Donna and I adopted a plant-based diet in September 2012. Our primary motivation was to improve our health and minimize the risk of age-related illnesses that our parents developed (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.). Other people eschew (no pun intended) meat and dairy for the love of animals, and yet others mainly do it to limit the negative impact on the environment.
We were only vaguely aware of the drastic impact that consuming meat/dairy has on the environment until recently, when a friend introduced us to the video documentary, Cowspiracy. What an eye opener! This documentary uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill. Despite this, the documentary points out that the very environmental agencies whose mission is to elevate our awareness and protect the planet barely even address the issue on their websites.
The continued escalation of population growth makes it harder and harder to feed the masses with meat and dairy products without inflicting irreparable damage to mother earth (greenhouse gas emissions, rainforest destruction, water usage and pollution, animal species extinction, loss of animal habitat). The population grows by 82 million people every year. There has been more growth in population in the last fifty years than the previous 2 million years that humans have existed. http://www.populationmedia.org/issues/population/ The best and perhaps the only way to feed the Earth’s growing population is with an energy efficient plant-based diet. It takes 16 lbs of grain to make 1 lb of beef. It requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef compared to only 25 gallons to produce 1 pound of grain.
Donna and I did some follow up research, to verify the accuracy of the facts presented in the documentary. It didn’t take long to see that the film is definitely on the right track. Water.usgs.gov has facts and figures on water use. News.cornell.edu has facts about grain production and water usage. Faostat3.fao.org (United Nations) has extensive data on land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and much more. At environment.nationalgeographic.com, you can click on the Personal Energy meter to calculate your own impact on the environment. As you take the survey, you can see pretty readily how your dietary habits contribute to your energy footprint.
We were so moved by this documentary, that we spent hours reviewing the film and taking notes to see if we could capture the insights and facts presented. It’s a lot to wrap your head around. Having it in print makes it easier to understand the enormity of the impact the animal agriculture industry has on our ability to sustain our life on this planet.
Notes from Cowspiracy
Individual conservation habits are not enough. We need to address the larger issue.
On 11/29/2006, the United Nations reported that cattle produce more greenhouse gas globally than the entire transportation sector. 18% compared to 13%. Cows produce methane gas from digestion. Methane is 25 to 100 times more destructive than C02 from vehicles. Livestock is the leading cause of environmental degradation and resource consumption. Why aren’t environmental groups all over this?
Greenpeace, sierra club, amazon watch, 350.org, rainforest action network, climate reality, NRDC (national resources defense council), Surfrider foundation, the Climate Reality Project, Oceana, WWF. Their campaigns focus on a number of environmental ills, but nothing on animal agriculture.
Fracking uses 100 billion gallons of water per year in us, animal agriculture uses 34 trillion gallons of water. Methane emissions from both is about equal.
The average Californian uses about 1500 gallons per person per day. (pacific institute water program) half of that is related to consumption of meat and dairy products. Animals eat water intensive grains.
A One-quarter pound hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce. That’s equal to showering for two months. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.
Domestic water use is only 5% compared to 55% for animal agriculture.
Government dept of water resources website, Save our water campaign. Outlines behavior changes, but nothing about animal savings.
CA dept water resources interview. Statewide integrated water management and chief, water use and efficiency branch. They recommended low flow shower heads, fix sprinklers and minimal yard water. Role of animal agriculture – drew a blank, but they later admitted that the water footprint of the animal husbandry is greater than all other activities. It requires 477 gallons of water to produce one egg, and it requires almost 900 gallons of water to produce a pound of cheese.
In 2009, two advisors from the World bank released an analysis of human induced greenhouse gasses finding that animal agriculture is responsible for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions. It is due to cutting down rainforest , animal waste emissions, and respiration.
Raising animals for food consumes 1/3 of all the planet’s fresh water. Occupies up to 45% of the earth’s land, and responsible up to 91% of amazon destruction., is a leading cause of species extinction, leading cause ocean dead zones, and leading cause of habitat destruction. Yet the environmental groups don’t address this issue.
Richard Oppenlander, researcher, without using any gas or fuel, we will exceed our max carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emission by 2030, simply because of raising livestock.
Kirk Smith Cal Berkeley Prof of Global environmental Health. Reduce methane, levelin atmosphere goes down quickly, in decades. Reduce CO2, takes 100 years or so.
Demosthenes Maratos, the sustainability institute at Mollory College, animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to every known environmental ailment known to human kind (desforestation, land use water scarcity, destabilization of communities, world hunger, …
Dr. Will Tuttle, Environmental and Ethics Author. 10,000 years ago, free living animals made up 99% of the biomass, and humans made up 1%. Today, humans and the animals we own as property make up 98% of the biomass. Wild free living animals make up only 2%. We stole the planet. Rainforest is being cut down at the rate of one acre per second. The driving force behind all of this is animal agriculture.
Michael Pollan, Environmental and food author. Environmental groups don’t address the devastating effects of animal agriculture because of focus groups – it is a political loser for them. If they were identified as anti meat, they would lose members and therefore contributors. Even Al Gore didn’t address animal agriculture.
Bruce Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director of Sierra Club. Said leading cause of climate change is burning too many fossil fuels.
116,000 pounds of farm animal excrement is produced every second in the US alone.
Scientists predict fishless oceans by 2048. 28 billion animals were pulled out of the oceans last year. Don’t have opportunity to recover.
To meet the demand of 90 millon tons of fish, the fishing industry use massive fish nets. For every pound of fish food trapped in large nets, up to 5 pounds of untargeted fish are caught as well – aka by-kill. 40 to 50 million sharks are killed each year as bi-kill.
