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The Global Impact of Meat Consumption
By Tim Hjersted /
Growing demand for meat has become a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening humanity's future, maintains the World Watch Institute, Washington, D.C. Total meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past half-century, putting extreme pressure on Earth's limited resources, including water, land, feed, and fuel.

"Now, It's Not Personal!"--a survey of each major category of environmental impact regarded as critical to the sustainability of civilization--reveals how central a challenge this once-marginal issue has become:

Deforestation and grassland destruction, The world's appetite for meat is razing forests at an accelerating rate. In Central America, 40% of all the rainforests have been cleared or burned down in the last 40 years, mostly for cattle pasture. In the process, natural ecosystems, where a variety of plant and animal species thrive, are destroyed and replaced with monoculture grass.

Fresh water. Water experts calculate that humans are consuming half of the available fresh water on the planet--leaving the other half to be divided among 1,000,000 or more species. Producing eight ounces of beef requires 25,000 liters of water.

Water disposal. Waste from livestock production exceeds the capacity of the planet to absorb it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that livestock waste has polluted more than 27,000 miles of rivers.

Energy consumption and global warming. It takes far more fossil-fuel energy to produce and transport meat products than to deliver equivalent amounts of protein from plant sources. This heavy use of carbon-rich fuel also contributes significantly to the emission of global-warming gases.

Food productivity of farmland. In the U.S., 56,000,000 acres of land produce hay for livestock. Only 4,000,000 acres support vegetables for human consumption, reports the Department of Commerce. Such inefficient use of land means that food production will not keep up with population growth.

Diseases. Mass production of livestock has generated large-scale increases in both infectious and degenerative or "lifestyle" diseases.

Biodiversity loss and threat of extinction. As the Earth becomes more and more crowded, poor populations increasingly are venturing into wildlife reserves for meat. Poaching and black marketeering of bush meat is decimating remaining groups of gorillas, chimpanzees, and other primates.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Society for the Advancement of Education
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group


You heard it hear first, folks - if we are to find a sustainable, post oil way of life- we're all gonna have to go veg.

Sounds crazy, sounds impossible, but if we're still around in 60 years, it will be because our values have changed - the majority of people will be 70 to 90% vegetarian, and eating meat (by today's factory farmed standards) will be obscene in the same way slavery is seen today.

For anyone who has ever witnessed an aerial view of a factory farm where thousands of cows and pigs gather within barbed fences and thought about it - it is nothing short of the largest holocaust against another species this planet has ever endured.

In a sustainable society, this kind of atrocity will not exist. Instead there will be more wildlife, biodiversity, and less but more healthy and happy humans (that don't eat meat, or don't eat very much).

Of course, for all the meat lovers out there, the idea that we may one day not be able to eat meat at our whim and fancy for under 99 cents is a horrible thought - the loss of our American Dream no less.

But let me assure you: another dream is possible. A dream more amazing than our minds can even imagine right now.

A world and a way of life much better awaits us in the world of potentials, we just have to keep going. - Tim
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The Global Impact of Meat Consumption