One of the biggest environmental impacts of a meat-eating diet is the depletion of natural resources, particularly the consumption of vast amounts of water for livestock production. Today, there are more than 17 billion livestock in the world; that’s about triple the number of people. Raising these animals requires huge amounts of water, most of it used to irrigate the grains and hay fed to the animals. According to the Water Education Foundation, it takes 2,464 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef in California. This is the same amount of water you would use if you took a seven-minute shower every day for six entire months. In contrast, only 25 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of wheat. Present human water consumption drains aquifers around the world. Water tables are dropping drastically and wells are going dry. The United States Geological Survey says that 40 percent of fresh water used in the U.S. in 2000 went to irrigate feed crops for livestock. Only 13 percent was used for domestic purposes including showers, flushing toilets, washing cars and watering lawns. Switching to a plant-based diet or reducing the amount of meat in your diet is by far the most important choice you can make to save water.
Raising livestock depletes other natural resources as well, including fossil fuels and topsoil. Aside from the cost...
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... ammonia released into the air. The ammonia can react with other gases in the air and cause respiratory problems and contribute to smog and acid rain. The particulate matter created from animal agriculture can also cause respiratory problems and can form a brown cloud effect that used to be found only near large industrialized cities.
Methane may be the most serious gas given off from livestock. In fact the meat industry is the number one source of methane throughout the world, releasing over 100 million tons a year. Methane is a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and causes the earth’s temperature to rise. Noam Mohr in his report on global warming says, “methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.” Theoretically by reducing the amount of meat eaten throughout the world we could slow down methane production and therefore global warming.
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