The Environmental Impact of Eating Beef and Dairy Products
There are currently 1.28 billion cattle populating the
earth. They occupy nearly 24 percent of the landmass of the planet. Their
combined weight exceeds that of the earth's entire human population. Raising
cows for beef has been linked to several environmental problems, and eating beef
can worsen your health. The Dairy Industry puts not only your health in danger
from consuming their products, but the lives of the cows that produce them.
There is severe environmental damage brought on by
cattle ranching, including the destruction of rainforests and grasslands. Since
1960 more than 25 percent of Central America's forests have been cleared to
create pastureland for grazing cattle. By the late 1970's two-thirds of all
agricultural land in Central America was occupied by cattle and other livestock.
More than half the rual families in Central America-35 million people-are now
landless or own too litle land to support themselves. Cattle are also a major
cause of desertification around the planet. Today about 1.3 billion cattle are
trampling and stripping much of the vegetative cover from the earth's remaining
grasslands. Each animal eats its way through 900 pounds of vegetation a month.
Without plants to anchor the soil, absorb the water, and recycle the nutrients,
the land has become increasingly vulnerable to wind and water erosion. More
than 60 percent of the world's rangeland has been damaged by overgrazing during
the past half century.
Cattle ranching has also been linked to Global Warming.
The grain-fed-cattle complex is now a significant factor in the emission of
three of the gases that cause the greenhouse effect- methane, carbon dioxide,
and nitrous oxides- and is likely to play an even larger role in Global Warming
in the coming decades. The burning of fossil fuels accounted for nearly two-
thirds of the 815 billion tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in 1987.
The other third came from the increased burning of the forests and grasslands.
When the trees are cleared and burned to make room for cattle pastures, they
emit a massive volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Commercial cattle
ranching also contributes to Global Warming in other ways. With 70 percent of
all U. S. grain production now devoted to livestock feed, much of ot for cattle,
the energy burned by farm machinery and transport vehicles just to produce and
ship the feed represents a significant addition to carbon dioxide emissions. It
now takes the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of grain-fed
beef in the United States. To sustain the yearly beef requirements of an
average family of four requires the use of more...