Taking (Live)Stock

A follow up to yesterday’s post on PETA: If using seductive women and the vegetables who love them to promote vegetarianism turns you off and muddies the ethical issue, consider something more practical.

Raising livestock is a shitty business.

Sorry, no half-undressed women today

Sorry, no half-undressed women today

OK, that was a cheap attempt to grab your attention. But the latest issue of Vegetarian Journal (not available here, but there are excerpts from some past issues and info on subscribing) discusses the many ways raising livestock impacts the world’s water supply. One of them is the pollution caused by dumping animal waste into sources of drinking water. Not as common here as in developing countries, but a growing problem as the people in those nations try to emulate the West and replace traditional grain-and-plant based diets with more meat-centric ones.

Although the VG article is new, it actually highlight info that has been around since 2006. It was first published in a UN report called Livestock’s Long Shadow. Water scarcity, because of pollution and increased consumption, is a growing problem. Raising livestock, and ever-more of it, adds to the woes in several ways. The waste issue is just one of them. Other factors: the growing amounts of amount of water given directly to the animals, and the increased water needed to grow the feed crops that sustain them. Also at play: the demand for land to raise those feed crops leads to the destruction of grasslands and rain forests.

Here are some numbers on water use and agriculture, and general facts about food production:

To grow wheat requires 900 liters of water per kilogram produced.

To raise a pig requires 6,000 liters per kg.

To raise beef on rangeland: 120,000 liters, at a minimum, per kg.

Raising livestock produces more greenhouse gases than all cars, trucks, and SUV’s combined.

The livestock sector uses 70 percent of the earth’s agricultural land to grow feed.

The livestock sector causes 55 percent of soil erosion in the United States.

(Sources: first three based on work of David Pimentel, Ph.D., co-author of Food, Energy, and Society; last three from the UN study, as reported in Vegetarian Journal)

Yummy - and all vegan

Yummy - and all vegan

I guess some folks, like maybe my buddy Steve Johnson in yesterday’s post, won’t be too distressed. Less water, fewer trees? That’s sad. Now give me another burger so I can show PETA what I think of them! But for people concerned about pollution and dwindling water supplies, all this info suggests just another reason why we should look past PETA’s penchant for sensationalism and focus on the message. As one UN official involved in climate change said, “The best solution would be for us all to become vegetarians.” And if you can go the vegan route, so much the better, as that is the only way to completely end the livestock-derived pollution and increased water consumption.


~ by mburgan on February 3, 2009.

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