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Catching the Spirit Youth Society

Youth Leadership through Outdoor Experience

Meat and the Environment

Meat production requires massive amounts of food, water, energy and land. Here are some specific ways the production of meat negatively influences the environment:

Eutrophication:

Manure from cows from large-scale production can leak into water sources. This causes huge problems at bases of rivers/lakes; manure has nitrogen and phosphorous which can cause massive amounts of algae growth. The algae growths can take up all the oxygen in the water from growing, and end up killing a lot of plants and animals in the water since no oxygen is left in the water. Also, bacteria, viruses, antibiotics and hormones can be carried by the manure runoff and the water can be contaminated.

Methane:

Cow farts produce methane, which is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which means that it traps more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Water and Food Consumption:

So much water is used to grow crops for animals to eat, clean factory farms, and give animals water to drink. Furthermore, it takes up to 10 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat. The food could be used to feed people. So many people could be fed by the food used to feed animals that we are raising for meat; there is enough food in the world for every human being, it is just not distributed well.

Land Use:

Using land to grow crops for animals is vastly inefficient. It takes almost 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant-based diet than it does to feed a meat-eater since the crops are consumed directly instead of being used to feed animals.

Not-so-fun fact: have you heard of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest? About 90% of this destruction is connected to animal agriculture, both the places where the animals live as well as the land for their food

Fish:

Large-scale wild fishing industries kill thousands of dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and other “bycatch” animals. Fish farms also release feces, antibiotics, parasites, and non-native fish into sensitive marine ecosystems. In addition, since most farmed fish are carnivorous (like salmon), they are fed massive quantities of wild-caught fish. Lastly, our oceans are being majorly overfished. Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish from a body of water at a rate that the species cannot replenish in time, resulting in those species either becoming depleted or very under-populated in that given area.

In Conclusion:

In total, through methane from cow farts, from cutting down forests for animal food and space to live (forests are carbon sinks), the energy used for transportation of animal, and other things, about 51% of greenhouse gases emitted globally are connected to animal agriculture. Greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of climate change.