According to the United Nations Report on Global Warming, the meat production industry is one of the “most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. Currently 18% of carbon dioxide green house gas emissions is directly related to factory farming. The rapid deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is leaving the area vulnerable to permanent damages. Forest are torn down, slashed, and burned to grow soy and corn for cattle. Worldwide one third of usable land is now being dedicated to animal farming. Deforestation is pouring carbon dioxide reserves into the atmosphere, that prior to the slashing were in a carbon sink.
Animals release methane, nitrous oxide, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide during digestion and it resides in their feces. Methane and nitrous oxide traps 20 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide and factory farms are the greatest contributer. These three greenhouse gases combined are the main compounds that contribute to the majority of global warming .
The production of one pound of meat can use around 5,000 gallons of water, in order to produce one pound of meat and 10 times as much grain must be ingested. In areas that experience water shortages the choice comes down to having an animal farm or having clean drinking water. In the Omnivores Dilemma, Pollen goes into detail about how local water systems near factory farms are polluted from repeated waste lagoons spills, antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides that are used on the factory farms. One of the first large-scale waste spills from a factory farm occurred in North Carolina in 1955. The waste lagoon spill was twice the size of the Exxon spill; this destroyed every river ecosystem from the spill down to sea.
There is a common belief that people need way more protein than is actually necessary or even healthy. Excess protein congests the liver, overworks the kidneys, and is linked to urinary disease, renal caner, and lymph sarcoma. Furthermore, animal proteins contain toxic inorganic acids, which are often carcinogenic. Factory farms are no longer being developed to fill a need of a food source but now have become the source for indulgence leading to high obesity rates.
Half of the antibiotics used in the U.S each year are feed to animals in factory farms. The enormous amounts of antibiotics that are being pumped in animals are causing an increase in tolerance for the humans that eat them. Along with the antibiotics, these animals are ingesting mass amount of pesticides, which can be found in 95-99% of meat. In the official Food and Drug Administration’s report there was evidence of bacon that had 48 different industrial residues and hot dogs with 123 residues. Containments are derived unnatural compounds from things such as pollutants, pesticides, and hormones. Most of the consumed meat in America contains anywhere between 48-123 containments some which have been linked to a leading cause in cancer .
Government representatives have proven time and time again through their regulatory inaction and continued support for agricultural subsidies that they are unable to take on the responsibility that they are expected to provide. In this way, meat consumption in the US has become a massive issue that is leading the world toward more unsustainable food systems. As a global leader in meat production, America witnesses the practices being used throughout the rest of the world as other nations try to catch up with the meat consumption rates. When cruelty becomes institutionalized it assumes legality over practices, cruelty and environmental degradation become easily adopted by new factory farms in growing countries. Thus, it is important that this issue becomes a part of the national, if not international, discussion on sustainable practices.
Pollan, M. (2006). The Omnivore’s dilemma: a natural history of four meals . New York: Penguin.