After watching a documentary (I love them!) called Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret on Netflix about a year ago, I was shocked to learn about the impact of Animal Agriculture.
“Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill.”
While I didn’t become a full fledged vegetarian or vegan after this, I did rethink my eating habits; and whenever I have the choice, I do not eat meat. For instance, I rarely purchase meat when I am at the grocery; but, if someone has cooked a meal with meat in it I will still eat it. Some people are more hard core – like this guy.
Nonetheless, the documentary got me thinking and researching. I was going to list the effects of animal agriculture on the environment; however, The Cowspiracy infographic does a great job of outlining them for the most part.
The Sierra Club, the legendary environmental organization founded by John Muir, highlights & explains 10 Reasons Why the Meat and Dairy Industry is Unsustainable. The facts below come from the Sierra Club article and the facts listed on the Cowspiracy website. A few things that they mentioned in the article that the infographic didn’t were:
- Food Productivity: The only option for us to go forth with stabilizing our growing population is to cut back on meat consumption and designate more land for food crops. Consider these two statistics – “In the U.S., an estimated 56 million acres of land are dedicated to hay production for livestock. Only 4 million acres are used to grow vegetables for human consumption.” and “82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.”
- Drugs/Lifestyle Disease: “80% of antibiotic sold in the US is for livestock.” Check out this consumer report The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals Threatens Public Health. Several people have often heard that eating red meat is bad for your health, but what about all antibiotic treated meat in general? Scary and Unsustainable.
- Soil Erosion: “With 60 percent of the United States’ pastureland overgrazed, the acceleration of soil erosion and degradation is an increasing concern. It takes approximately 500 years to replace just 1 inch of precious topsoil. While fertilizers may be able to replace a small amount of lost nutrients, the large inputs of fossil energy required is completely unrealistic and unsustainable.”
Lastly, I want to touch upon this grass-fed phenomenon. While, grass-fed animals are better for your health – they are in fact no better for the environment. Essentially, they are worse. A grain-fed cow needs only three acres of land, while a grass-fed cow needs nine acres. Grass-fed beef most likely eludes the drugs/antibiotic dangers of livestock; however, it ultimately still leads to many of the causes we have talked about today such as deforestation, water use, and waste.
I say all of this to encourage you to be thoughtful about your daily choices and to realize that you have a great power in your decisions. If all my articles haven’t communicated this enough – sustainability is a lifestyle. Simply put, yet again –
“Learn to do common things uncommonly well” – George Washington Carver
Make things happen!