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Why Meat and Dairy Consumption Contribute to Climate Change

Juliette Kando is a dancer, choreologist, author on fitness and health, and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.

When humans had to hunt for survival, one catch fed a whole village for a week.

When humans had to hunt for survival, one catch fed a whole village for a week.

With an uncontrollable growing surplus of animal waste that produces dangerous levels of methane in the atmosphere, experts say that we do't have any time left before the damage to human health and the planet becomes irreversible. One could safely say that meat eaters, worse than smokers, spoil the environment for everyone else on the planet. Like smokers, meat eaters today, are increasingly regarded as the environmental culprits in society. Find out why replacing meat with better alternatives is the only thing we can all do, to reverse climate change.

Red Cow - says "Pooooohhhhp!"

Red Cow - says "Pooooohhhhp!"

What's Wrong with Meat?

You may not be aware that your level of meat consumption has a direct impact on your health, the environment, and climate change. Eating a lot of meat causes obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Moreover, today's unsustainable meat industry is also responsible for environmental damage to land, water, and climate. How? From out of control amounts of waste products penetrating soil, rivers and oceans and their gases polluting our air.


The U.S. consumes

  • an average of 260 lbs. of meat per year, the world's highest rate
  • 1.5 times the industrial world average
  • three times the East Asian average
  • 40 times the average in Bangladesh.

Supermarket Meat

The packaged meat you buy at the supermarket comes from intense stock farms (those that do not use any land). This meat is dangerous to human health and destroys ecosystems. In short, the meat industry poisons every meat eater in the industrial world, and the consumers are responsible. We, the consumers can reverse the damage by replacing factory-farmed meat and dairy with better alternatives.

What is Methane?

Methane (CH4) is a principal component of natural gas.The fumes rising up from animal excretion contain methane. It is also formed and released to the atmosphere by biological processes occurring in anaerobic environments. Once in the atmosphere, methane absorbs terrestrial infrared radiation that would otherwise escape to space. This property contributes to the warming of the atmosphere, which is why methane is a greenhouse gas.

Methane concentration on the planet

Methane concentration on the planet

How to Reverse Climate Change

Animal waste matter, including manure, fumes and farts, bedding, uneaten feed, and carcasses, contributes more to the greenhouse effect than all traffic put together.

Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, environmental specialists employed by the World Bank Group, have assessed that the life-cycle and supply chain of livestock production are responsible for at least half of all human-caused greenhouse gas. As a result, they advocate that replacing meat with better alternatives is the only available strategy for both reducing emissions and allowing more forests to grow. If left well alone, forests increase carbon capture at the necessary scale for reversing climate change.

Few farm animals today enjoy outdoor space, freedom of movement and fresh air.

Few farm animals today enjoy outdoor space, freedom of movement and fresh air.

What to Do with the Pooh?

Many dairies do not have enough land to absorb the fertilizing nutrients of their manure and associated animals waste products. Intensive indoor farmers have no land at all. This is sometimes remedied by distributing manure on another farmer's land. Under high livestock densities, manure production exceeds the needs of crops grown. Then, what was once useful nutrient becomes toxic pollutants to living organisms on land and water.

So what is being done?

Manure Surplus Storage Lagoons

In theory, manure surplus storage lagoons are basins that contain organic waste matter and allow it to decompose into harmless compounds. But studies conducted as early as 2002 by Simpkins et al found that 50 percent of the earthen lagoons leaked into our land and waterways.

Water Shortage

Domestic animal operations consumed nearly four billion gallons of water per day in 2010. This figure, however, only represents water used at animal-raising and slaughtering facilities. It does not account for water required to grow the crops used to feed the animals.

Irrigation is more needed in arid regions with high evaporation rates. Even on non-irrigated farms, a huge amount of water is lost to the elements through evaporation.

Only a fraction of the water currently used to grow crops to feed animals would be needed to maintain a vegetation use of land. You need to water many fields to grow food for animals. Why not water one field to grow food for humans instead? Duh!

Water Pollution

Agriculture is the number one cause of water pollution in the United States and is responsible for roughly 70 percent of polluted waterways. Climate change imperils civilization in every spot of the world equally. The time has come when individuals can no longer afford to wait for government indecision. Help! What can be done? For the time being, we must protect ourselves by using adequate water filtering systems in our homes.

Vast fields

Vast fields

Land Use Statistic

From Fact Sheets: "Thirty percent of the earth’s entire land surface – a massive 70% of all agricultural land - is used for rearing farmed animals. A third of the world’s land suitable for growing crops is used to produce feed for farmed animals."

