[from COK's Vegetarian
Increasingly, the environment has become
a dumping ground for toxins, chemicals, and
widespread pollution. The water we drink is
so contaminated, many are afraid to drink
anything except bottled water. The air we
breathe is tainted with ammonia, methane,
and carbon monoxide. Raising animals for food
is one of the leading causes of pollution
and resource depletion today. Becoming vegetarian
helps protect the natural environment.
Polluting Our Water and Air
The more than 10 billion land animals raised
for food each year in the United States excrete
massive quantities of urine and feces. According
to a Minority Staff of a U.S. Senate Committee
on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry report,
the amount of farmed animal manure produced
in the United States equals five tons of waste
for every single human being.(1)
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists,
the laws regulating animal waste are nowhere
near as strict as those regulating human waste,(2)
and the Sierra Club notes that the existing
laws are often not enforced.(3) This is particularly
alarming because the waste generated on factory
farms can be hundreds of times more concentrated
than untreated domestic sewage.(4)
two most common techniques for handling waste
on factory farms are manure lagoons and sprayfields.
Manure lagoons can flood, burst, or leak,
contaminating rivers, streams, and groundwater.(5)
Nutrient runoff from sprayfields is another
way waste enters our water sources.(5) The
results can be devastating.
forests are still being felled
to graze hamburger cattle. Going
vegan saves one acre [4,000 m2]
of forest every year." —Cornell
land, 1 lb of vegetables uses
25 gallons (200 L/kg). 1 lb of
beef uses 5,214 gallons (44,000
world's 17 major fisheries are
on the point of environmental
collapse because of over-fishing"
went vegetarian, less than half
the farm land would be needed—vegan,
less than a quarter" —Reading
The Senate report mentioned above states:
"Spills of liquid animal waste directly
into water have an immediate environmental
impact, choking out fish and other aquatic
The resulting hypoxia (low oxygen)
from chronic nutrient enrichment can result
in fish kills, odor and overall degradation
of water quality."(1)
Manure lagoons and sprayfields also pollute
the air, by emitting ammonia, methane, and
It takes more land, water, and energy to
produce meat than to grow vegetarian foods.
It's several times more efficient to eat grains
directly than to funnel them through farmed
animals. According to the Audubon Society,
roughly 70 percent of the grain grown and
50 percent of the water consumed in the United
States are used by the meat industry.(7) A
Minority Staff of Senate Committee on Agriculture,
Nutrition & Forestry report states the
beef in just one Big Mac represents enough
wheat to make five loaves of bread.(1)
Does Eating Fish Also Harm the Planet?
While the factory farming of land animals
contributes to ecological degradation, aquaculture
and commercial fishing in the oceans also
take a grave environmental toll.
Much of the biodiversity of the oceans has
been depleted by "overfishing."
In order to kill large numbers of animals
at one time, commercial fishers use sonar,
spotting planes, and fishing nets large enough
to swallow 12 jumbo 747 jets. While these
methods clearly decrease the variety and numbers
of ocean animals, aquaculture (factory farmed
fish) is not much better for the planet.
According to the journal Science, a two-acre
salmon farm produces as much waste as a town
of 10,000 people.(8) Aquaculture farms dump
waste, pesticides, and other chemicals directly
into ecologically fragile coastal waters.
Local ecosystems are destroyed, devastating
both animal and plant life.
Becoming vegetarian not only saves the lives
of countless animals each year, but also helps
restore our natural environment. By avoiding
animal products in our diets, we choose sustainability
over ecological destruction, and take positive
steps toward protecting our planet for ourselves
and our loved ones.
- Animal Waste Pollution in America: An
Emerging National Problem, Minority Staff
of Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition
& Forestry, 104th Congress, Dec. 1997.
- Michael Brower and Warren Leon. The Consumers
Guide to Effective Environmental Choices:
Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned
Scientists. Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers,
- Clean Water & Factory Farms, Corporate
Hogs at the Public Trough, Perdue Farms,
Maryland, Sierra Club, 1999.
- Howard Lyman with Glen Merzer. Mad Cowboy:
Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who
Won't Eat Meat. Scribner, 1998.
- EQIP Restrictions For Large CAFOs: A Key
to Saving Small Farms and Environmental
Quality, Defenders of Wildlife, 2001.
- The Rap Sheet on Animal Factories, Sierra
- Resolutions for a New Millennium, Audubon
News, Jan. 1, 2000.
- Marcia Barinaga. Fish, Money, and Science
in Puget Sound, Science, Feb. 9, 1990.
images on this page courtesy of freestockphotos.com.