The Environmental Impact Of The Meat Industries

"Every kilogram of beef requires 100,000 litres of water to produce. By comparison, a kilogram of wheat requires just 900 litres, and a kilogram of potatoes just 500 litres"

T. Colin Campbell (Emeritus Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University)

"By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet"

Tich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, the father of 'Mindfulness')

"To consider yourself an environmentalist and still eat meat is like saying you're a philanthropist who doesn't give to charity"

Howard F Lyman (US Farmer and Animal Rights Activist)

"This may surprise you, because it surprised me when I found out, but the biggest thing an individual can do to combat climate change is to stop  eating animals. Because of the huge, huge carbon footprint of animal agriculture. I was shocked to find out that animal agriculture directly or indirectly accounts for 14.5% of all greenhouse emissions, compared to all transportation - every ship, car, truck, plane on the planet only accounts for 13%. Less than animal agriculture"

James Cameron (Canadian Film Director)

"Adopting a Vegetarian diet would do more for the environment than using less oil and gas"

Alan Calvered (British Physicist)

"The sixteen hundred dairies in California's Central Valley alone produce more waste than a city of twenty-one million people - that's more than the populations of London, New York and Chicago combined" 

Gene Baur (US Author and Activist. Time Magazine called him the "conscience of the food movement")

"Your contribution to pollution begins with what you decide to purchase to consume. It's not just the occasional purchase; it's with every item you eat, every day. With meat and animal products, the pollution associated with your choice is massive. In order to raise that animal for you to eat , there is baggage that silently comes along with it - silent to you, that is, although it speaks loudly elsewhere. In the U.S. alone, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows in factory farms produce over five million pounds of excrement per minute. These are the animals raised each year so that people can continue eating meat, and they produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population in our country (USA). The manure sewage is responsible for global warming, water and soil pollution, air pollution, and use of our resources. The waste produced by these animals raised for food includes with it all the antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, hormones and other chemicals used during the raising and growing process. Accompanying this is the methane released by the animals, as well as the carbon, nitrous oxide, and additional methane emissions produced during the whole raising, feeding, and killing process"

Dr Richard A. Oppenlander (US Author, Lecturer, Activist)

Ignorance is not an excuse.

We stand on a precipice, the decisions we make now deciding the future for all. 

The Guardian (May 31st 2018) reported the findings of what is said to be the 'most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming  does to the planet'. Joseph Poore, of Oxford University, who had led the study said "A Vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use."  The study took data from close to 40,000 farms across more than 110 different countries and looked at 40 varying food products that make up 90% of all food eaten. Land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use, water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification) were all considered  in terms of environmental impact. Joseph Poore added "Agriculture is a sector that spans all of the multitude of environmental problems."  "Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy".

The study compared greenhouse gas emissions across the food types and, as the BBC explained when they too reported on the study (December 13th 2018), 'Even the most climate-friendly meat options still produce more greenhouse gases than vegetarian sources, like beans or nuts'.  

But what is it about animal agriculture that effects climate change so drastically? Just consider the huge efforts involved in the farming of animals. They need incredible amounts of feed (grain) and water when they are alive, and then once killed there's the huge expenses in processing, transportation and storage of the meat. In addition there's widespread deforestation to create pastures for the animals and for growing their feed. Other greenhouse gases are of course created by the animals themselves and their manure.

Some context? The Oxford University study conducted by Joseph Poore, see above, found that comparisons of beef production to plant protein production in terms of environmental impacts revealed astonishing numbers. One example took the 'lowest impacting beef production' compared to plant protein such as peas. The beef production was responsible for 6 times more greenhouse gases and 36 times the land use. 


In November 2006 The Food and Agriculture Organisation (the FAO) of the United Nations (the UN) released a report entitled 'Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options'. Using the most up to date data available at the time the report states that the livestock sector is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale  from local to global. Senior UN FAO official Dr Henning Steinfield stated that meat industry is "one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems" adding "urgent action is required to remedy the situation."

