Vegetarianism and Environment

Meat farming inefficently uses grain that could be fed to people, takes land from natural habitats, and causes significant environmental damage from poorly-handles animal wastes. For links to more information on these issues, see

EarthSave International produced an excellent, well-documented report on the environmental, economic, and health effects of meat consumption (no longer published, but see their new environment section). Here's an excerpt:

  • "It takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.

  • Because of over-consumption of fish, all 17 of the world’s major fishing areas have reached or exceeded their natural limits. One-third of the world’s fish catch is fed directly to livestock.

  • 70% of US grain production is fed to livestock.

  • 5 million acres of rainforest are felled every year in South and Central America alone to create cattle pasture.

  • Roughly 20% of all currently threatened and endangered species in the US are harmed by livestock grazing.

  • Animal agriculture is a chief contributor to water pollution. America’s farm animals produce 10 times the waste produced by the human population."

Although they do not explicitly publish these numbers on the web, the Worldwatch Institute states in many of their reports the poor trade-off of large quantities of grain for small quantities of meat. For example, one report synopsis states:

[China's] beef consumption of 4 kilograms [of beef] per person lags far behind the 45 kilograms of the United States. "If China were to close the beef gap," write the authors, "its people would eat an additional 49 million tons each year. Produced in feedlots, this would take some 343 million tons of grain--the entire U.S. grain harvest."

On the Worldwatch pages, you'll also find a graph showing the alarming growth in world meat production over the past 45 years. If you wish to find Worldwatch's information in hard-copy, particularly look at the State of the World report, which is published annually.


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Copyright © 1998-2007 by Ed Pastore. All rights reserved. Excerpts from this document may be quoted with proper reference to the URL, the author, and the modification date listed below. 
modified March 17, 2005