Meat production and environmental disasters

“I see no excuse for carnivores. I believe that eating meat is tantamount to destroying the planet.” – Heather Small, lead singer of M People.

Due to the fact that many farm animals in Europe and the United States are kept in barns, a large amount of manure and waste accumulates, which no one knows where to put. There is too much manure to fertilize the fields and too many poisonous substances to be dumped into the rivers. This manure is called “slurry” (a sweet-sounding word used for liquid feces) and dump this “slurry” into ponds called (believe it or not) “lagoons”.

Only in Germany and Holland about three tons of “slurry” falls on one animal, which, in general, is 200 million tons! It is only through a series of complex chemical reactions that the acid evaporates from the slurry and turns into acidic precipitation. In parts of Europe, slurry is the sole cause of acid rain, causing massive environmental damage – destroying trees, killing all life in rivers and lakes, damaging the soil.

Most of the German Black Forest is now dying, in Sweden some rivers are almost lifeless, in Holland 90 percent of all trees have died from acid rain caused by such lagoons with pig feces. If we look beyond Europe, we see that the environmental damage caused by farm animals is even greater.

One of the most serious problems is the clearing of rainforests to create pastures. Wild forests are turned into pastures for livestock, whose meat is then sold to Europe and the United States to make hamburgers and chops. It occurs wherever there is rainforest, but mostly in Central and South America. I’m not talking about one or three trees, but entire plantations the size of Belgium that are cut down every year.

Since 1950, half of the world’s tropical forests have been destroyed. This is the most short-sighted policy imaginable, because the soil layer in the rainforest is very thin and scarce and needs to be protected under the canopy of trees. As a pasture, it can serve for a very short time. If cattle graze in such a field for six to seven years, then even grass will not be able to grow on this soil, and it will turn into dust.

What are the benefits of these rainforests, you may ask? Half of all animals and plants on the planet live in tropical forests. They have preserved the natural balance of nature, absorbing water from precipitation and using, as a fertilizer, every fallen leaf or branch. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen, they act as the lungs of the planet. An impressive variety of wildlife provides almost fifty percent of all medicines. It’s crazy to treat one of the most valuable resources this way, but some people, the landowners, make huge fortunes from it.

The wood and meat they sell makes huge profits, and when the land becomes barren, they just move on, cut down more trees, and become even richer. The tribes living in these forests are forced to leave their lands, and sometimes even killed. Many live out their lives in the slums, without a livelihood. Rainforests are destroyed by a technique called cut and burn. This means that the best trees are cut down and sold, and the rest are burned, and this in turn contributes to global warming.

When the sun heats the planet, some of this heat does not reach the surface of the earth, but is retained in the atmosphere. (For example, we wear coats in winter to keep our bodies warm.) Without this heat, our planet would be a cold and lifeless place. But excess heat leads to disastrous consequences. This is global warming, and it happens because some man-made gases rise into the atmosphere and trap more heat in it. One of these gases is carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the ways to create this gas is to burn wood.

When cutting down and burning tropical forests in South America, people make such huge fires that it is hard to imagine. When astronauts first went into outer space and looked at the Earth, with the naked eye they could see only one creation of human hands – the Great Wall of China. But already in the 1980s, they could see something else created by man – huge clouds of smoke coming from the Amazonian jungle. As forests are cut down to create pastures, all the carbon dioxide that trees and bushes have been absorbing for hundreds of thousands of years rises up and contributes to global warming.

According to government reports around the world, this process alone (by one-fifth) contributes to global warming on the planet. When the forest is cut down and the cattle are grazed, the problem becomes even more serious, due to their digestive process: the cows release gases and burp in large quantities. Methane, the gas they release, is twenty-five times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. If you think that this is not a problem, let’s calculate – 1.3 billion cows on the planet and each produce at least 60 liters of methane daily, for a total of 100 million tons of methane every year. Even fertilizers sprayed on the ground contribute to global warming by producing nitrous oxide, a gas that is about 270 times more efficient (than carbon dioxide) at trapping heat.

No one knows exactly what global warming could lead to. But what we know for sure is that the temperature of the earth is slowly rising and thus the polar ice caps are starting to melt. In Antarctica over the past 50 years, temperatures have risen by 2.5 degrees and 800 square kilometers of the ice shelf have melted. In just fifty days in 1995, 1300 kilometers of ice disappeared. As the ice melts and the world’s oceans get warmer, it expands in area and sea levels rise. There are many predictions about how much the sea level will rise, from one meter to five, but most scientists believe that sea level rise is inevitable. And this means that many islands such as the Seychelles or the Maldives will simply disappear and vast low-lying areas and even entire cities such as Bangkok will be flooded.

Even the vast territories of Egypt and Bangladesh will disappear under water. Britain and Ireland will not escape this fate, according to research from the University of Ulster. 25 cities are at risk of flooding including Dublin, Aberdeen and the Issex coasts, North Kent and large areas of Lincolnshire. Even London is not considered a completely safe place. Millions of people will be forced to leave their homes and lands – but where will they live? There is already a lack of land.

Probably the most serious question is what will happen at the poles? Where are the huge areas of frozen land at the south and north poles, which are called the Tundra. These lands are a serious problem. The frozen soil layers contain millions of tons of methane, and if the tundra is heated, methane gas will rise into the air. The more gas there is in the atmosphere, the stronger global warming will be and the warmer it will be in the tundra, and so on. This is called “positive feedback” once such a process starts, it can no longer be stopped.

No one can yet say what the consequences of this process will be, but they will certainly be detrimental. Unfortunately, this will not do away with meat as a global destroyer. Believe it or not, the Sahara Desert was once green and blooming and the Romans grew wheat there. Now everything has disappeared, and the desert stretches further, spreading out over 20 years for 320 kilometers in some places. The main reason for this situation is the overgrazing of goats, sheep, camels and cows.

As the desert captures new lands, the herds also move, destroying everything in their path. This is a vicious circle. The cattle will eat the plants, the land will be depleted, the weather will change and precipitation will disappear, which means that once the earth has turned into a desert, it will forever remain so. According to the United Nations, today, one third of the earth’s surface is on the verge of becoming a desert due to the abuse of land for grazing animals.

This is too high a price to pay for food we don’t even need. Unfortunately, meat producers do not have to pay for the costs of cleaning up the environment from the pollution they cause: no one blames pork producers for the damage caused by acid rain or beef producers for badlands. However, the Center for Science and Ecology in New Delhi, India, has analyzed various types of products and assigned them a true price that includes these unadvertised costs. According to these calculations, one hamburger should cost £40.

Most people know little about the food they consume and the environmental damage that this food causes. Here is a purely American approach to life: life is like a chain, each link is made up of different things – animals, trees, rivers, oceans, insects, and so on. If we break one of the links, we weaken the entire chain. That is exactly what we are doing now. Going back to our evolutionary year, with the clock in hand counting down the last minute to midnight, a lot depends on the last seconds. According to many scientists, the time scale is equal to the life resource of our generation and will be a fatal factor in deciding whether or not our world will survive as we live in it.

It’s scary, but we can all do something to save him.

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