Eating Meat and Its Environmental Impact

            I am a Twitter fanatic, and by now I’m sure my fellow tweeters have also noticed the increasing amount of pro-vegan and pro-vegetarian tweets circling the web. I have been very intrigued by how and why these people are advocating non-meat diets so hard recently. After doing research, I’ve changed from my prior, naive opinion that people stop eating meat to protect animals; I’ve now realized there are many deeper reasons behind these decisions.

I’m sure everyone has heard of the insane environmental impacts global warming is having on our Earth—wildfires, hurricanes, the list goes on. This isn’t a new topic in the news; however, it is starting to become more prominent on social media and television. Even on DePauw’s own campus, posters are scattered throughout the buildings. There are people who want to contribute to the movement to stop global warming but don’t know where to start. Most people don’t realize it’s not the amount of gas that we use every day or the amount of people who don’t recycle that are the leading cause of global warming; the truth lies within the meat production industry.

            Production of meat is the leading cause of global warming around the world. This may seem paradoxical at first, but when examined closer, the effects of all areas of meat production are astounding. Starting from the bottom up, the amount of freshwater used to keep factory farms functioning is mind-boggling. It takes about 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. All this water comes from the water the animals drink, the water used to clean the farms, and the water used to grow crops for the animals to eat (PETA).

            Pollution contributes to global warming as well. The animals held in these farms produce about 500 million tons of waste each year that is either refiltered into fields or held in “waste lagoons.” Often times this waste runs off into nearby bodies of water, killing fish and other wildlife (PETA).

            To continue, a huge contribution to environmental damage comes from the amount of land used to produce meat. Not only do the factory farms take up space, but the fields used to grow crops to feed animals take up about 56 million acres of land in the United States alone (PETA). Since 1970, more than 90% of the land cleared in the Amazon Rainforest has been utilized for grazing livestock (PETA). So one might think they are helping the environment by eating all-natural grazing animals; however, the impact on the environment is not much better in the long term. 

            Recently I’ve been trying to eat vegetarian, and I’m going to be honest and say that I love it. For me, omitting meat in my life hasn’t affected me at all. Instead of eating chicken, I eat tofu or tempeh. Especially since I’ve been at DePauw, choosing non-meat options has been significantly easier since all of it is already prepared for you. A misconception might be that people who don’t eat meat are less healthy than those who do; however, I’ve actually felt better about myself and what I’m putting into my body since I stopped eating meat. Being a student athlete, I need a certain diet to be able to perform well—even on a no-meat diet I perform the same, maybe even better.

            So yeah, it’s awesome to want to help animals, but it’s even cooler to also help the environment. My point is not to convince everyone to become vegetarian or vegan. My point IS to try and make people more aware of the environmental impact they have when they eat meat products, especially beef. Not eating meat for even one day a week can dramatically change the impact we have on the environment.