Love a big, juicy steak or sizzling beef burger? While there are myriad reasons why we should be eliminating factory-farmed animals from our diets, a recent report has come to light that shows that effect of mass production farming on the environment – and it’s not good. According to the report from the Food Organization of the United Nations (FAO), livestock production on a mass scale has become one of the world’s most important environmental issues, linking to disastrous side effects of land degradation, water and air pollution, and ultimately global warming.
In the United States alone, more than 10 billion animals are raised and killed for their meat each year, which is a staggering amount considering the needs required for feeding and watering these animals. The FAO believes that the livestock sector uses up to 30% of the Earth’s ice-free, terrestrial landmass to raise and feed livestock, making it the largest source of greenhouse gasses in the world and a major contributor to loss of biodiversity and water pollution.
While some argue one method is better than the other, both grazing and intensive livestock production have adverse effects on the environment. Grazing livestock requires vast tracts of land for grazing, which has led to massive changes and loss of natural environments through deforestation.
According to the FAO, ranching-induced deforestation is a major cause of the loss of unique fauna and flora across the globe, as well as the release of dangerous carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Interesting fact: In the United States alone, 260 million acres of natural forest have been cut down to create land for producing feed for livestock, with land tracts the size of seven football fields being cleared every minute to create more land for livestock farming.
The use of water in livestock farming does not only apply to drinking water for the animals, but to water used in the production of feed and fertilizers , as well as irrigation of crops, and this has a massive impact on the Earth’s natural water resources. Irrigation water, which is used for the production of feed and forage, uses around 37% of withdrawn freshwater in the US, while 42% of the country’s groundwater is used for the irrigation of crops. The FAO states that nearly half of all the water in the United States is used in the farming of animals for food.
Interesting fact: It takes 25 gallons of water to produce just one pound of wheat, but it takes a staggering 2,400 gallons of water to produce the same pound of meat! If you stopped showering for six months, you would save more water than you would by eating a pound of meat.
Livestock farming creates an array of pollution ranging from greenhouse gases to ammonia emissions from manure and manure management, which in turn leads to the disruption and destruction of aquatic systems, groundwater systems, soil quality and crop health. It also has an effect on natural wildlife by altering cover or affecting food sources, many of which play an integral role in the greater functioning of our ecosystem, putting this at risk.