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5 Reasons you should stop eating meat

Before the days of Chicken McNuggets and Big Macs, American colonists relied on hunting wild animals for their meat supply. As technology advanced and domesticated livestock supplies increased people began to trade meat with the West Indies in exchange for molasses. Traders would use methods such as salting and smoking to preserve the meat in what would become known as “meat packing.” Eventually a man from Massachusetts named William Pynchon started the first commercial meat packing business which transported and packed large amounts of pork. As cities grew and the Industrial Revolution took hold, demand for meat increased at a rapid pace. This prompted the establishment of large cattle ranches which raised cattle and transported them via cattle trails to railroad stops. The trains would then take the cattle to packaging facilities in places like Cincinnati, Buffalo, Milwaukee and Chicago. Flash forward a couple hundred years and meat is a central part of the United States’ culture, diet and economy. The average American consumes 200.6 lbs of meat per year placing the United States in second place for global per capita meat consumption. In 2015 US beef exports totaled $5.6 billion dollars. When you consider that animal agriculture is at the forefront of perpetuating problems like global hunger, natural resource depletion and climate change these numbers are quite alarming. As American consumers we are in a unique position of influence to address the problems caused by the meat industry. We have a responsibility to inform ourselves on the impacts of our consumer decisions and adjust our actions accordingly.

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1. Animal agriculture contributes to the destruction of the Amazon

View this video on YouTube

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The World Bank reports that 91% of deforested areas in the Amazon are used for cattle ranching. Our consumer demand for meat products serves as a central incentive for raising more cattle and consequently destroying more of the Amazon. This is problematic for many reasons including bio- diversity loss and carbon emissions. With the Amazon providing a home for over 40,000 different species, our decision to eat meat impacts many more animals than just cows and chickens. Secondly, the Amazon Rainforest serves as a carbon sink for CO2 in our atmosphere. As humans continue to burn fossil fuels and exacerbate carbon emissions, carbon sinks like the Amazon are increasingly important for the well-being and stability of our planet.

2. Animal agriculture exacerbates Greenhouse Gas emissions

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According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization the livestock sector accounts for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the GHG emissions produced by all of the world’s trains, cars and planes combined. This shows that we don't need to wait to buy an expensive hybrid car, we can make an impact today by reducing our consumption of animal products.

Additionally, the livestock sector generates 65% of human produced nitrous oxide. Most of these emissions are caused by manure.

3. The production of meat is extremely water intensive

Statistics produced by National Geographic show that 1 pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water to produce. Furthermore 1 gallon of milk requires 880 gallons of water to produce. This includes water used in the irrigation of feed crops, and water used in the raising and grazing of cattle.

Looking at these statistics alongside a UN report which found that 783 million people lack access to clean water clarifies the immorality and inefficiency of our meat consumption.

To see the amount of water that goes into producing different foods check out the US Geological Survey’s interactive quiz on water content:

4. We already grow enough food to sustain the entire human population, but instead we feed cows

National Geogrpahic

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that as of 2016 795 million people worldwide suffer from chronic undernourishment. This statistic is unacceptable when you acknowledge that we already produce enough food globally to feed the entire human population. Animal agriculture plays a large role in this problem because as explained by UN FAO “Feeding half the world’s grain crop to animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk instead of directly to humans is a significant waste of natural resources, including fossil fuels, water, and land.”

More Statistics:

As much as 80% of the global soybean crop and 40-50% of the annual corn crop are fed to cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals used in agriculture (FAO).

33% of global arable land is used to produce feed for livestock (FAO).

This video by National Geographic further depicts the problem:

5. The problem is only getting worse

With population growth and increased prosperity, more meat and dairy products are consumed every year. As the prior points have shown, the animal agriculture industry is extremely harmful to the environment and inefficiently allocates vital resources such as water and arable land. The FAO projects that global meat production will more than double by 2050. This obviously would further exacerbate the negative impacts of the industry. We can all do our small part by using our consumer power to support products and industries that align with our values and hopes for the world.

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