Environmental Impact of Raising Animals for Food
The current methods of raising livestock are harmful. These methods use too much land, water, and feed that are greatly wasted and polluted, and become a threat to public health. Even though they live and end their lives as victims, the animals themselves end up being part of the problems. Many people, especially Americans, are killing themselves by the forkful.
The cost of raising animals for food is passed on to the consumer in more ways than most would imagine. Raising cattle, for example, incurs more than just the expenses for feed, water, and medical care. Someone has to pay for the purchase of new land when the existing acreage is degraded and no longer able to grow any plant life. When the water supply becomes so polluted that it cannot be ...view middle of the document...
Of all the arable land in use, two-thirds is devoted to growing feed for livestock, while only eight percent is used to grow food for human consumption (Brooks, 2006). Land planted for the feeding of people yields two – ten times as much protein as that used for beef production, for legumes the rate is up to 20: 1 (Environmental Health Perspective, May, 2002).
Much of the water used for irrigation benefits the livestock sector, including the feedlot of the central and southern United States. It takes about 100 times as much water as is needed to grow and equal amount of protein energy from grain (EHP, MAY, 2002). Approximately 37 percent of U.S. drawn water is used for irrigation, with another 42 percent coming from groundwater (Wiki). Nearly two-thirds of all water used worldwide is for agriculture. Because of irrigation, underground aquifers are being depleted faster than they can be recharged, and “fossil aquifers” (mostly water from the last ice age) receives little or no recharge (EHP, May, 2002)
The FAO has estimated that crops use only 45 percent of irrigation water, making irrigation very inefficient as well as harmful. Of the irrigated land in the United States, 28 percent is negatively affected by irrigation, through waterlogging and salinization, salts left behind by irrigation that deteriorate the productivity of the soil (EHP, May, 2002).The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that 70 percent of the pollution in more than 173,000 miles of rivers and streams is because of current farming practices (Environmental Health Perspectives May, 2002). The major sources of pollution are from fertilizer and pesticides used for feed crops, antibiotics and hormones, sediments from eroded pastures, animal waste, and chemicals from tanneries (Livestock’s Long Shadow 2006). Contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, human health problems, degradation of coral reefs, emergence of antibiotic resistance and others, the livestock sector is considered to be the largest sectorial sources of water pollution.