Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution. It is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry. Factory farms are a primary driver of topsoil erosion, rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss and ocean dead zones. Raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water and causes immense animal suffering. It takes 12 times as much land, 13 times more fuel and 15 times more water to make a pound of animal protein than to make a pound of plant protein.
Factory farming is responsible for 18% of CO2 greenhouse emissions and 64% of ammonia which produces acid rain. Livestock animals produce toxic excrement from the high levels of antibiotics and hormones they are given. Cows and sheep account for 37% of the total methane generated. Methane is 25 to 100 times more damaging than CO2. Cows alone produce approximately 120lbs of manure per day, as many as 20 to 40 humans. And their manure produces about 150 billion gallons of methane per day.
The overpopulation of animals in theses factories creates unmanageable amounts of waste. It is collected in cesspools and is either sprayed on fields or left to sit. The toxic fumes from the pools are emitted into the air and harm the environment – causing health issues to the people living in those areas. Runoff water from factory farms and livestock grazing is the leading cause of dead zones in our oceans and eutrophication in our freshwater sources.
In the US 55% of water is consumed by animal agriculture while only 5% is used by households. 1 cow drinks up to 50 gallons of water per day. It takes 683 gallons of H2O to make 1 gallon of milk. 2,400 gallons of water are used to make 1lb of beef. 477 gallons are needed to produce 1lb of eggs, and 900 gallons are used in the process of making cheese.
From air and water to land, the business of animal agriculture is destroying our environment. With over 30% of Earth’s landmass being used to raise animals for food – including both grazing and growing feed crops – topsoil erosion, deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction are of major consequence.
70% of the grain grown in the US is used to feed farmed animals. 56 million acres of land are used to feed factory farmed animals, while only 4 million acres produce plants for human consumption. It takes 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant based diet than it does to feed meat eaters. It takes 10lbs of grain to produce 1lb of meat.
The rapid growth of livestock leads to deforestation, particularly in Latin America. 70% of the Amazon Rainforest has already been destroyed and is now occupied by pastures and feed crops. Tropical deforestation and forest clearing have adverse consequences that contribute to climate change, biodiversity loss, reduced timber supply, flooding and soil degradation.
Unlike sustainable farming systems that work harmoniously with the natural environment by rotating crops to help replace nutrients, unsustainable industrial farming uses one crop that is not rotated which leads to loss of soil fertility. Low soil fertility causes farms to continuously move from place to place which leads to deforestation and rapid growth in weeds. The use of herbicides to combat weeds and pesticides to eliminate insects both harms the soil fertility and ultimately contaminates our water sources through runoff. Land based factory farming has caused more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones around the world.
Overpopulation is not what's bringing about ecological catastrophe; overconsumption is. Overconsumption is the state where consumption surpasses the planet’s natural replenishing capabilities.
Living and consuming are interconnected activities. You can’t live without consuming. Water, food and air are consumed to support life. But we also consume much more than essentials, including goods and services such as electronics, furniture, appliances, cars, books, entertainment, and travel. There seems to be no end to the list of items and services we can’t live without.
Nowadays, we buy mainly to draw emotional satisfaction rather than meeting our actual needs. Advertising creates virtual problems and triggers negative feelings about them; then, it conveniently presents you with a solution. This cycle results in a deterioration of the quality of life, overworking, and overconsuming, which also damages the environment significantly.
Corporations manipulate consumers. They promise us privileges, connection, and happiness, which makes us keep buying more and more. The message’s effectiveness is so high that, despite being left in debt, overstressed, and buried under tons of possessions, we continue wanting more. But, worse of all, our overconsumption is based on our society’s reliance on it. The modern Western economy relies on us consuming more, so it focuses on fueling our wants and desires, and encourages us to upgrade more, buy more, waste more and pollute more.
This unrelenting consumption does not come free of charge. The natural world provides everything we consume, through mining, extraction, farming, and forestry – and there is a limit on the planet’s resources. As we keep consuming more and more, pursuing an elusive “comfortable” life, the planet is overstressed by this over-exploitation of soil, water, minerals, forests, fish, etc. As a result, species, habitats, and even entire ecosystems are collapsing. What’s more, with increased consumption comes more waste and pollution, compromising the quality of life’s very basic elements: air, water and land.