When we think of animal agriculture, we often focus on the animals who are tortured, killed, and then eaten. However, animal agriculture affects a lot more animals outside of the ones that are farmed for consumption.
Meat-based diets have a significant impact on water and land, which means that the land animals and fish living in these habitats are gravely affected as well. For example, in 2010, 53% of fisheries were completely used up, and it’s only gotten worse, partially because factory fishers inadvertently kill and discard 200 million pounds of non-target fish daily (otherwise known as bycatch). Bycatch is rarely consumed. Instead, these fish typically just get injured or die and then get thrown back into the water.
Although an overwhelming number of animals die as a result of animal agriculture, it’s not just the animals that are living on these farms who are affected. It’s the ones whose habitats are being destroyed for animal agriculture or feed crops, and the ones who die as a result of the growing demand for animal protein and dairy. To be exact, an astonishing 60% of global biodiversity loss is caused by our meat-based diets.
WWF Report “Appetite For Destruction” Finds That Animal Agriculture Is Causing Significant Biodiversity Loss
The classic Western diet consists of high meat and dairy consumption. Many of us grew up thinking that this was a well-balanced diet, but now we’re learning that this mentality was really just a marketing gimmick meant to convince us to purchase more animal products.
Not only is consuming conventional meat and dairy unhealthy for the body, it also has a grave impact on the environment. The crops grown as “feed” for livestock produce more than enough food to adequately feed the global population, and these crops have a significant impact on the environment, as they’re largely genetically modified, meaning that harsh herbicides and pesticides are used on them, including Monsanto’s Roundup (these crops include soy, corn, etc.).
Plus, the vast amount of land and water required to satisfy the average factory farm is resulting in the overconsumption of natural resources. For example, animal agriculture consumes a whopping 34-76 trillion gallons of water annually.
Let’s put this into perspective: Adults typically drink two litres of water per day, which translates to roughly half a gallon. The water used in average households is approximately 98 gallons per day. The amount of water required to make one apple is about 18 gallons. The water used to make one burger is 660 gallons.
Likewise, 1 pound of beef uses 1,799 gallons of water. This calculation includes irrigation of the grains and grasses used to feed the animal in addition to the water used for drinking and when processing. It’s not just beef, it’s all animal products. 1 pound of chicken uses 468 gallons of water, 1 pound of pork uses 576 gallons, 1 gallon of milk uses 880 gallons, and 1 pound of cheese uses 600 gallons.
How does that compare with plant-based products? 1 pound of corn uses 108 gallons of water, 1 pound of soybeans uses 216 gallons of water, 1 pound of potatoes uses 119 gallons, and 1 orange uses 13 gallons.
All of this strain imposed on natural resources affects the plants and animals inhabiting these areas. The demand for meat and dairy products in the UK alone has been tied to the extinction of 33 species both at home and abroad, the WWF reports.
Why? Part of the reason lies in the amount of land required for animal agriculture and their food crops. In 2010, the British animal agriculture industry used an area equal to the size of all of Yorkshire in order to simply grow the amount of soy required to feed these animals. Keep in mind that this is in addition to the excessive amount of resources needed for the animal farms themselves.
Plus, a lot of feed crops are grown in high-risk areas that don’t enforce many conservation efforts, if any. Some of the more vulnerable areas where feed crops are grown include the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Himalayas. To give you a better picture of how many animals live in these areas, the Eastern Himalayas alone are home to more than 10,000 plant species, 900 bird species, and 300 mammal species.
The WWF reported: “If everyone reduced the amount of animal products that they ate to meet their nutritional requirements, the total agricultural land required would decline by 13%. That means nearly 650 million hectares – or an area 1.5 times the size of the European Union – would be saved from agricultural production.”
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This means that even just cutting back on the amount of meat and dairy you consume could impact the environment tremendously. Just reducing your intake by only consuming the recommended amount to “meet nutritional requirements” would make a huge difference, and you don’t even need to stop eating it entirely!
To learn more about how animal agriculture affects the environment, check out the following CE article:
We say the following phrase very often here at CE, and I’ll say it again: You vote with your dollar. If you’d like to stop empowering an industry that is systematically destroying the environment, then all you have to do is reduce the amount of money you spend on animal products. It’s that simple.
It’s all about business to these large factory farmers. So, as long as there’s a growing demand for these products, then they will continue to satisfy it, regardless of the environment and biodiversity it’s destroying as a result.
If you want to send a message to these giant companies, all you have to do is stop consuming their food. Eat fewer animal products and purchase less meat and dairy. As demand lowers, these companies will start to produce less. Although your voice is an excellent source of power, and it’s important to educate others on this subject, it’s equally as important to live it. Actions often speak louder than words, and that is certainly the case here.
To learn more about adopting a more plant-based diet, check out the following articles:
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