The Environment

Raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water. The byproducts of animal agriculture pollute our air and waterways.

As the world’s appetite for meat increases, countries around the globe are bulldozing huge swaths of land to make more room for animals as well as crops to feed them. From tropical rainforests in Brazil to ancient pine forests in China, entire ecosystems are being destroyed to fuel humans’ addiction to meat.

Chickens, pigs, cattle, and other animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the U.S. A single pig consumes 21 gallons of drinking water per day, while a cow on a dairy farm drinks as much as 50 gallons daily.1,2

Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of climate change. Producing a little more than 2 pounds of beef causes more greenhouse-gas emissions than driving a car for three hours and uses up more energy than leaving your house lights on for the same period of time.3 According to the United Nations, a global shift toward a vegan diet is one of the steps necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.4 The Worldwatch Institute estimates that at least 51 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide can be attributed to “livestock and their byproducts.”5

The 1 trillion pounds of waste produced by factory-farmed animals each year are usually used to fertilize crops, and they subsequently end up running off into waterways—along with the drugs and bacteria that they contain.6

In addition to polluting the environment, factory farming strives to produce the most meat, milk, and eggs as quickly and cheaply as possible and in the smallest amount of space possible, resulting in abusive conditions for animals. Cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, and other animals are kept in small cages or stalls, where they’re often unable to turn around. They’re deprived of exercise so that all their energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk for human consumption. They’re fed drugs that fatten them more quickly, and they’re genetically manipulated to grow faster or produce much more milk or eggs than they would naturally.

5 Shocking Facts About Factory Farming and the Environment

  1. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agricultural runoff is the number one source of pollution in our waterways.7
  2. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole-wheat flour.8
  3. According to a report by the California State Senate, “Studies have … shown that [animal waste] lagoons emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation and neurochemical problems in humans.”9
  4. According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, seven football fields’ worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them.10
  5. The EPA reports that roughly 80 percent of ammonia emissions in the U.S. come from animal waste.11

What You Can Do

The easiest way to help save the planet and to stop supporting cruelty to chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals is by going vegan. With so many yummy vegan foods out there, eating green has never been more delicious! Whether you go vegan for the environment, your health, or animals, you have the power to change the world, simply by changing what’s on your plate.


1Theo van Kempen, “Whole Farm Water Use,” North Carolina State University Swine Extension, Jul. 2003.
2Rick Grant, “Water Quality and Requirements for Dairy Cattle,” NebGuide, Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 1996.
3Daniele Fanelli, “Meat Is Murder on the Environment,” New Scientist 18 Jul. 2007.
4International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, “Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production,” United Nations Environment Programme, 2010.
5Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, “Livestock and Climate Change,” World Watch Nov./Dec. 2009.
6R.S. Dungan, “Board-Invited Review: Fate and Transport of Bioaerosols Associated With Livestock Operations and Manures,” Journal of Animal Science,” 88(2010): 3693–706.
7U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
8Marcia Kreith, “Water Inputs in California Food Production,” Water Education Foundation, 27 Sept. 1991.
9Kip Wiley et al., “Confined Animal Facilities in California,” California State Senate, Nov. 2004.
10Smithsonian Institution, “Smithsonian Researchers Show Amazonian Deforestation Accelerating,” Science Daily 15 Jan. 2002.
11State of North Carolina, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, “Review of Emission Factors and Methodologies to Estimate Ammonia Emissions From Animal Waste Handling,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Apr. 2002.



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