A submission from guest blogger, Miles Lucas
Most people have a vague idea about how hamburgers are made–cow is raised, cow gets sent to slaughterhouse, cow becomes hamburger. But few consumers are aware of the cost of that burger, and it goes far beyond the 99¢ menu. It goes beyond the cruelty involved in with raising and slaughtering billions of sentient animals each year. It’s even more destructive than the health effects of mass-consumption of meat and dairy: digestive and reproductive cancers, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. There are incredible environmental costs of the Standard American Diet.
For example, in the last decade alone, over 30 million wild animals were violently killed by the USDA’s branch, Wildlife Services (originally called Animal Damage Control). The branch spends millions of taxpayer dollars each year to kill wild animals deemed potentially harmful to the profits of cattle and other livestock producers. Problem animals include wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions and other predatory species. Additionally, many non-targeted animals die from poisoned bait, snares and metal traps, such as eagles, hawks, cranes, herons, vultures, turtles, foxes, otters, weasels, badgers and more. Wild carnivores such as wolves and coyotes have no other choice for food than meat, but humans have an option to avoid the damage caused by the meat and dairy industries. And if we care about wildlife, we should seek out alternative plant-based, healthy and eco-friendly food sources whenever possible.
Besides the animals killed at the behest of cattle ranchers, deforestation is another huge problem caused by animal agriculture. Acres of wild land are cut down and cleared so that livestock can graze on the land where wildlife used to roam freely.
“The ecological costs of livestock grazing exceed that of any other western land use.” –Center for Biological Diversity
Shockingly, two acres of rainforest are cleared each minute for cattle grazing or raising food for livestock.
Water waste is also a major concern in animal agriculture. Pound for pound, it takes 100 times more water to make one pound of animal protein than it does to make one pound of grain protein. Imagine how much water we use to raise the 92 million cows for meat and dairy (estimated number raised in 2015 alone). In an age where devastating droughts are only getting worse, we could be using that water for less needy plants and feeding billions more people. Additionally, 35,000 miles of American rivers are polluted with waste from large-scale farming operations, where 99% of all farmed animals are raised. These massive farming operations produce as much waste as small cities, but without waste treatment options, much of the feces, urine, blood, and carcasses end up in large cesspools, leaking out with rainfall or natural disasters. In the end, it all seeps into the land and our watersheds.
Finally, with climate change becoming an ever-growing crisis, raising billions of animals for an inefficient source of food produces more greenhouse gases than all of the trains, planes, cars, trucks and boats combined (18% versus 15%). The alarming effects of animal agribusiness on climate change have been noted by the United Nations Environment Program as well as other scientific agencies. It is becoming abundantly clear that animal-based diets are causing catastrophic changes to our planet.
LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION = HABITAT LOSS & ECOSYSTEM DISRUPTION
There is an obvious solution to these environmental crises: we need to educate ourselves about the costs of our eating habits and make meaningful changes. Eating meat and dairy are not only damaging to wildlife and wild land, but will also cost us our own health and planet if we do not stop the yearly raising of billions of resource-sapping farmed animals. You can make an incredible difference as an individual by learning more about the benefits of eating a plant-based diet and trying new foods. I have been a vegan for 2½ years, and it has been a continuous source of fulfillment and joy in my life. I have learned so much about food and animals being a vegan than I ever did passively absorbing clever advertising promising that beef was what’s for dinner, and that milk “does a body good.”
For the sake of wildlife, clean water, clean air and the future of our planet and its inhabitants, I implore you to give veganism a chance. It changed my life for the better, and you can save lives every time you eat. You have the ability to make better choices for wildlife and the planet. And I promise you, if you have an open mind and a hungry stomach, you will still have delicious food to enjoy at every meal.
Cattle Ranching and Deforestation:
More information on the environmental effects of meat and dairy:
For more information on the environmental effects of meat and dairy, check out the documentary Cowspiracy now available on Netflix.
For more information on farmed animals, visit www.freefromharm.org.
For a firsthand look at what goes into the production of animal-based foods and clothing, watch the documentary Earthlings.
For information on the health benefits of a plant-based diet, check out the film Forks Over Knives also available right now on Netflix.
For tips and advice on how to transition to a more plant-based lifestyle and why you would want to, check out these links: