy, but i am a very picky eatter if you cant tell, but thats the only way i again my protein.

on Apr. 12 2010 at 2:35 pm
AnneOnnimous BRONZE, Peterborough Ontario, Other
3 articles 0 photos 146 comments

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"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."
— John Green

that's why humans are omnivores. We were built to be able to eat anything, and it's unnatural for us to only eat vegetables.

on Apr. 12 2010 at 1:53 pm
MisplacedTexan14, Saratoga, California
0 articles 0 photos 106 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you can't stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them."- a Bumper Sticker
"If Obama was the answer, it was a stupid question." - Another Bumper sticker

well, if we kill them off, why not eat them too? I mean, theyll be already dead, so why not make use of them.

Ps One head of lettuce is only about 20-30 calories. That is NOT a lot, considering you're supposed to have 1500-2000 calories a day. If we were herbivores, we would need to eat WAY MORE stuff to get the right number of calories and other essential stuff.

on Apr. 11 2010 at 7:58 pm
AquariusSunandMoon SILVER, Sublette, Illinois
8 articles 17 photos 69 comments

Good article but there are a few things everyone should consider. There are ways (such as rotational grazing) that a good sized heard of beef can be raised on a fairly small farm. Chickens are also EXTREAMLY easy to raise. Also, if you think about it, becoming a vegetarian isn't the perfect solution either. Fruits and vegetables are constantly being grown out of season meaning that fuel will be needed to transport those “fresh” strawberries in the middle of winter. However almost everyone is capable of having a small garden... even if you live in the city. Window boxes, large pots or backyards can be turned into gardens. There are TONS of books on creating a super efficient garden when space for one is limited. Lettuce and spinach (to name a few) can be grown indoors all year round and don't forget that you can collect rain water to be even more environmentally friendly!

on Apr. 11 2010 at 7:54 pm
AquariusSunandMoon SILVER, Sublette, Illinois
8 articles 17 photos 69 comments
why does everyone seem to think that if we stop eating meat we will just have to let the cow free? ;)