The Environmental Impact of Eating Beef and Dairy Products

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  • Topic: Milk, Cattle, Dairy farming
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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The Environmental Impact of Eating Beef and Dairy Products

There are currently 1.28 billion cattle populating the
earth. They occupy nearly 24 percent of the landmass of the planet. Their combined weight exceeds that of the earth's entire human population. Raising cows for beef has been linked to several environmental problems, and eating beef can worsen your health. The Dairy Industry puts not only your health in danger from consuming their products, but the lives of the cows that produce them.

There is severe environmental damage brought on by
cattle ranching, including the destruction of rainforests and grasslands. Since 1960 more than 25 percent of Central America's forests have been cleared to create pastureland for grazing cattle. By the late 1970's two-thirds of all agricultural land in Central America was occupied by cattle and other livestock. More than half the rual families in Central America-35 million people-are now landless or own too litle land to support themselves. Cattle are also a major cause of desertification around the planet. Today about 1.3 billion cattle are trampling and stripping much of the vegetative cover from the earth's remaining grasslands. Each animal eats its way through 900 pounds of vegetation a month. Without plants to anchor the soil, absorb the water, and recycle the nutrients, the land has become increasingly vulnerable to wind and water erosion. More than 60 percent of the world's rangeland has been damaged by overgrazing during the past half century.

Cattle ranching has also been linked to Global Warming.
The grain-fed-cattle complex is now a significant factor in the emission of three of the gases that cause the greenhouse effect- methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxides- and is likely to play an even larger role in Global Warming in the coming decades. The burning of fossil fuels accounted for nearly two- thirds of the 815 billion tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in 1987. The other third came from the increased burning of the forests and grasslands. When the trees are cleared and burned to make room for cattle pastures, they emit a massive volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Commercial cattle ranching also contributes to Global Warming in other ways. With 70 percent of all U. S. grain production now devoted to livestock feed, much of ot for cattle, the energy burned by farm machinery and transport vehicles just to produce and ship the feed represents a significant addition to carbon dioxide emissions. It now takes the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of grain-fed beef in the United States. To sustain the yearly beef requirements of an average family of four requires the use of more than 260 gallons of fossil fuel. Finally; Nitrous Oxide, which accounts for 6 percent of the global warming effect, is released from fertilizer used in growing the feed; and methane, which makes up 18 percent, is emitted from the cattle.

The final victims of the world cattle complex are the
animals themselves. Immediately after birth, male calves are castrated to make them more "docile", and to improve the quality of their meat. To ensure that the animals will not injure each other, they are dehorned with a chemical paste that burns out their horns' roots. Neither of these procedures is done with anesthesia.

There are about 42,000 feedlots in 13 major cattle-
feeding states in the United states. The feedlot is generally a fenced-in area
with a concrete feed trough along one side. In many of the larger feedlots, thousands of cattle are crowded together side by side in severely cramped quarters. To obtain the optimum weight gain in the minimum time, feedlot managers administer a variety of pharmaceuticals to their cattle, including growth-stimulating hormones and feed additives. Anabolic steroids, in the form of small time-release pellets, are implanted in the animals' ears. cattle are given...
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