Raising livestock for meat threatens an environmental disaster

The popular and respected British newspaper The Guardian published the results of a recent study that can be called sensational and depressing at the same time.

The fact is that scientists have found out that the average inhabitant of foggy Albion during his life not only absorbs more than 11.000 animals: birds, livestock and fish – in the form of various meat products – but also indirectly contributes to the devastation of the country’s nature. After all, modern methods of raising livestock cannot be called anything other than barbaric in relation to the planet. A piece of meat on a plate is not only a slaughtered animal, but also kilometers of depleted, devastated land, and – as the study showed – thousands of liters of drinkable water. “Our taste for meat is ruining nature,” says The Guardian.

According to the UN, currently about 1 billion people on the planet are regularly malnourished, and according to the forecasts of the organization, in 50 years this figure will triple. But the problem is also that the way those who have enough food eat is depleting the planet’s resources at a catastrophic rate. Analysts have identified several main reasons why humanity should think about the environmental consequences of meat-eating and the possibility of choosing a “green” alternative.

1. Meat has a greenhouse effect.

Today, the planet consumes more than 230 tons of animal meat per year – twice as much as 30 years ago. Basically, these are four types of animals: chickens, cows, sheep and pigs. Breeding each of them requires huge amounts of food and water, and their waste, which accumulates literally mountains, releases methane and other gases that cause a greenhouse effect on a planetary scale. According to a 2006 United Nations study, the climate effect of raising animals for meat exceeds the negative impact on the Earth of cars, planes and all other modes of transport combined!

2. How we “eat” the earth

The world’s population is growing steadily. The general trend in developing countries is to consume more meat every year, and this amount is doubling at least every 40 years. At the same time, when translated into kilometers of space allotted for livestock breeding, the numbers are even more impressive: after all, it takes 20 times more land to feed a meat-eater than a vegetarian.

To date, already 30% of the earth’s surface, not covered with water or ice, and suitable for life, is occupied by raising livestock for meat. This is already a lot, but the numbers are growing. There is no doubt, however, that raising livestock is an inefficient way of using land. After all, for comparison, for example, in the United States today, 13 million hectares of land have been given for agricultural crops (growing vegetables, grains and fruits), and 230 million hectares for raising livestock. The problem is aggravated by the fact that most of the agricultural products grown are consumed not by humans, but by livestock! To get 1 kg of broiler chicken, you need to feed it 3.4 kg of grain, 1 kg of pork “eats” already 8.4 kg of vegetables, and the rest of the “meat” animals are even less energy efficient, in terms of vegetarian food.

3 . Cattle drink too much water

American scientists have calculated: to grow a kilo of potatoes, you need 60 liters of water, a kilo of wheat – 108 liters of water, a kilo of maize – 168 liters, and a kilogram of rice will require as much as 229 liters! This seems surprising until you look at the figures for the meat industry: in order to get 1 kg of beef, you need 9.000 liters of water … Even to “produce” 1 kg of broiler chicken, you need 1500 liters of water. For comparison, 1 liter of milk will require 1000 liters of water. These rather impressive figures pale in comparison to the rate of water consumption by pigs: a medium-sized pig farm with 80 pigs consumes approximately 280 million liters of water per year. A large pig farm requires as much water as the population of an entire city.

It only seems like fun math if you don’t take into account that agriculture already today consumes 70% of the water usable for humans, and the more livestock there are on the farms, the faster their demands will grow. Other resource-rich but water-poor countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates have already calculated that it is more profitable to grow vegetables and livestock in developing countries and then import…

4. Raising livestock destroys forests

The rainforests are under threat again: not because of timber, but because the world’s agricultural giants are cutting them down to free up millions of hectares for grazing and growing soybeans and palm trees for oil. According to a recent study by Friends of the Earth, about 6 million hectares of tropical forests annually – the whole territory of Latvia, or two Belgium! – “bald” and become farmland. Partly this land is plowed under crops that will be fed to livestock, and partly serves as pastures.

These figures, of course, give rise to reflections: what is the future of our planet, in what environmental conditions will our children and grandchildren have to live, where is civilization heading. But in the end, everyone makes their own choice.

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