How meat production contributes to environmental and health problems?

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Eating meat has an environmental impact that future generations will have to deal with.

According to a new study, food production is responsible for a third of all the planet-heating gases emitted by humans, with animal meat producing twice as much pollution as plant-based foods.

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Pankaj Jagannath Jayswal (Guest Author, Author, Writer, Educationist, Counselor, AOL faculty, Electrical Engineer)
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Source: PETA
  • The environment is a synthesis of the biotic (living organisms and microorganisms) and the abiotic (inanimate objects).
  • Pollution is defined as the introduction of harmful substances into the environment that is harmful to humans and other living organisms. Pollutants are dangerous solids, liquids, or gases that are produced in higher-than-normal concentrations and degrade the quality of our environment.
  • Human activities harm the environment by polluting the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the soil in which plants grow.
sliced meats on wooden chopping board
sliced meats on a wooden chopping board

A new study adds to the evidence that nutritious diets are frequently more environmentally sustainable, while also demonstrating the feasibility of evaluating diet sustainability at the scale of specific foods rather than broader food-group categories. Dr. Holly Rippin of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and colleagues presented their findings on November 24, 2021, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. Statistical analysis of the reported diets revealed that non-vegetarian diets were associated with 59 percent higher greenhouse gas emissions than vegetarian diets. Men’s diets were linked to emissions that were 41% higher than women’s diets, owing primarily to higher meat consumption. Furthermore, people who consumed the World Health Organization’s recommended levels of saturated fats, carbohydrates, and sodium had lower greenhouse gas emissions than those who exceeded those levels.

Eating meat has an environmental impact that future generations will have to deal with. The meat industry is a major contributor to issues such as pollution, food scarcity, health issues, and the depletion of our oceans. Raising animals for food necessitates enormous amounts of water, energy, and land.

According to an analysis by the Sentience Institute99% of animals used for food in the U.S. are living on factory farms.

Animal farming for meat production
Animal farming for meat production

Animal farming for food is one of the most significant sources of water pollution in the developed world.

Bacteria, pesticides, and antibiotics found in animal flesh are also found in their feces, and these chemicals can have disastrous effects on the ecosystems surrounding large farms. Animals raised for food produce 130 times the excrement of humans in some countries! Much of the waste from factory farms and abattoirs ends up in streams and rivers, contaminating drinking water.

Animal farming is inefficient because, while animals consume large amounts of grain, they produce only small amounts of meat, dairy products, or eggs in return.

According to scientists, animals must consume up to ten kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of meat. Cattle alone consume enough food to meet the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people – more than the entire human population.

stop meat eating for climate
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“In a world where an estimated one in every six people goes hungry every day, the politics of meat consumption are increasingly heated, because meat production is an inefficient use of grain – the grain is used more efficiently when consumed directly by humans.”

-World Watch Institute

Continued meat output growth is dependent on feeding grains to animals, creating grain competition between wealthy meat eaters and the world’s poor.

” Researchers recently warned that we may face severe food shortages because so much of our grain is now being fed to animals rather than people.”

While millions of people worldwide are suffering from droughts and water scarcity, much of the world’s water supply is being diverted to animal agriculture. One kilogram of meat requires 20,940 liters of water, whereas one kilogram of wheat requires only 503 liters.

A vegetarian diet uses only 1,137 liters of water per day, whereas a meat-based diet uses more than 15,160 liters. Raising animals for food clearly places a significant strain on our already limited water supply, and water is used much more efficiently when it is used to produce crops for human consumption.

herd of brown calf
Photo by Vinicius Pontes on

As the world’s appetite for meat grows, countries all over the world are bulldozing vast swaths of land to make way for factory farms.

Clear-cutting forests for pasture and overgrazing by farmed animals have resulted in the extinction of indigenous plant and animal species, soil erosion, and eventually, desertification, rendering once-fertile land barren.

In fact, grazing animals like cows and goats are a major contributor to the spread of deserts in many parts of India: these animals eat all the plants that grow in dry areas, and without the plants’ roots to hold the soil down, rain washes away much of the fertile topsoil. What is left is an arid, lifeless desert with no plants.

As more land is irreparably damaged by the meat industry, what little arable land remains may be incapable of producing enough crops to feed the human population.

Fuel is needed to produce fertilizer for crops to feed animals, oil to run the trucks that transport them to slaughter, and electricity to freeze their carcasses. Raising animals for food consumes more than one-third of the fuel and raw materials used each year in some countries.

photo of people catching fishes
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

“Fishing is wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems all over the world.

Over the last 50 years, the fishing industry has wiped out 90% of the world’s large fish populations, and 13 of the world’s 17 major fisheries are now depleted or in serious decline.

Fishing nets capture all animals in their path, and for every fish that ends up on a plate, many other animals are captured and killed in nets. In just one year, an average of 16 kilograms of fish were sold per person worldwide, while 200 kilograms of marine animals were hauled up and discarded as by-catch.” (Source: PETA)

To summarize, a global prevention policy should be developed to combat environmental pollution as a supplement to properly managing the adverse health effects of environmental pollution. To effectively address the problem, sustainable development practices should be combined with research findings.

white and brown llama
white and brown llama

International cooperation in research, development, administration policy, monitoring, and politics is critical at this point for effective pollution control.

Environment pollution legislation must be aligned and updated, and policymakers should propose the development of a powerful tool for environmental and health protection.

As a result, the main proposal of this article is to focus on fostering local structures to promote experience and practice and then extrapolate these to the international level through the development of effective policies for sustainable ecosystem management.

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