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In Animal Rights on February 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm

How Cows Kill Rainforests: The Flip-Side of an All-Beef Patty

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By Beth Doane

Fifty-five square feet of rainforest is destroyed for every quarter pound hamburger that comes from a cleared rainforest cattle farm.

While most of us blame automotive and industrial emissions for pollution, climate change and global warming, livestock farming actually generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all transport combined, (doesn’t this make you think, at least just a little bit about the REAL cost of that hamburger?) according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization.

What’s worse is that in countries like Brazil, which contain massive amounts of tropical rainforest, activities such as cattle ranching are destroying vast amounts of land. For example, between May 2000 and August 2005, Brazil lost more than 132,000 square kilometers of forest—an area larger than the country of Greece.

Here are some basic facts on how our increasing meat consumption—and the ranching practices that support our consumption—are killing more than just rainforests.

Our Eating Habits
If people ate the plants fed to animals, there would be more than enough food to eliminate world hunger. (don’t think this is discussed much in regular news, they keep us focused on autos)

Our cattle and other farmed animals consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—which is more than the world’s population of 7 billion. Yet the animals can’t produce nearly enough meat, milk and eggs to feed everyone.

Meat-based diets require 10-20 times as much land as plant-based diets—and nearly half of the world’s grains & soybeans are fed to animals. (wonder why people are starving?)

Although we make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, Americans consume almost 25 percent of the world’s beef.

Deforestation and Pollution
Fifty-five square feet of rainforest is destroyed for every quarter pound hamburger that comes from a cleared rainforest cattle farm.

In the past 20 years, Costa Rica (as well as most of Brazil) has lost the majority of its forests to beef cattle ranching. This slash and burn farming is believed to account for 50% of all rainforest destruction.

Animal waste and feed dump more pollutants into our waterways than all other human activities combined.

Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information & Policy Branch stated, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”

  • Over half of the water used in the United States goes to beef production.  It takes an average of 2500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of red meat.
  • With the amount of water it takes to produce one pound of red meat, farmers can grow up to one hundred pounds of grain.
  • One hundred pounds of grain can feed four people for a month. One pound of beef can feed four people a dinner.

The Animals Themselves
Approximately 98% of the meat, milk and eggs sold in America comes from animals raised on factory farms, which are also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).

At any given time, there are about 20 billion farmed animals on the planet, which is more than three times the total human population.

Factory farms often use methods such as genetic manipulation to force modern dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day – ten times more than they would produce naturally. (I have not had milk in more than 10 years because of this and even a tiny bit of research on this topic will unfold many a dirty dairy industry secret)

Factory farms are designed to limit animals’ movement, both to conserve space and so animals don’t expend calories and lose weight. Severe overcrowding and poor sanitation causes intense stress and spreads disease. Yummy-diseased cow for dinner.

Animals are kept alive under the filthy conditions at factory farms by feeding them massive amounts of antibiotics. They are also given hormones and genetically bred for rapid growth.

Industrial fishing is also environmentally devastating. Commercial fisheries locate schools of fish using satellite-tracking equipment, and cover miles of ocean with gigantic nets that trap everything in their path, killing millions of animals that are not even valued by the industry, such as sea turtles, dolphins, and sea lions.

Due to over-fishing in the wild, most fish now come from fish farms. Raised in overcrowded caged enclosures, farmed fish live in water infested with bacteria that forms from a surplus of excrement. When the fish are ready for market, they are dumped into large mesh cages where they suffocate to death.

Beth Doane created Andira International as a fashion import and distribution company. Wanting to work to make fashion more sustainable, in 2007 she created her own collection, a 100% organic apparel line called Rain Tees.  She is also the author of a children’s book entitled “From the Jungle,” and speaks nationally about her preservation and reforestation work in the Amazon. Beth also consults for corporations and designers who want products, services or events that are as eco-conscious as possible. Visit www.raintees.com.


Note: Underlines, bolding and comments in parentheses are mine. We all like to give back, this is such an EASY one, how about one less hamburger per week, or beef meal, then stretch that out to 2, remember don’t replace it with fish. Eat one or 2 meatless (plant-based meals) per week. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if a great majority of the population did JUST THAT little step how much things would change. And, don’t you think the corporations would notice?

Posted by: Mukta Tana Dean, from my blog Green Living Planet.