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The effect of livestock on the environment

by Katherine McDonnal

Photo courtesy of: Bridget Quaid

Earlier this month, the Environmental Working Group stated that by 2050 there won’t be enough land on the Earth’s atmosphere to absorb all the CO2 and methane that would result from animal agriculture. To combat this, many organizations have taken steps to preserve land and have also given their support for the Protein Challenge 2040. Others, however, argue that meat production is necessary for the economy and human consumption of meat is just a natural part of the food cycle.

Meat production pollutes the environment through fossil fuel usage, which is the primary source of energy in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its use causes greenhouse gas emissions, smog, acid rain, and water pollution.

Disadvantages [of meat production] are animals unnaturally confined and crowded, large amounts of grain, fishmeal, water, and fossil fuels used in these operations, greenhouse gas emissions, animal waste can pollute waterways and use of antibiotics can increase genetic resistance in microbes in humans,” said Jennifer Lynn, AP Environmental Science teacher.

Wary of the environmental impact meat production costs, or having beliefs that killing animals is inhumane, people against meat production may switch to a vegan lifestyle.  

“I think killing animals for food is somewhat natural, but it’s kind of sad because animals are losing their lives for someone to eat them,” said Brittany Corbo, junior.

With California’s hot weather, a single cow can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day, and it takes an estimated 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. One pound of tofu only uses 244 gallons of water. Producing just one hamburger uses more than enough fossil fuels to drive a car 20 miles.  

Students can eat less meat, no meat or purchase organically certified meat,” said Lynn.

Other companies such as Forum for the Future plan on using their Protein Challenge 2040 to help solve sustainability problems. Covering health, economics, and conservation, Forum for the Future is bringing together industries and global organizations to halt the production and consumption of protein.

  Supporters of meat production believe that it is necessary for our economy and those who have agricultural vocations, such as farmers, may depend on meat production for making a living. Others believe meat production is a necessary part of our diet. In 2014, the Humane Research Council found that in a poll of over 11 thousand adults, only 1.9 percent identified as vegetarian or vegan.

“It’s ethical to kill animals for food because of survival of the fittest, but it also isn’t because some see it as inhumane,” said Edward Tkachenko, junior.

The Food and Agriculture Organization projects that by 2030, the average human will eat 100 pounds of meat per year, almost 30 pounds more than the amount an average human eats now.  

“It is such a widely popular food source that there would be an outrage if it were to be stopped produced,” said Tkachenko.

In the future, many believe livestock production will most likely continue to be a large driving force for protein consumption globally.