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 GoVeg.com, 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 ChooseVeg.com. 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 ChooseVeg.com. 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 ChooseVeg.com. 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 ChooseVeg.com.

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 (ChooseVeg.com)! 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 240 comments.


on Apr. 11 2010 at 7:42 pm
AnneOnnimous BRONZE, Peterborough Ontario, Other
3 articles 0 photos 146 comments

Favorite Quote:
"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

lol, good point

on Apr. 11 2010 at 5:50 pm
BrainsANDBeauty PLATINUM, Donnellson, Iowa
29 articles 3 photos 52 comments

Favorite Quote:
I knew that guy when he was a caterpillar, you know, before he 'came out'

Love it Destinee.  Agreed 100%.  The cows and methane has been around since the dawn of creation, unless you're an evolutionist, and then whenever the cow species popped up.  But for a very long time.  We are basically playing the world's hypochondriacts right here, putting the blame off on animals that were made for us to eat. 

on Apr. 11 2010 at 5:45 pm
BrainsANDBeauty PLATINUM, Donnellson, Iowa
29 articles 3 photos 52 comments

Favorite Quote:
I knew that guy when he was a caterpillar, you know, before he 'came out'

So, instead of eating the cows, we're gonna kill them all off because they create methane? Excuse me if that doesn't sound right..

on Apr. 11 2010 at 5:43 pm
BrainsANDBeauty PLATINUM, Donnellson, Iowa
29 articles 3 photos 52 comments

Favorite Quote:
I knew that guy when he was a caterpillar, you know, before he 'came out'

Yes, we know that the CATTLE INDUSTRY does these things, but try your hand at small farmers.  My family raises their own herds of beef, and we feed about six or seven families with it, not including our own.  It's higher quality beef, cheaper, and doesn't affect the environment.

robbi BRONZE said...
on Apr. 11 2010 at 3:10 pm
robbi BRONZE, Goldsboro, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
quotes are for people who are too uncreative to come up with their own sources of information.----ME.

OH my! what did the por fish and veggies ever do to you?

robbi BRONZE said...
on Apr. 11 2010 at 3:09 pm
robbi BRONZE, Goldsboro, North Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
quotes are for people who are too uncreative to come up with their own sources of information.----ME.

omg seriously? i do hope you are a vegetarian. anyway I LOOOVE steak, and bacon, and ham, and ribs......makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

on Apr. 11 2010 at 11:23 am
BeautifulXWallflower PLATINUM, Wyoming, Michigan
39 articles 0 photos 14 comments
I'm a vegetarian and have been for almost 3 years. Depending on how strict you are, you shouldn't have to take pills or supplements. I eat fish and dairy products. No meat. Period. But fish is kinda  border line kinda meat, and my dad's deal with me was that if I was going to be vegetarian, fish was a must for protein and iron. So I suggest eating fish and dairy products. Beans and nuts are also great sources of protein.

on Apr. 3 2010 at 12:22 am
Everything in this - 'fact file' - is correct scientifically and morally. I don't mean to go shoving religion in other people's faces but God says that vegetarianism (?) is the 'right' way to go. Now I even though I agree with this notion, sadly I just can't see myself becoming a vegetarian. It's not the way I've been raised. Also it would take a lot less space to grow food for vegetarians than for non-vegetarians. But yeah. So I guess you're a vegetarian? ;]

on Apr. 1 2010 at 8:52 pm
ThatClarinetPerson SILVER, Tequesta, Florida
8 articles 0 photos 226 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life. Don't talk to me about life."
~Marvin the Paranoid Android (from the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy series)
Statistical analysis suggests that i am probably in tune with someone
(hahahahaha! I love this cause i'm never ever ever in tune >o