Much of this land could host a natural habitat and be used to create food-forests.

Green Fields. How much edible food (veg & fruit) could be grown here?

Green Fields. How much edible food (veg & fruit) could be grown here?

Three Choices - Which is the Most Sensible?

Animals for meat need a huge amount of plant matter to feed on. The production of all that plant matter requires huge resources: land space, labor, water, and energy. Large scale consumption of animals has a dramatic effect on natural systems. It figures. If you have a piece of land you have a choice of three possibilities:

1. Grow Crops to Feed Animals

The two main crops grown to feed animals are genetically modified soya and corn. What is genetically modified? You give the crop a gene that resists pesticides for killing weeds and pests. A plane flies across the field and sprays it with poison. With their magic gene, your chosen crop is the only survivors on the field. That crop is then fed to animals but still carries the poison. Neither the animal that eats the crop nor you, who eats the animal are genetically modified to withstand the poison. Still wondering where cancer comes from?

2. Put a Few Cows on it

Although this seems a more organic way of producing milk, today’s regulations will demand that you inject the animals with antibiotics. Cows are mechanically milked, which causes pussy ulcers on their teats, all going into the milk, then pasteurized to take most of the goodness out of the milk.

3. Plant a Food Forest

Forests help keep the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air at healthy levels. You could say that the world's forests are the planet's lungs, they breathe in huge amounts of carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen back into the atmosphere for us to enjoy. But forests are even more than that, they are our larder of food, our pantry.To find out how a Permaculture food forest works, watch the next video.

Permaculture is the Way to Go

Permaculture is an ecological food growing metthod which seeks to develop sustainable human settlements and agricultural systems based on natural ecosystems.

Changing our Diet

As shown in the above video, the wonderful end produce of the third option is to plant a food forest. You can happily live on a large variety of organically grown fruits, vegetables, nuts and pulses without the danger of becoming obese and dying of a heart attack, diabetes or cancer. In addition, you can get a good quality juicer to make healthy juices and smoothies which will help you lose the pounds, make you healthy and help towards saving the planet all at once!

Don't Wait for Government Indecision

Come election time, no presidential candidate will put Climate Change or tackling the meat industry on its agenda. Depriving voters of their favorite addictions does not gain votes. So it is useless waiting for government legislation. It won't happen within the five-year grace period to reverse climate change. Every individual consumer, however, has the power to boycott the so damaging meat industry and replace meat with better alternatives.

Has Anything Improved Since Obama's speech in 2008?

It is Down to Us Now

No, nothing has changed. In fact, meat consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and the number of obese, diabetic children are still on the rise. Westerners still eat far too much meat for their own good.

The over-production of animals creates a surplus of animal waste (s**t) that the land can no longer absorb. No-one quite knows what to do with the excess waste other than letting it leak out into our fields, waterways and oceans, killing whatever comes in its way.

What Is Your Meat Footprint?

The Future

If you care about your health, your children’s health, and the future of the planet as a whole, you have a responsibility to boycott the meat industry.There is strong evidence to prove that meat is addictive. You don’t have to go cold-turkey. Like coming off a drug, you can reduce your meat consumption gradually. Until one day soon, you will stop eating meat altogether and ask yourself why you ever ate it in the first place. Its texture is like cardboard, the fibres stick to your teeth and rot there, giving you bad breath and cavities, it causes

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • heart failure
  • clogs up your arteries
  • damages your digestive system
  • and the environment

To Conclude

Clearly, replacing meat with better alternatives can reverse climate change but we must hurry or it will be too late. The health hazards of the meat industry to people and the planet as a whole, the way meat is produced, packaged, transported, and sold today are unsustainable and ethically unacceptable. So why eat meat? You are meat!


Methane Explained

Eating Less Meat, More Plants Helps the Environment

Eat Less Meat to Save the Planet From Climate Change

What Is Permaculture?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 30, 2015:

We should reduce meat consumption, mire on veggies

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on December 09, 2014:

I agree Lumen2light, some hippies during the sixties already ran their cars on chicken-shit and it works. You are also correct in saying that the meat industry is not the only culprit.

The point I tried to make is that every individual has the power to boycott mass-produced meat, both for personal health reasons and for the sake of the health of the planet as a whole.

Neil Coulson from Dundee, Scotland on April 01, 2013:

An interesting read with lots of good information, but before you start to condemn the eating of meat and the whole industry, look at what you write. It is not a matter that cows produce a lot of waste, it is that that waste is not used by man. every time you cut the grass you are creating CO2 prematurely. We can use the warmth and the CO2 produced from composting to feed plants, just as we can use the waste from animals to produce methane gas for fuel.

