This is a guest post written by one of our fans, Gina Bartusch. She did a research project for Pure and Whole on the impact animal farming has on the environment. 

For us, when more people are choosing to eat plant-based meals, we move towards a sustainable way of living on our planet. Are we saying every meal? Not necessarily. But if the world's appetite for meat continues to grow, and as population sizes increase, we will deplete many precious resources in the coming 3-5 decades, if not sooner. So we thank Gina for writing this for us and presenting some important facts to our readers. 

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Water

1.) Nearly half of all the water used in the United States goes to raising animals for food (“The Food Revolution” by John Robbins). It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat and only 25 gallons to produce one pound of wheat (“Water Inputs in California Food Production” by Marcia Kreith)

2.) To produce a day’s food for one meat-eater takes over 4,000 gallons; for a lacto-ovo vegetarian, only 1200 gallons; for a vegan, only 300 gallons (The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook)

3.) Animals raised for food produce approximately 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population and animal farms pollute our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. Run-offs of animal waste, pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics are contributing to dead zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reef and health problems. (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

Land

1.) Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass. (Livestock‘s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)

2.) Seven football fields’ worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them. (The Smithsonian Institution)

3.) Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 80% is used to raise animals for food and grow grain to feed them—that’s almost half the total land mass of the lower 48 states (“Major Uses of Land in the United States” by Marlow Vesterby and Kenneth S. Krupa)

Food

1.) In the U.S., 70% of the grain grown is fed to animals on feedlots (“Plants, Genes, and Agriculture” by Jones and Bartlet)

2.) It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat. (The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat by Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt). Fish on fish farms must be fed 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce one pound of farmed fish flesh (“The Food Revolution by John Robbins)

3.) The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth (“The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat” by Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt)

Climate Change

1.) Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined) (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)

2.) Livestock account for an estimated 9% of global CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions, estimated 35-40% of global CH4 (Methane) emissions and 65% of NO2 (Nitrous Oxide) emissions (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)

3.) By replacing your “regular car” with a Toyota Prius the average person can prevent the emission of about 1 tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere, By replacing an omnivorous diet with a vegan diet the average person can prevent the emission of about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s 50% more CO2 saved! (“It’s better to green your diet than your car”, The New Scientist, December 17, 2005.)

Conclusion

Our demand for animal based products is diverting precious resources like land, water and fossil fuels to produce farmed animals instead of feeding the estimated billion + people that are malnourished in the world.

We can all start working on sustainable alternatives or attempt to make sustainable choices as a solution to this problem, but the easiest solution is the elimination of the demand for animal based products. Switching to a plant-based lifestyle is the only long term solution that not only benefits the environment, but also the animals and our health.

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