The Social and Environmental Impacts of the Meat Industry

By Samantha Marquez

Though it may seem like most things in today’s world are better than the times of The Holy Roman Empire or more recently, the holocaust; the truth is, it simply is not. We may have great advances in medicine, technology and not as many crazy rulers, but today we face a threat bigger than ourselves. We are destroying our world, the only one we have. Global warming is a big issue, yes, but there are other huge things that are contributing to the fall of our ecosystem, and not only that, it is harming people in developing countries. It all starts with the meat industry.

As of today we are eating three times as much meat as our grandparents did back in the 1960’s. This is partially because of the population growth, but mainly due to the fact that there is more of a demand for pork, beef, and chicken than ever before, and in all different countries. According to livinghistoryfarm.org, “In 1961, the world’s total meat supply amounted to 71 million tons. By 2007, it was 284 million tons, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization”. With that huge of a demand, the effects are seemingly endless.

Imagine all of Earth’s land, how much of it is used for animal agriculture? Five percent, ten percent, how about 15? Well, according to science.time.com, over 30 percent of the world’s ice-free land is used to farm animals used for consumption or other byproducts. Most of this land is in poor developing countries which takes a huge toll on the residents of the area. Most of the farmers have been evicted from their farms in order to provide the lands needed by the industries. According to guengl.eu, “Industrial livestock production presents “a significant danger that the poor are being crowded out.”’ It’s leaving the farm families out to the city slums. The land industrial farms use to raise livestock and to produce cash crops could instead be used to feed the country. The governments of developing countries try to stabilize the government and economy before they try to help their citizens, so they allow these big industrial companies come in and help them economically. ‘“If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million,” stated ecologist David Pimentel of Cornell University’s of Agriculture and Life Sciences.” (scientificamerican.com) To put that into perspective, as of 2015, America has a population of 321,368,864 people, that grain could end world hunger! Yet, world hunger still exists. Though we might not be around long enough to stop world hunger because of the environmental impacts the meat industry has on the planet.

In school we were taught about the importance of the rain forest and the water cycle, how we humans or anything for that matter cannot survive without them. All the rainforests in the world used to cover 14 percent of all Earth’s land, and according to rain-tree.com, it only covers a mere 6% now. 70% of deforestation, that has happened in the Amazon, was caused because of animal agriculture. Which not only affects us humans, but tons of the indigenous animals of the Amazon. They are being killed in the process of deforestation, many not being able to find food or dying off from being separated from their pack, which in turn impacts the food chain.

The animal agriculture industries use one-third of the world’s fresh drinking water. The water-footprint to produce meat is crazy. “Basic water requirement per person per year is 18,250 litres. Water requirement to produce 1kg meat can be up to 20,000 litres” (guengl.eu). To put this into perspective, the equivalent of eating a hamburger is showering for 2 months; the amount of water used, only accounts for the meat inside the burger, not the bun or any condiments.

Most people do not necessarily consider what happens to the waste of these animals. Their waste can carry harmful bacteria, salmonella and E. Coli. What likely happens most of the time to manure is, it ends up running off into local sources of water, such as: wells, ponds, rivers, lakes, and even oceans. There are now 405 dead zones in our oceans and lakes which most can all be traced back to the cow dung. This is extremely concerning because dead zones create a uninhabitable area in the ocean, these areas are completely deprived of oxygen and show no signs of life, according to scientificamerican.com. “The most important living things on our green planet are single cell algae. And they are the most important because they produce oxygen, more oxygen than anything else does”. (ecology.com) Where do these awesome creatures live? The ocean. So everything really is just a big cycle, everything and everyone affects everything and everyone.
It is fairly upsetting that many people do not realize that everything we do in our environment truly affects many different aspects of life. Whether it be socially, by promoting world hunger from taking away people’s farming land to produce meat, or environmentally; by destroying our rain forests and oceans. Hopefully, the day will come when we decide to wake up and face the hard truths of our world. If we do not do something soon, there may be no future for us or our future generations.


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