Sunday, 20 January, 2019


How the Meat Industry Affects Our Planet

Conrad Doyle | 28 December, 2018, 10:55

 

The battle between meat eaters and vegetarians has been raging for centuries. With more and more people converting to the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, the debate is only becoming more hotly discussed. In fact, roughly 6% of the US population now identifies as vegan and veganism have exploded in popularity by 500% between 2014 and 2017. While "going vegan" may be the favorite trend right now, there's plenty of meat eaters that are happy to stick to their briskets and ribs.

 

The reasons behind more and more people switching to vegetarian or vegan lifestyles vary from person to person. The two most popular reasons, however, are eating healthier and a strong objection to killing or using animals for food products.

 

There are also environmental impacts that the meat industry have on our planet. Many of these impacts are harmful, but they could be curbed by more people adopting a more plant-focused diet.

 

Contaminated Water

 

The animal farming industry in the US creates one million tons of manure waste each day. That’s three times as much as the human population of the country. This waste is often stored in open areas, known as “lagoons.” Not only is this unpleasant for the surrounding communities to look at and smell, but a lot of the chemicals in this waste can seep into the ground and find its way into rivers, streams, lakes and other bodies of water. Eventually, these contaminants can find their way into our drinking water. On animal farms where livestock are given a lot of growth hormones and antibiotics, this contamination is even more potentially harmful.

 

Higher Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The livestock industry is responsible for a staggering 15% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. This is mostly a result of the production and processing of the animal feed. Greenhouse gases are a constant worry for environmentalists and a common cause of climate change. When you compare the emissions caused by the production of beef protein versus legumes, dairy or fish, the output of a single gram of beef protein creates 250 times more emissions of greenhouse gases.

 

Destruction Of Habitats

The meat industry requires a lot of acreages; about 80% of farming land in the US is dedicated to livestock. These land-intensive agricultural practices need farmers to clear a vast area to have enough room to function and produce enough meat for consumption and profitability. The unfortunate side of this is that when these large plots of land have to be cleared. It destroys the habitats of animals living in that space and eliminates vegetation and food sources for other animals in surrounding areas. There’s no friendly postcard sent out on notice to the community to such a critical change in the environment. Most of the destruction of habitat happens right under our noses and without most of us having a say.This ripple effect has a number of effects on the ecosystem and planet at large.

 

Human Health

 

Large animal farms, commonly referred to as factory farms, look to optimize their profits. Often, this means putting hormones and other chemicals into the livestock to increase their size and product yield (larger animals create more meat). Many of the substances fed to livestock and the processing of the meat itself yield health risks for humans, beyond contaminating our water sources, as mentioned earlier.

 

While not a direct effect on the planet at large, the health issues that factory farm produced meat can have on humans is a factor to consider. Highly processed meats and other food items lead to higher risks of type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, and some cancers.

 

Conclusion

While these factors paint a grim picture of the negative impacts of the meat industry, it is worth mentioning that not all plant-based agricultural farms are entirely eco-friendly either. Some plant-based foods, like rice, can produce a lot of harmful greenhouse gas emissions as well. And, while some farms pay close attention to environmentally-friendly practices, that doesn't guarantee that their partners do the same.

 

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