Ninety-nine out of every 100 animals killed every year are slaughtered for human consumption. That equals 10 billion land animals – much more than the human population – raised and killed for food each year – over 1 million every hour – in the United States alone.
An estimated 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger and malnutrition while the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. According to the Audubon Society, roughly 70% of the grain grown and 50% of the water consumed in the United States are used by the meat industry.
Two to 5 times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through eating meat as through direct grain consumption.
According to a 2006 United Nations report, animal agriculture is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.
Greenhouse Gases and Fossil Fuel Depletion
According to a 2009 study by environmental advisors to the World Bank, animal agriculture releases 51% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. It is responsible for more deadly greenhouse gases than all cars, trucks, planes, ships and all other forms of transportation in the world combined.
It takes 8 times as much fossil fuel to produce animal protein as it does to produce plant protein.
A 2008 study in the Journal Environmental Science and Technology found that shifting just two meals a week from meat and dairy products to a vegan diet reduces more greenhouse gases than buying all locally-sourced food.
Over half the total amount of fresh water consumed in the U.S. goes to irrigate land to grow feed for livestock.
According to the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, 87% of the use of freshwater in the U.S. is used in agriculture. Worldwide, agriculture accounts for 93% of water depletion, with the vast majority of freshwater used for farm animal feed production.
Producing one pound of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing a pound of grain protein. Factory farming wastes so much water that you can save as much water by not eating one pound of beef as you can by not showing for almost 6 months.
It takes less water to produce one year’s worth of food for a completely plant-based diet that to produce one month’s worth of food for a diet with animal products.
Nearly 80% of the agricultural land in the U.S. is used to feed the nearly 10 billion farm animals who are slaughtered each year. More than 40% of the total landmass of the U.S. is used to raise animals for food.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated 30% of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production for human consumption and livestock production generates nearly one fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases.
Fecal and Waste Contamination
Animals raised for food generate more than 100 times more excrement than the entire U.S. human population; this raw waste is not treated in sewage systems but finds its way into groundwater, the sea, rivers and lakes, killing countless fish and aquatic life, and devastating marine ecosystems.
According to a Minority Staff of Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry report, the amount of farmed animal manure produced in the United States equals five tons of waste for every woman, man, and child.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture is the single largest source of water pollution in rivers and lakes, and the waste from factory farms is a significant part of the problem.
Oxygen depletion from animal manure and fertilizer pollution has created a 7,000 square mile “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana where virtually all of the sea animals and plants have died and most forms of aquatic life can no longer survive.
According to the journal, Science, a 2-acre salmon farm produces as much waste as a town of 10,000 people. Aquaculture farms dump waste, pesticides and other chemicals directly into ecologically fragile coastal waters.
The human appetite for seafood is driving many marine species to extinction. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization estimate, more than 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted, and all fish may be gone by the year 2048 if overfishing trends continue.
The Power of One
By removing meat, eggs and dairy from the diet, one person will each year prevent the death of over 100 animals.
A Minority Staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry report states the beef in just one Big Mac represents enough wheat to make five loaves of bread.