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Aerial View of Forest

Land

 

 

The production of red meat, particularly beef, has enormous impacts on land use. A significant portion of global land is used for animal agriculture. In the U.S., for example, 45% of all land is used to raise animals for human consumption. Globally, half of habitable land is used for agriculture, with 77% of that land including grazing land and growing food fed to livestock.

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The production of red meat is extremely damaging to the environment. The following are just a few ways red meat harms our ecosystem:

 

Biodiversity Loss:

  • Red meat production, especially from industrialized livestock operations, contributes significantly to biodiversity loss. As land is cleared for animal agriculture, habitats for various species are destroyed, leading to a decrease in biodiversity. The livestock industry also directly targets certain species to protect its profits, often killing predators that pose a threat to livestock. In addition, grass-eating species such as elk, deer, and pronghorn are often killed en masse to reserve more feed for cattle. It is estimated that 60% of biodiversity loss today can be attributed to animal agriculture. If current meat-consumption trends continue, we could see the habitat loss for 17,000 species by 2050.

 

Deforestation:

  • Deforestation, largely driven by the demand for red meat, has caused the destruction of millions of acres of forest for agricultural land. This has led to biodiversity loss and has contributed to climate change through the release of carbon stored in trees and soil into the atmosphere. Beef production is the leading cause of deforestation, with 41% of deforestation—and 80% of Amazon deforestation—driven entirely by beef production. Beef production is responsible for 36% of all agriculture-linked conversion of forests.

 

Soil Degradation:

  • The meat industry is a major cause of soil erosion. In the U.S., for example, the meat industry is responsible for 85% of all soil erosion. There is often an extreme loss of topsoil and organic matter when forests are turned  into pasture, when existing pastures are overgrazed, or when marginal land is used to grow cattle feed. It can take decades or centuries to replace the lost topsoil and organic matter. In addition, the loss disrupts the soil’s ability to store carbon, contributing to climate change.

  • Furthermore, the soil of land used for feed crops experience both nutrient pollution and nutrient depletion. Nutrient pollution is caused by the excessive use of manure as a fertilizer. Nutrient depletion is caused by monoculture farming, which is the repeated cultivation of a single feed crop on a given piece of land.  

 

It is noteworthy that transitioning to vegan diets has the potential to reduce the amount of land we use for agriculture by 75%.

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The sources for the information on this page can be found here.

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