Estimated that every day, 100 plant, animal and insect species are lost due to deforestation.
Estimated that palm oil harvesting is responsible for 26 million acres of forest being lost (2013 USDA), but livestock and their food products are responsible for 136 million acres of rainforest lost to date.
Over 1,100 activists in Brazil that stood up against cattle ranching have been killed in the last 20 years.
Grass fed beef is not a sustainable way to feed the US population. There are 314 million people in the US that average 209 lbs of meat a year. It takes about 11.7 acres to produce enough beef for each person. It would take 3.7 billion acres to produce that, but there are only 1.9 billion acres in the US. It takes 23 months for a grass fed fed animal to mature; only 15 months for grain fed. That’s 8 additional months of water use, land use, feed and waste, which is a huge hit on the carbon footprint. So, grassfed beef is even less sustainable than factory farming.
Organic dairy farmer – organic dairy farming can’t meet the world demand of dairy products. A single cow consumes 140-150 lbs of feed a day. that’s 20 tons of grain per week. A cow drinks between 30-40 gallons of water per day. All dairy animals and offspring end up as beef. Dairyman says there is not enough land in the world to produce organic dairy for everyone. 1 gallon of milk takes up to 1000 gallons of water to produce.
Wild horses are being rounded up and cleared off the land to make room for cattle. The bureau of land management allocates the majority of open land, water, and feed resources to cattle. Also, wolves, coyotes, and other predators are routinely killed off. The USDA does aerial gunning of predators at the request of ranchers. Congress is approving this killing on public lands.
Animal agriculture alliance agreed to an interview. When asked about making donations to greenpeace and other environmental groups, they refused to comment. The obvious implication is that large contributions from the animal agriculture industry are the primary reason that the environmental groups totally ignore the largest to the environment – animal agriculture.
13 states have food disparagement laws. It allows food manufacturers and processers to sue others that make disparaging comments about their food products. Not California. But under the patriot act, you can tell the truth and be guilty if you cause a disruption of the profits of the animal agriculture industry.
Animal rights activists are at the number one domestic terrorism threat according to the FBI. Because they directly threaten corporate profits.
Population levels play a huge role. In 1812 there were 1 billion people on the planet. In 1912, 1.5 billion. In 2012, 7 billion. And we raise 70 billion farm animals. Humans drink 5.2 billion gallons of water and eat 21 billion pounds of food a day. The 1.5 billion cows alone drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion pounds of food each day.
We are growing enough food to feed between 12-15 billion people. We have about 1 billion people starving. 50% of grain and legumes are fed to animals. In US, it is more like 70 to 90%. You can produce roughly 15 times more protein on a given area of land with plants based sources rather than meat.
Chickens are killed at 80 days for meat. Egg layers are killed in about 18-20 months. Free range doesn’t matter. They are killed regardless.
Bill gates sponsors hcfoods (Hamilton creek foods) and developed a low cholesterol alternative to eggs. Chickens eat soy and grain to produce eggs. The energy conversion ration is about 38 to 1. Alternatively, HC uses plants to convert to food (eggs) and the ratio is about 2 to 1. Founded 1987. Imports Asian foods to California. Omega creamery – plant based dairy alternatives that takes 1/20th of the land and resources required by dairy.. Ethan Brown beyond meat – plant-based meat.
If you only go Meatless on Monday, you are still contributing to destruction of the environment 6 days a week.
Michael Klapper, MD healthy vegan. The purpose of cows milk is to turn a 65lb calf into a 400 lb cow as rapidly as possible. Milk is baby calf growth food. Everything in milk, the hormones, the sodium, the lipids, protein, the growth factors, the IGF, is there to promote growth of the calf into a huge cow. Even if you clot it into yogurt, make it into cheese, freeze it into ice cream, it is still baby calf growth food.
Growers are successfully using plant based nutrients to fertilize the soil. Don’t need animal manure. It’s more efficient.
There are 229,000 more people on the planet every day! (384,000 born and 156,000 die World population data sheet 2010.) You need 34,000 additional acres of farmable land per day to feed these people using the current animal agriculture model. John Jeavons Biointensive Farming Innovator.
To feed a person on a vegan diet requires 1/6 acre of land. To feed the same person on a vegetarian diet including eggs and dairy requires 3 times that (1/2 acre). To feed the same person with a diet including meat, eggs, and dairy requires 18 times a much land (3 acres). This is because you anc produce 37,000 lbs of vegetables in a 1.5 acre plot of land, but only 375 lbs of meat on that same plot of land.
A vegan diet produces half the CO2 as an omnivore, 1/11 amount of fossil fuels, 1/13 the amount of water, and 1/18 the amount of land. By eating vegan, you can save every day:
1,100 gallons of water
45 lbs. of grain
30 sq ft of forest
20 lbs of CO2
1 animal’s life
if everyone was vegan, we wouldn’t have to breed cows, chickens, etc, and we couldn’t have to feed and water them and provide land for them. The forests would come back, wildlife, oceans, rivers clean, air, health would improve. Renewable energy is a good idea, but it is projected to take at least 20 years and 18 trillion dollars to develop. We don’t have that long or that money. The other solution is to stop eating animals.
75% of americans consider themselves to be environmentalists. If they all ate responsibly, it would put us on a new course. Lyman.
Will Anderson, Greenpeace Alaska Founder. We will not succeed, until we stop animal agriculture. Will not save ecosystems, have enough food to feed the planet, will not stop global warming, will not stop pollution and the dead zones that run off the fields of corn and soy for animal feed, and we will not stop the killing of preditors.
We need to get beyond organics to sustainability, and beyond that to thrivability.