Animal agriculture meats its match

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Juliette Guice ’17

With a population of 318.9 million people, the United States is one of the leading meat consumers in the world. In fact, the average US citizen consumes 270.7 pounds of meat per year. While it is beneficial for Americans to receive essential nutrients from meat products, we should realize that meat production and consumption utilizes unnecessary amounts of water and energy that is damaging to the Earth.
After watching Mr. Kip Andersen and Mr. Keegan Kuhn’s documentary COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret, the over-consumption of meat products and its effects on our world’s future horrified me. This documentary exposes leading environmental organizations and introduces people to the dangers of animal agriculture and its negative effect on society.

Juliette Guice ’17

According to cowspiracy.com, “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.”
In addition, according to worldwatch.org, “livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”
Along with saving our resources, reducing our meat intake has significant health benefits. According to mindbodygreen.com, cutting down on meat consumption is likely to reduce risk of heart disease, reduce fat intake, reduce greenhouse gases, saves money, curtails animal cruelty, and helps to save the rainforest from destruction.
Why does our society neglect this problem? Instead of simply turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth to cut the amount of water wasted, we can also minimize our meat intake. According to npr.com, it requires 6.7 pounds of grains and forage, 74.5 square feet for grazing and growing feed crops and 1,036 British Thermal Unit (BTUs) for feed production and transport to create only a one quarter-pound hamburger. This is an unnecessary amount of resources for such a small product.
According to earthsave.org, it requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. We would have to turn the faucet off 500 times when we brush our teeth to save the equivalent of eating one less burger, according to glencanyon.org. If cutting down on one burger saves all of these resources, why do we insist on consuming so many animal products? Americans have developed an obsession with meat and environmental groups do not want to lose support by attacking the American lifestyle.
According to nature.com, emissions from agriculture will increase 80 percent by 2050. How are we going to protect our recourses from this growing issue?
The answer is simple. However, the plan is not easy. American society should aim to be less dependent on meat as a major source of food. As the documentary states, we cannot simply cut out meat one day of the week. Instead, we need to recognize that other food groups are just as capable of providing essential nutrients. Meat production is destroying our Earth, and we should make an effort to be more cautious of the foods we consume and their environmental effects.
Society needs to significantly decrease its amount of meat consumption. If we decrease our intake, the animal agriculture industry will shrink and society will start to make a positive turn toward protecting the earth for years to come .
– Kathryn Allyn, Staff Writer