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

There are about 42,000 feedlots in 13 major cattle-
feeding states in the United states. The feedlot is generaly 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 estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone. The hormones stimulate the
cells to produce additional protein, adding muscle and fat tissue more rapidly.
Today 80 percent of all the herbicides used in the United States are sprayed on
corn and soybeans. After being consumed by the cattle, these herbicides
accumulate in their bodies and are passed along to the consumer in finished cuts
of beef. beef now ranks number one in herbicide contamination and number two in
overall pesticide contamination. Some feedlots now expiriment with adding
cardboard, newspapers, and sawdust to the feed to reduce costs. Other factory
farms scrape up the manure from chicken houses and pigpens and add it directly
to cattle feed. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials say that it is not
uncommon for some feedlot operators to mix industrial sewage and oils into the
feed to reduce costs and fatten animals more quickly.

Moving beyond beef in our daily diets