What Meat Eaters Should Know On Earth Day

Agriculture as a whole has changed more in the past 100 years than the past 1000. With the development of fossil fuels, factory farming, and genetically modified organisms, our mode of agriculture has transformed. Such rapid changes have unleashed catastrophic impacts upon the Earth, and its inhabitants. Below are the primary impacts this transformation is currently having on the world.

Health Risks

In October of 2015, the World Health Organization released a statement declaring that red meat is carcinogenic. Despite the proven fact, the United States government continues to push meat as a important source of protein, despite its link to heart disease and high cholesterol. Meat is linked to other health risks specific to how our meat is produced in the U.S. Our agricultural techniques have adapted to include the use of GMOs, pesticides and growth hormones. There has been much criticism that the FDA’s approval of these farming practices lack accurate research and regulation, the main criticism the lack of longitudinal studies by independent researchers. There have been studies in other countries however that have shown a correlation to cancer. In the U.S, corn is heavily subsidized. Due to land scarcity and the financial advantages of corn vs. grass, most farmers feed cattle corn. 88% of U.S. corn to be gentically modified, thanks to Monsanto. This means the majority of meat in the country derives from animals which feed from GMO crops, which are treated with heavy pesticides. Although GMO’s are approved by the FDA, a controversial study by Italian scientist Seralini showed a correlation between Monsanto roundup-tolerant GM maize, to pituitary dysfunctions and mammory tumors in rats in longitudinal studies. Cancer causing arsenic is also typically found in meat to make the product more appealing to the customer.

Overconsumption and Misallocation of Water

Raising cattle requires a large usage of water. Not only enough  to support the life of the animal, but to grow the food for the animals as well. One pound of beef reqiures 1,799 gallons of water, and one pound of pork takes 576 gallons of water.This is triple times the amount of water necessary to grow soybeans and corn. This is a huge misallocation of water when we are shipping water from drought stricken California to China in order to raise livestock simply because people would prefer to eat meat more often than nutritionally necessary or recommended.

Greenhouse Gasses & Carbon Emissions

Due to the rising demand in meat, the production of meat has nearly doubles since the 1980s. Where people used to consume meat only a couple times a week, it is now common practice to consume meat at every meal. Regions of the world in Southeast Asia that previously had a vegetable or seafood heavy diet, are adopting a western diet of heavy meat intake, including fast food. The issue with an increased population of livestock is that cattle produce different emissions than humans due. Methane gas emitted by cows and other livestock does have a significant impact on the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which are the main culprits behind climate change and global warming. Methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of C02 within a 20 year period with 65% of all human caused nitrous oxide coming from cattle. An increased cattle population, paired with a decreased plant population(oxygen), is a very dangerous combination which will have catastrophic effects.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the meat industry contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation industry combined. This includes cars, trains, airplanes, jets, etc. This is in part due to the methane gasses given off by the animals themselves, but also by the energy needed to operate the large scale factory farms, as well as the worldwide transportation emissions of importing and exporting meat and dairy between countries. Studies from Oxford University have proved that eating a vegetarian diet reduces your carbon footprint more than giving up your car.

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Most people have heard of the epidemic of antibiotics found in the meat served in most grocery stores over the United States. In fact, approximately 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in meat and poultry. One of the main reasons antibiotics are used in animal agriculture is because the animals in these factory farms are grossly sick. As previously mentioned, these cows are typically fed subsidized Monsanto corn for cost driven purposes. The problem is, cows are built to consume grass, not corn. Corn does not digest properly, and often results in e-coli growth and development in the cow’s stomach. To rid the animal of e-coli and other diseases,it has become common practice to regularly feed cows antibiotics. The existence of these antibiotics in our food is a huge issue for public health. Eating animals treated with antibiotics passes said bacteria to us, and provides the chance for bacteria to adapt and evolve to develop resistance. Antibiotics are the basis of western medicine. Without Amoxicillin, surgeries cannot be conducted without assurance that wounds will not get infected. Approximately 2 million people fall ill due to antibiotic resistant diseases, resulting in a total of $23,000 deaths each year. It seems that medicine cannot win the race against evolution, and the development of “superbugs.” It all boils down to this: is the hamburger worth it? Without antibiotics, the miracle of western medicine, in which our current species is dependent on, will cease to exist.

Deforestation

According to the Greenpeace, 80% of the rainforest in Brazil was burn down solely for the purpose of raising cattle for human consumption.  Not only does this release harmful emissions into the atmosphere, but it also is destroying the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet. The rainforests play an important role in Earth’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, which actually reduces the effects of worldwide climate change. The rainforest is home to about half of the species of plants and wildlife on the planet, and plant life yet to be discovered. Many of our cures for illnesses derived from the rainforest. Although corporate cattle ranchers may claim this is necessary to feed the world, we currently have enough food to feed 10 billion people, while the world population is at 7 billion. We already have enough food to feed the world, so why must we make more, at the expense at our rainforests. What we need is a better allocation of food and resources.

Factory Farms

Farming has changed a lot over the past 100 years. The dairy farms portrayed on dairy packages are a thing in the past. Family farms have been replaced by massive corporate run factories that mass produce the meat. In these factories they grow, artificially inseminate, and then slaughter livestock for meat. The factory farm is tragic to anyone who cares about animal rights, and is also devastating to the environment. One issue factory farms have run into is the disposal of waste of pig and cow feces. Factory farms have resorted to creating man-mad cesspools to dispose of the feces. When the cesspools level rises too high, it is common practice to use sprayers to release these feces in mist form into the air. There have been reports of this mist taken by the wind to nearby towns in which pig feces mist reaches inhabitants causing a foul smell and in some cases, asthma. Other concerns are potential infiltration to ground water, and in turn the water system to surrounding communities.

If you’d like a more visual idea of what a factory farm might look like, please watch the video below.




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