In an article ahead of a Climate and Energy Mayoral Summit in Chicago in December 2017, James Cameron (the Canadian film director) and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron (environmental advocate) cited further FAO numbers. They stated that raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk generates 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, the second highest source of emissions and greater than all transportation combined

It also uses around 70% of agricultural land, and is a leading cause of bio-diversity loss, water pollution and of course deforestation. Suzy goes on to explain how she has changed her school's menu to being fully plant-based food, and how small initiatives like when up-scaled would make a huge difference. She states that if the US population cut their meat consumption by 50% it'd be the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road.

A new report in May 2019 from the UK's 'Committee on Climate Change' ('CCC') advised that given other countries followed the UK's lead, there's a 50-50 chance of staying inside the 1.5C temperature rise by 2100. The 1.5C degree increase being seen as a threshold for dangerous climate change. Main author of the report, Chris Stark, stated that recent persuasive arguments from Sir David Attenborough, the visiting teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg and the 'Extinction Rebellion'  protests had increased public awareness and that the problem needed very urgent action. The CCC said that although the UK was already slipping away from its legal obligations, England could reach "net zero" (balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal) by the targeted 2050. Scotland could get there 5 years earlier due to its potential for planting new trees. Wales however , with its higher reliance on livestock farming, they felt cannot get to below 5% by 2050. The report made recommendations for the public on such areas as transport and home heating whilst stating that people 'can reduce their diet related emissions by 35% if they transition from a high-meat diet to a low-meat diet'. Sadly the CCC only predicts a 20% drop in meat consumption by 2050. We need to 'accelerate change'.

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In May 2019 the BBC reported on a further UN report. The report, more specifically compiled by the 'Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform of Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services' (IPBES), took 3 years to put together and drew from 15,000 reference materials. The full report ran to some 1,800 pages. The abridged version entitled "summary for policymakers" is, as the BBC suggested, possibly the 'most powerful indictment of how humans have treated their only home'. The report explains that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, and that although our planet has always suffered from mankind's actions, the rate of nature's decline everywhere is at levels not seen before.  

The world's population has doubled since 1971. A staggering fact on it's own. The 'Summary for Policymakers' is an explanation that "transformative change" is needed in how humans react with nature. Plastic Pollution, Soil Degradation, the unrelenting growth of cities, the dumping of heavy metals and solvents into our oceans are all areas covered. The 'primary' direct driver however, is, according to the report's authors, land use change. And it's same for the seas and oceans....

Since 1980 more than 1/2 of the increase in agriculture has been at the expense of intact forests, whilst it is reported that only 3% of the world's oceans were not under 'human pressure' in 2014.

Fishing levels are at an all time high with 33% of stocks being harvested at unsustainable levels by 2015.

Yann Laurans of the French policy research institute (IDDRI) said "Land use now appears as the major driver of biodiversity collapse, with 70% of agriculture related to meat production". He continued "It is time to reconsider the share of industrial meat and dairy in our diet". It really cannot be clearer - we need to ACCELERATE CHANGE now.

The eating of meat "is stealing our future" 

Greta Thunberg (Swedish Teenage Climate Change Activist and Vegan)

On the 5th of August 2019 BBC News reported on yet a further UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. (see below left). The report concerned the 'battle for land between multiple competing demands', and say BBC News, will include a  'warning that our hunger for red meat is putting huge stress on the land to produce animal feed, as well as contributing to half of the world’s emissions of methane - another greenhouse gas'. 

Also in early August 2019, the BBC News service reported that the previous month, July 2019, was set to be the hottest month on record. With 2 days to go until the month's end the figures for the first 29 days were said to be 'on a par or slightly higher' than the previous record. (See below right).                 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) confirms the outcome and highlights 


that the record highs also saw both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice shrink to historic lows. (To read the report click on the link here).

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