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 Jan. 12 2011 at 10:50 pm

Although it's true that it's not easy to get omega-3s when you stick to a vegetarian diet, there are supplements out there (made from algae, not fish) that can help. 

The point about the lower BMI was just one of the reasons listed; also in today's society it is an important issue in regards to the growing obesity rates.


on Jan. 12 2011 at 9:05 pm
KunaiNinjaFighter SILVER, Monticello, Arkansas
7 articles 0 photos 67 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Think left and thing right, Think low and Think High, Oh the thinks you can think up, if only you try!" Dr. Suess oh and "Two things are infinite: The Universe and Human Stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.'- Albert Einstein

and why does it always come back to weight?

on Jan. 12 2011 at 9:03 pm
KunaiNinjaFighter SILVER, Monticello, Arkansas
7 articles 0 photos 67 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Think left and thing right, Think low and Think High, Oh the thinks you can think up, if only you try!" Dr. Suess oh and "Two things are infinite: The Universe and Human Stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.'- Albert Einstein

Ah yes, but there are key fats that come from meats that you can't get from just fruits, nuts, and veggies. Omega-3's for one.

on Jan. 12 2011 at 6:55 pm

 The American Dietetic Association said: “Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals. These nutritional differences may explain some of the health advantages of those following a varied, balanced vegetarian diet.”

This is not an opinion, it is a fact; therefore not something you can 'disagree with'. It has been proven by scientists and nutritionists; not hippies who hate meat.


Jillian said...
on Jan. 5 2011 at 4:51 pm
So we are choosing money over life and our environment? The world changes and people have to change also, if meat is a large contributor to harm on the environment, then we have to take some kind of action. Our economy would not collaspe because we put meat farmers out of business. They are trying to find alternative ways to take care of the garbage problem, but would you argue to keep a landfill owners pockets deep, rather than save the animals in the ocean from the island of building garbage? Animals were here much longer than we were, and they would not overpopulate. Predator-Prey, they would be kept at a level, of course that level goes up and down, but they would not overpopulate. They only thing that is overpopulating is us, billions of people all over the world, and we all want to have children, so we will just grow and grow and grow, but they don't behead us and feed us to the sharks, because that doesn't make any profit. Thats called murder, if it did make profit then I'm sure we would be doing it. Our whole world is run on greed and it sickens me. Our government will lie to us, and cover their tracks, just so they can make more and more money. However this is a global problem, and we must start somewhere, whether we start with meat, or with outsourcing jobs. We need to think less of money, and more of the true gift we have as humans, compassion for others.

on Jan. 4 2011 at 2:30 pm
The.King SILVER, Golden, Colorado
9 articles 1 photo 69 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A story's beginning is a sudden event. The start, a happy accident; the end, the fate for which it's meant. A story that never ends is a sad fate."-Miss Edel

Oh, then never mind haha

Sagee BRONZE said...
on Jan. 1 2011 at 5:34 pm
Sagee BRONZE, Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Yes, but putting these farms out of business would just hurt our economy more.  They would get put on unemployment, which would everyone else pay more.  Farmers are already having problems as is.  And it's not just farmers.  It's nature.  Think about it a little.  If you just leave all the animals alone, and don't go hunting or anything, then deer, bear, rabits and tons more would DEFFINETLY OVERPOPULATE.  So in away you need to hunt and eat meat.  And the animals would just eat from the land anyway.  AND remember that we use cows and goats for milk products too.  So we need to have those farms, that you want to have shut down.

mikey220 said...
on Jan. 1 2011 at 12:13 pm
My comment was in reply to happy's, not yours, theKing. I agree whole-heartedly with you.

numbernine said...
on Jan. 1 2011 at 12:11 pm
Haha, you tell them, King!

FancyFarrah said...
on Dec. 30 2010 at 9:00 pm
So if a serial killer goes to trial and says "I loved that look on her face right before she died" that should not be taking offensively? That should be taken as a joke, or an opinion?

FancyFarrah said...
on Dec. 30 2010 at 8:51 pm

Okay. First off, they have whole farms devoted solely for breeding cows, pigs, and chickens so that they can be killed for food. That is not preventing over-population of animals, that is producing them at a rapid rate, to feed the over-population of humans.

Second, if humans ate less meat, then these farms would go out of business, thus they would stop breeding the animals so much. This is not a natural process that we just monitor, this is someone that humans make happen. These animals would not be in such large numbers and having so many babies if we did not interfere and make it so. This is not a solution to over-population of animals. It is a cause turned to an excuse. An excuse for people to sit back and say we are helping the animals out by killing them, we are doing them a favor. NO.


on Dec. 24 2010 at 2:55 am
The.King SILVER, Golden, Colorado
9 articles 1 photo 69 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A story's beginning is a sudden event. The start, a happy accident; the end, the fate for which it's meant. A story that never ends is a sad fate."-Miss Edel

I have no idea if I'm reading you right, but if I am, you need to check your source... that or use some common-frickin-sense. A single quarter pound hamburger kills 100 insect species? In 2006, 28 BILLION pounds of beef were consumed in the United States alone. This means that the US killed off 11 trillion insect species that year. Even at the highest estimate, there are only 10 million species of insect worldwide, meaning in 2006 we killed off the entire worlds supply of insect species 1,120,000 times over. Come on people, use some common sense

The Goat said...
on Dec. 23 2010 at 11:45 pm

Look at humans, they're over populated.

I am a very fat goat


on Dec. 20 2010 at 1:00 am
The.King SILVER, Golden, Colorado
9 articles 1 photo 69 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A story's beginning is a sudden event. The start, a happy accident; the end, the fate for which it's meant. A story that never ends is a sad fate."-Miss Edel

Unfortunately, it seams people dont have much in the way of humor anymore.  This comment was a simple one, which served two purposes.  One was my dissagreement to the article, the second was a simple stab at humor.

mikey220 said...
on Dec. 19 2010 at 1:45 pm

No, shes not. The whole point of an opinion article is to persuade someone to believe something.

 and maybe you need to reread that final paragraph. Because you obviously didn't see it the first time.


mikey220 said...
on Dec. 19 2010 at 1:41 pm
Um, have you ever thought about how if we didn't butcher animals for meat (which hel-lo is food) how the animals would over-populate, henceforth eating more vegetation which could then be used for saving the world.

-JayJ- said...
on Dec. 19 2010 at 11:53 am
-JayJ-, Blacklick, Ohio
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see" - Amazing Grace

This is an awesome article! I am a vegetarian and meat is really bad for the environment. Go veg! :)

Sagee BRONZE said...
on Dec. 18 2010 at 6:28 pm
Sagee BRONZE, Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Sitting here reading some of these comments that I honestly do NOT agree with.  If you do your research right, you'll find that more and more farms are skipping the part of sending their livestock to companies.  They feed sell them as organic meat.  Which, gives them more money and you a healthier diet.  Plus, if you don't kill animals, they will eventually over populate the Earth.  So, it is a mandatory thing, if you want to save the planet, to eat meat.

Sagee BRONZE said...
on Dec. 18 2010 at 6:17 pm
Sagee BRONZE, Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Either way

kratz said...
on Dec. 9 2010 at 10:09 am
Which people are "hurt" by my eating of meat?