Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Insatiable appetites for meat and milk may ultimately cost us the planet

The United Nations FAO report,
Livestock’s Long Shadow, states
that: “The livestock sector is a major
player, responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2
equivalent.  This is a higher share than
transport.” (Transport causes 13.5%).
25% of the world’s land surface is
given over to grazing more than 1.25
billion cattle. Grazing is often said to be
the only use for such land but, in many
cases, a more efficient and sustainable
use would be to grow trees for timber,
fuel and food – such as nuts and fruits.
More than 1/3 of the world's agricultural
land suffers desertification through:
clearing forests for grazing; overgrazing; overcultivating croplands to feed
farm animals as well as people; using
poor irrigation techniques.  A vegan –
who eats only plant foods and products
based on them – requires just 1/4 of
the land needed to feed a meat-eater.
Farm animals convert only a fraction of
their food into meat, eggs, or milk. The
fossil energy input to produce a day’s
food for a vegan is only one-third that
for a meat-eater and half that for a
vegetarian.  Much of the land now
wasted in feeding farm animals could be
used to grow ‘industrial crops’ – for
example, to make renewable fuels and
fibre (hemp, flax, etc)
Farm animals are voracious consumers
of water. A day’s food for a meat-eater
requires over 5,000 litres (enough to take
100 baths) – compared with 2,600 for a
vegetarian and a mere 1,900 for a
Farm animals produce large quantities
of urine and excrement – 23 kilograms
per day for each cow.  The ammonia
and nitrates from this waste leach into
the ground and surface water, polluting
wells and rivers.  Such pollution causes
algal blooms, removes oxygen from the
water and kills fish.  Ammonia from
farm waste also contributes to
atmospheric pollution.
Nearly one billion people are undernourished or starving, despite the world
producing enough food to feed twice its
human population of 6 billion.  Yet 1/3
of the grain we grow is fed to farm animals.  Nobody seriously suggests that
animal products (eg meat, eggs and
milk) are essential for health.
Animal farming represents a
squanderous misuse of scarce natural
resources and is a major contributor to
environmental destruction.  Vegan diets
use less land, water and fuel and are
gentler on the planet.

Source:  The Vegan Society