Global impact of meat farming

October 25, 2023

Photograph of cows by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash and photo of sky by Bessi at Pixabay

Alessia Georgiou reveals the impact of meat production and how changing our diet can make a big difference

The consumption and production of meat has been negatively impacting our environment for quite some time. But how?

When land is used to raise animals instead of crops, precious water and soil are lost, trees are cut down to make room for grazing or factory-farm sheds, and untreated animal waste pollutes rivers and streams.

In fact, it has such a devastating effect on all aspects of our environment that the Union of Concerned Scientists lists meat-eating as the second biggest environmental hazard facing the Earth.

For starters, raising animals for food consumes more than half of all the water used in the UK. For instance, it takes nearly 25 thousand litres of water to produce one kilogram of meat. In comparison, it takes only 250 litres to produce a kilogram of wheat.

A recent World Wildlife Fund report demonstrates that “at a time of global food insecurity – half of the UK’s wheat harvest each year (equivalent to 11 billion loaves of bread) is being used to feed livestock in an “inherently inefficient” process that is fuelling climate change and driving nature’s decline in the UK and overseas.”

As a result of farming animals, fertile lands become barren, waterways become clogged, and there is an increased risk of flooding

A report by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals reveals that producing just one hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive a small car 20 miles, and a typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people.

Isn’t that absurd and wasteful!

As a result of farming animals, fertile lands become barren, waterways become clogged, and there is an increased risk of flooding.

Animal agriculture, deforestation, and other land-use changes that reduce soil quality, are the second-largest contributors to CO2 emissions globally, producing more greenhouse gases than transportation.

In addition, an article in Sentient Media, highlights how raising farm animals is one of the major contributors to methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Compared to CO2, Methane is 27 to 30 times stronger as a greenhouse gas, and nitrous oxide is a staggering 273 times stronger! These gases contribute significantly to global warming.

While having a vegan diet massively reduces the damage to the environment, a common misconception is that we must completely eradicate meat and dairy from our diets in order to help. I am not suggesting that! I love meat! There is no way I will totally stop eating it. However, there are still things you can do as meat eaters to help the environment.

Eating less meat and dairy products is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact on the planet

In a BBC report in July research showed that ‘a big meat-eater’s diet produces an average of 10.24 kg of greenhouse gases each day. A low meat-eater produces almost half that at 5.37 kg per day. With a plant-based diet it’s nearly halved again to 2.47 kg a day.’

If big meat-eaters reduced their meat consumption it would have the same effect as taking eight million cars off the road.

Another factor is food waste. Aiming to be ‘meat conscious’ is where you’re more mindful of how often you consume it and what kind of meat you’re eating. This is likely the most plausible option for many of us meat lovers.

Eating less meat and dairy products is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. For years research suggests that a high-fibre, plant-based diet is beneficial for your health in many ways.

Plan your meals around plant-based foods, along with shopping organic, local, and sustainable when possible. Or, make a schedule of days committed to not eating meat and influence others to follow in your steps to spread awareness.

Try to choose fresh, seasonal produce that is grown locally to help reduce the carbon emissions from transportation, preservation and prolonged refrigeration. I challenge you to have two days a week where you only eat plant-based meals!

Find out about more of the benefits here.

Climate change impacts don’t have to be something future generations deal with. We can change its course now! Let’s get justice for those whose rights have been violated, and create a healthy and viable future. So, stand up. Make a change. Take charge!

Alessia is studying A-level English literature, sociology and psychology. She has an interest in creative and informational writing, debates, discussing societal topics and travel. She loves to express these through producing articles for Exposure.

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