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Even more than a gas guzzling SUV, one of the biggest causes of global warming is the modern factory farming industry.
Are you so concerned about the environment that you traded in your SUV or low-mileage car for a hybrid or electric vehicle? Awesome, but the transportation industry isn't the biggest cause of emissions.
Do you reduce, reuse, and recycle? Do you compost and get your food from local farms? I do too, but I know that the waste industry is still not the biggest cause of climate change.
I love nothing more than to hear that someone cares deeply about making some dramatic changes to save our world from flooding.
The problem is, most people don't know that factory farming is one of the biggest causes of global warming; bigger than the entire transportation industry combined. It is widely publicized that cars give off toxic emissions that can lead to climate change, so imagine a problem even worse than transportation.
With the number of animals on factory farms, there is a huge amount of feces and urine that eventually ends up in our waterways and land. Cows are enormous animals and they create a massive amount of waste which is typically deposited into liquid manure lagoons. These lagoons are either above or below ground, and have been known to leak and spill. The methane gas from cow manure alone is more harmful than the carbon dioxide emissions from the entire transportation industry.
Another 32% is for grazing for cattle. That is a huge amount of land that is set aside merely for livestock, which causes of global warming. On this land, farmers use tons of fertilizers, pesticides, and water to produce the corn for cattle to eat. This is a huge amount of energy used just to produce livestock.
Also, without grass to hold down the overgrazed topsoil, much of it runs off into the waterways as well. Our drinking water is being poisoned by fertilizer and manure runoff from nearby farms. This affects our health as well-- many studies have found that people who live near these farms develop respiratory problems from the air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency reported that over 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states have been polluted by cow, chicken, and pig waste. They also found that the groundwater in 17 states has been contaminated.
Several areas of our oceans have dead zones-- areas that fish and plants no longer inhabit-- that were created by the runoff from neighboring farms. There is a huge dead zone in the Gulf and another in the Chesapeake Bay. The impact of the runoff on the waterways is immediate and difficult to fix. This destruction of the natural ecosystem is a huge cause of global warming.
On the Humane Society's webpage for factory farming, they estimate that about 10% of our land is used for growing feed for animals.
You can read more about the facts of veganism and how it positively affects the environment here.
Well, that's hard to say. I think that anyone who cares about the environment enough to call himself an environmentalist certainly is trying to do his part to help the world. I think that many of these people simply don't know how much of an impact factory farming has on the climate, and if they did, they would likely change their habits.
There are varying degrees of responsibility. The typical American, who visits fast food restaurants often, and who usually cooks with a good amount of meat and dairy, is accidentally doing great harm to the Earth.
Someone who eats meat less frequently is still doing harm, but not quite as much. And of course, even a vegan is technically doing harm by using its resources, but it is a much lower amount of harm. But, if every American stopped eating meat today, we would eliminate one of the biggest causes of global warming, which would lessen its impact immensely and immediately.
I have a great amount of respect for people who decide to eat meat, but only from local, organic, small farms where the animals are completely free range and live full lives. There are very, very few farms that really satisfy these standards, but those that do are highly respectable. I have many friends who try to stick to eating meat only from farms like this.
However, even with a high quality farm and great treatment of animals, it would be impossible to feed every American this way. One cow alone needs acres and acres of grass to roam in his lifetime, and if he lived his full life to around 20 years of age, it would take a long time to have one cow turn into feed for a human.
And, he would eat a lot of grass and create loose soil in the meantime. Much of that soil will run off and create environmental problems, and we would still need to deal with all of the methane escaping his body. Any way you chop it, eating meat is one of the biggest causes of global warming.