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How Animal Agriculture Is Killing Our Planet - SHS Maroon

How Animal Agriculture Is Killing Our Planet

Many people ask me why I am a vegan and there are too many reasons to settle on one! Today I am exposing you to one of the main reasons why I am a vegan: to save the environment. I want to explain how the meat and dairy industry is not only killing innocent animals, but also killing our environment. If you find this article too long to read and you have the attention span of a six year old (lol don’t worry, no judgement) please go on Netflix and watch “Cowspiracy”, which is the documentary this article will explain and where most of these facts came from. It was the final straw in motivating me to go vegan and it is worth EVERY SECOND of your time! I hope this information will not only be eye-opening, but also life-changing as it was for me.

WHAT IS THE ANIMAL AGRICULTURE BUSINESS?

The animal agriculture business is a broad term for all meat and dairy farms that we buy are animal products from. They are constantly over producing their livestock to accommodate the growing human demands for animal-based products. This is not sustainable, meaning it is not possible for our population to continue our large desire for animal products for an extended period of time.

GREENHOUSE GASES

When many people hear the phrase “global warming”, they think of CO2 emissions, burning fossil fuels and water shortages from taking long showers. What most people do not know is that the meat and dairy industry emits more greenhouse gases than cars, trucks, trains, boats and airplanes COMBINED. To meet the demand for meat and dairy products around the world, the industry must force their cows to overproduce, which increases the cattle population exponentially. This makes the animal agriculture industry the number one producer of methane gas and nitrous oxide on the planet. Not only is nitrous oxide 296 times more destructive than CO2 per pound, but the emissions from this business are expected to increase by 85% by 2050 if we continue to support the meat and dairy industry. This way of living is NOT sustainable and if we continue to desire such high amounts of animal products, we will KILL our planet before we know it.

WATER

Not only is the meat and dairy industry the number one contributor to global warming, but it is also the leading cause of water shortages. As the human population begins to climb rapidly, there is a rising fear that we will all soon run out of water. As the demand for meat and dairy increases, the need for cattle also increases, thus increasing our water wastage due to the fact that domestic water use (showers, cooking ect.) only accounts for 5% of our water use while animal agriculture accounts for 55%! Cows are MASSIVE animals and require GALLONS of water a day. We think that our long showers are what are causing world-wide droughts, but we have it all wrong. After you do the math, it ends up taking 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 lb of beef! That means that one ¼ lb hamburger takes 660 gallons of water to produce. If anyone tells you that you are wasting water by taking 7 minute long showers, tell them to do a little research and get their facts straight!

DAIRY

Many people do not realize that the dairy industry and meat industry are very much connected. The same phenomena is occurring in both the meat AND dairy industry as the human desire for animal products increases. Factory and farm owners feel the need to OVER-reproduce their livestock to keep up with these demands, therefore they have so many cows! Each cow in both the dairy and meat industry will eat 140-150 lbs of grain a day and 30-40 gallons of water every day, so therefore it takes almost 900 gallons of water to produce 1 lb of cheese and 1000 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk. This cannot be sustained and it will result in our planet eventually running out of water.

KILLING THE AMAZON

All my life I have been told that the paper industry is furiously cutting down and destroying the Amazon Rainforest and that I should try to save paper as much as possible. Little did I know, 91% of Amazon Rainforest destruction is not by the paper industry, but rather the animal agriculture industry! The meat and dairy business have been sweeping clean the Amazon of trees and converting it to grazing land to make room for more factories. This is occurring at an alarming rate of 1 acre (or 1 football field) a second! In total, the animal agriculture industry is responsible for 136 MILLION acres of rainforest deforestation and destruction. Every day, close to 100 plant, animal, and insect species are lost as a direct side effect of this industry. At this rate the Amazon Rainforest could be gone in the next ten years unless something is done about it. People, such as Sister Dorothy Stang, have tried to speak up and bring this issue to the public’s knowledge. She devoted her entire life to saving the rainforest, but was violently gunned down at the age of 74 by a man hired by the cattle industry. Sister Dorothy was not alone as over 1,100 activists have been killed in Brazil for the same reason over the past 20 years. The Amazon Rainforest is often referred to the “lungs” of our planet as it converts the CO₂ we breathe out back into O₂. Long story short, no trees, no humans.