True, but there are other ways to get protien. Tofu, for instance

meg4life said...
on Mar. 31 2010 at 8:44 pm
ya i agree with everything you just about said! haha you are actually the first one to mention God in this :) thanx

on Mar. 29 2010 at 9:32 pm
curlikap18 BRONZE, Newark, Delaware
2 articles 0 photos 14 comments
Well its kinda a funny story. When I was four i bit into a mcdonalds chicken nugget and it had flubber (fat) in it. I hated that so much i stopped eating meat all and all. My mom has always told me that i didnt really like meat from the start though. I mean when i was a baby i always spit it out or spent forever chewing it so that i wouldnt have to swallow. But now i really want to ahev meat but i am afraid to. I think i am probably lackign red blood cells, and i am lacking a lot of protein but i think i am stayign pretty healthy. Just be careful on the whole vegetarian thing. I mean i think i need some meat. and you should have some every once and a while just to garentee some protein.
do you take any pills?
sorry i need some advice from other vegetarians. i dont know any so...

on Mar. 29 2010 at 9:06 pm
starxoxo23 PLATINUM, New Hampshire, New Hampshire
21 articles 0 photos 97 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself."
- Alan Alda

this is all so true. global warming & factory farming are directly related and they both are serious problems that need to be resolved. thanks for writing this and pleaseee keep on expressing your opinions about this subject!!!

on Mar. 29 2010 at 6:15 pm
AnneOnnimous BRONZE, Peterborough Ontario, Other
3 articles 0 photos 146 comments

Favorite Quote:
"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

well, global warming is quite recent compared to the amount of time cows have existed, so clearly cows aren't realy the problem (it's probably what we're doing to them, with chemical sand such, that is causing this). And i agree that humans are meant to eat meat. We shouldn't have to give up food that we were meant to eat to save the environment

i<3steven! said...
on Mar. 29 2010 at 4:00 am
i<3steven!, Newcastle, California
0 articles 0 photos 95 comments

Favorite Quote:
*john-son-johnson*
Inside Joke

wow, what made you decide to become a vegetarian? and congrats!! i have been vegetarian for only a ew months, since dec 19th or something like that

on Mar. 28 2010 at 11:16 am
curlikap18 BRONZE, Newark, Delaware
2 articles 0 photos 14 comments
100% agreed. if people didnt eat meat then animals population would be off the charts and they would be getting killed for no good reason. so tht would be a huge waste i think.

on Mar. 28 2010 at 11:14 am
curlikap18 BRONZE, Newark, Delaware
2 articles 0 photos 14 comments
I am 13 years old and i have been a vegetarian because of choice since i was four years old. I do not eat seafood. I am not vegan but i do consider seafood a meat.

destinee said...
on Mar. 24 2010 at 4:29 pm
@ Mary G:
When you say that humans can "adjust" the number, do you mean to say that we kill off all of the cows? Or do we just let them wander around loose because we won't eat them?
Surely, by the time the cow population does dwindle, they would have done enough harm with their farting?

destinee said...
on Mar. 24 2010 at 4:26 pm
I agree with you, but cows are actually the number one source of methane. Which means that yes, they are indeed killing the environment.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that if the vegetable industry grew, they would use tons of water and pesticides that would harm the environment.

on Mar. 23 2010 at 4:22 pm
ForevrQuanae BRONZE, Los Angeles, California
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Go beyond the ski's . Achieve more than life

First of, God created meat for us to eat, so i don't know how we are killing the planet. It makes no sense . Studies show that meat gives us iron. Iron helps our blood. now think if we were to stop eating me . our blood would become weak. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS? it means that we could catch viruses more faster.

on Mar. 20 2010 at 10:48 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

I'm sorry, but my two favorite meals are baby-back ribs and a bacon cheeseburger. Humans are omnivores, meaning we are SUPPOSED to eat meat. What do you think our pointy canine teeth are for? Tearing lettuce? Meat is an essential part of your diet. Animal fats are good for you. If saving the planet means giving up meat, then it is so not worth it. (PS I don't belive we're killing the planet.)