Give up meat and save the earth!
April 22, 2009
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:
● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;
● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;
● 70 million gallons of gas — enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;
● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;
● 33 tons of antibiotics.
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:
● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;
● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;
● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;
● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant
According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.
Globally, we feed 756 million tons of grain to farmed animals. As Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer notes in his new book, if we fed that grain to the 1.4 billion people who are living in abject poverty, each of them would be provided more than half a ton of grain, or about 3 pounds of grain/day — that’s twice the grain they would need to survive. And that doesn’t even include the 225 million tons of soy that are produced every year, almost all of which is fed to farmed animals. He writes, “The world is not running out of food. The problem is that we — the relatively affluent — have found a way to consume four or five times as much food as would be possible, if we were to eat the crops we grow directly.”
A recent United Nations report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow concluded that the meat industry causes almost 40% more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s transportation systems — that’s all the cars, trucks, SUVs, planes and ships in the world combined. The report also concluded that factory farming is one of the biggest contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every level — local and global.
Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against global warming than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid.
In its report, the U.N. found that the meat industry causes local and global environmental problems even beyond global warming. It said that the meat industry should be a main focus in every discussion of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortages and pollution, and loss of biodiversity.
Meat requires much more fossil fuel to produce than vegetables and grains.
How much more? About 200 times more for beef than for potatoes. The reason for this is simple: Cattle consume fourteen times more grain than they produce as meat. They’re food factories in reverse. So it takes a lot more water, land, and of course, energy to produce that meat. In fact, over 80% of the grain grown in this country is eaten by livestock, not people. So in short, the more meat you eat, the more gas you waste.
David Pimentel of Cornell University calculates that it takes nearly twice as much fossil energy to produce a typical American diet than a pure vegetarian diet. This works out to about an extra 200 gallons of fossil fuels per year for a meat-eater. This means that meat-eaters are “driving” an extra fourteen miles every day whether they really drive or not, when we look at how much extra fuel it takes to feed them.
*Resource Depletion: Raising billions of animals for meat wastes massive amounts of resources because feeding plants to animals raised for food is many times less efficient than feeding plants directly to people. Overall, the animal agriculture industry consumes more than half the water and over one-third of the petroleum used in the United States. In addition, two-thirds of the planet’s land surface is used by the agriculture industry to house, graze and grow grain for farm animals, driving the extinction of endangered species.
*Climate Change: A 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report indicated that about 18 percent of total greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere are produced by animal agriculture – more than all the cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats, and other forms of motorized transportation combined. Livestock also generate large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide, and methane is 23 times more potent than CO2, while nitrous oxide is nearly 300 times as potent as CO2.
*Pollution: Every year, farm animals excrete half a billion tons of manure, which is three times the amount of waste produced by the entire human population. This waste is typically stored in gigantic lagoons that leach toxic substances (such as nitrogen, phosphorous and heavy metals) into ground and surface water. According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, farm animal excrement has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.