KILLING THE OCEANS

Every second, 116,000 lbs of livestock feces is produced in the United States alone. This may seem a bit gross, but when it rains, the water runoff sweeps up the cow excrement and carries it to nearby streams and rivers, eventually leading to the ocean and contaminating the waters with nitrogen runoff. Nitrogen runoff is found in the feces and is EXTREMELY detrimental as it kills all life forms in that designated area, thus creating ocean “dead zones” which are areas that are completely devoid of life. Not only are fish populations becoming extinct because of this, but overfishing may leave our oceans fishless by the year 2048. 28 billion fish were taken out of the oceans last year, a rate that does not allow fish populations to restore in such a short amount of time. Not only will our oceans be fishless before we know it, but the entire aquatic ecosystem will also be destroyed.

HOW ABOUT GRASS FED BEEF?

The term “grass fed” has been labeled as eco-friendly, sustainable, healthy, ethical… you name it. But what producers aren’t telling us is that grass fed beef is WORSE for the environment than factory farming and even less sustainable. Grass fed cows need approximately 10 acres EACH to be raised on. If all of the US were to switch to eating only grass fed beef, we would have to dedicate every inch of the US, southern Canada, all of Central America, and the top half of south America to grazing land to keep up with the US’s demand ALONE. This would mean clearing out every city, town and mountain range and converting it to farmland to raise cattle. This is because it takes 23 months for a grass fed cow to be grown to optimal “slaughter size” while it takes grain fed cows 15 months to be grown to this size. That means 8 extra months of grass needs to be fed to these animals, therefore they need more land to produce such high amounts of it. These 8 extra months also require more water use and excrement production, thus making the carbon footprint of grass fed beef substantially higher than that of grain fed beef. Just to put how much a cow needs in perspective, the human population in total drinks 5.2 billion gallons of water a day and eats 21 billion lbs of food while the cattle population drinks 45 billion gallons a day and eats 135 billion lbs of food. Again, this is not sustainable. 

SO WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE?

I know you might not want to hear this, but the vegan diet is the most sustainable, eco-friendly way to live.  By going vegan, you save more CO₂ in one year than you do by switching all electricity to solar panels or driving a hybrid car. On only 1 ½  acres of land, you can produce 37,000 lbs of vegetables, but only 375 lbs of meat. A vegan needs ⅙ of an acre to produce enough food to survive, a vegetarian (eats eggs and dairy) needs 3 times as much land, and a person on a standard American diet (eats meat, eggs and dairy) needs 18 TIMES as much land! If the world went vegan, we would be able to grow more food on less land, thus eliminating food scarcity and world hunger. Not only can you produce more food, but you can also produce 15 times more plant protein than animal protein on any given piece of land. Take a look at this statistic to give you an idea on how amazing veganism is for the planet.

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I know that I just hit you with a LOT of information and that you may feel a bit overwhelmed which is okay! The truth is scary! But ignoring the facts will only make it worse. Therefore I am encouraging you to embrace the truth, make the connection, and spread the word! Share this information with your friends and be open-minded about changing your lifestyle. If we all work together, I truly believe we can change the world. Going vegan is not nearly as scary if you have someone by your side to help you along the way, therefore I strongly encourage you to reach out to me! I can answer any questions you have, give you advice and help you out with whatever you need. Please watch the documentary “Cowspiracy” on Netflix, as it is what originally inspired me to go vegan for good and it is where I got most of my information for this article from. Also be sure to watch “Forks Over Knives” to find out more information on how a vegan diet can prevent many diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. For daily vegan inspiration and food ideas, follow me @thesilverspoon00 (btw those are two zeroes at the end) on Instagram! I hope that you are courageous and join the movement with me. Together, we really can CHANGE THE WORLD!

by Caroline Silver

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