Why Reducing Meat Consumption Is Beneficial for the Environment

by Adhithyaa Arul Murugan Alwar, August 30, 2021

Fear and pain. This is what most of us understand or have heard that animals go through when they are sent to a slaughterhouse, get killed to be used for meat, leather, fur, or other products. These animals go through intense physical and psychological suffering, but the extent that they suffer is often hidden and most of us who eat or use animal products do not typically think of the suffering that animals went through to create the product we are using. However, the suffering that animals go through is not the only consequence of consuming meat. The process of raising the animals that would be slaughtered involves using a lot of natural resources that we take for granted, it harms our ecosystem, and it is also one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

The water footprint for meat is very high

Most major countries are expected to face water scarcity or high water stress by 2040

Source: World Resources Institute

By 2040, most people will live in countries that face water-scarcity or high water stress. A rising population in the future means that water demand will grow. If the average person consumes the same amount of water directly or indirectly, many more countries and people will face significant water problems in the future. In the United States, agriculture is responsible for 80% of all water consumption. Meat has a much higher water footprint than fruits, vegetables, or grains so cutting meat consumption can greatly help save water and can reduce the water scarcity problems that many countries will face in the future. For example, a single pound of beef takes about 1800 gallons of water to produce, whereas in comparison it takes about 215 gallons of water to produce a kilogram of wheat. About 98% of the water it takes to produce beef goes to watering the grass that the cows eat.

Creating meat involves deforestation, reducing biodiversity, and leads to climate problems getting worse

Around the world, trees are being cut down in order to convert forests into farmland and cattle ranching for the meat industry. In Brazil for example, deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has occurred in order to get plenty of resources such as fertile land for farms and ranches. These trees that are cut are also left on forest floors or burned, which further increases carbon emissions. The problems of climate change such as global warming and more extreme weather patterns will speed up since there are fewer trees and forests to absorb the excess carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere.

In addition to these consequences of deforestation that is occurring partially due to the meat industry, reduction of biodiversity is also a big consequence that comes from deforestation. Deforestation and pesticides used for growing farm animal food can lead to the endangerment or extinction of thousands of species, a lot of whose species haven’t even been discovered yet. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund, 60% of global biodiversity losses are a consequence of meat consumption and this percentage is only projected to become bigger as the problem gets worse.

What you can do to help

One of the simplest and best ways that you can make a personal impact and help reduce the negative effects of climate change is by going vegan. Going vegan means that you will significantly reduce the amount of resources consumed, since it takes about 16 kilograms of grains to make one kilogram of meat. In addition, 97% of soya crops are fed to animals that people consume rather than directly. If most people go vegan or even simply cut their meat consumption and replace part of their diet with alternatives, our ecosystems and a lot of problems such as water scarcity and excess carbon in the atmosphere could be significantly reduced or even eliminated.

Sources + Further Reading

https://www.animal-ethics.org/animal-exploitation-section/animals-used-food-introduction/slaughter-animals-used-food/#:~:text=Death%20is%20a%20harm%20to,and%20pain%20before%20they%20die

https://foodprint.org/issues/the-water-footprint-of-food/

https://www.wri.org/insights/ranking-worlds-most-water-stressed-countries-2040

https://www.peta.org.uk/blog/10-shocking-stats-about-water-and-meat-eating/

https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/why-meat-is-bad-for-the-environment/

https://www.peta.org.uk/blog/meat-biodiversity/