There is no reason any one industry should be isolated as a cause for global climate change, all industry, including farming are guilty of the fact. What needs to be looked at is the efficient use of the waste products.

And if you want healthy food, grow your own. It tastes so much better from your own garden.

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on January 27, 2013:


Have you watched the Gary Yourofsky video above?

Rhys Baker from Peterborough, UK on January 27, 2013:

Thanks, Marcy!

@Sue, I am not disputing many of your excellent points made in this article, just the bottom line. Whilst more vegetarians would MITIGATE man-made climate change, it will not and cannot reverse it - there are just too many other sources of man made carbon, not to mention other sources of carbon. Certainly, reducing worldwide meat consumption should be a priority, but asking everyone to go veggie is unrealistic. I wouldn't demand you eat meat.

Also, water vapour is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide or methane - and that is a by-product of arable farming. Farming full stop is damaging to the environment - something you do touch upon - its just veggie farming isn't as damaging.

As to your final paragraph, that is your opinion and I respect it. Personally I find meat delicious with a great texture. It is fantastic high-energy food and great for sports training. We shall never agree on that point :)

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on January 27, 2013:

It's a really old book, you can probsbly get it for practically nothing on Amazon (used copy). It also has info about combining non-meat proteins to get a better quality of nutrients. I'd be interested in what you think of the book, if you get it. TFScientist is one of my favorites here - he was in my AP group!! Yay!

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on January 27, 2013:

Excellent article, Sue. Voted Up++ and shared. If I could have a wish granted, it would be to have huge factory farms that produce supermarket meat all closed forever!

Just a note to alwaysamber....Be careful with the veggie burgers if they're made of soy. Unfermented soy causes a lot of problems, including what it can do to your thyroid gland. I know, because I ate soy products for several years and wrecked my thyroid. Also, unless the soybeans are organic, they're soaked in hexene (you can do a Google search to find out how bad that is), so you're not doing yourself any favors if you're eating soyburgers or drinking soy milk.

On the other hand, if you're making your own veggie burgers from beans, lentils, carrots and other vegetables, nuts and seeds other than soy, those types of meat substitutes are valuable--not to mention tastier than the commercial offerings.


alwaysamber on January 27, 2013:

I enjoyed reading this hub. I'm not a big meat water, especially with pork. My favorite is chicken, although I think that I could do without meat, altogether. I enjoy other alternatives, such as veggie burgers. Very yummy!

Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on January 27, 2013:

I have drastically reduced the amount of meat in my diet. I have a love of cheese and yogurt, but I am slowly working on reducing those as well. As a result, I feel much better. I have more energy, clearer skin and better hair. I am trying to convince my family to start the reduction too, but it is a hard sell. Thanks for spreading the word about this.

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on January 27, 2013:

Hi Mary,

No, I haven't read 'Diet for a Small Planet', thank you for mentioning it. I am going to order it and read it. Then give it to someone like TFScientist above for their birthday! :)

Rhys Baker from Peterborough, UK on January 27, 2013:

Whilst it is true that agriculture is a huge source of our carbon emissions (particularly from farting and belching ruminants) just as much, if not more, is also produced by the trillions of termites on our planet. Equally, arable farming is carbon intensive, particularly where fertilisers pesticides and large machinery are used.

As to the damages your digestive system comment, that is only in excess. Remember, we are omnivores and are adapted to eat meat. Completely meat-free diets have just as many health problems if not supplemented - another industry that is ridiculously carbon heavy.

Still, a great article that makes you think.

Sunnie Day on January 27, 2013:

Wonderful hub with much useful information. Thank you! Sharing :)

Paul Maplesden from Asheville, NC on January 27, 2013:

As a vegetarian of 23 years, I thought your hub was excellent. It provides an in-depth look at the problem and suggests some great alternatives. Thanks for drawing attention to such an important subject.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on January 27, 2013:

This is an excellent and well-researched hub! I'm definitely in the meat-free camp; I haven't eaten red meat (beef, pork, mutton, etc.) for many years. Having meat in your diet ages you, and you are right about the effect on the planet.

Have you read 'Diet for a Small Planet?' It's an old book, but embraces much of what you say here (I didn't see it referenced - could have missed it). We use far more land to feed and produce meat, and feed far fewer people, than if we ate more grains. I do eat fish, by the way, and some poultry. But for many years, I did not even eat those products.

Nice work! Voted up and shared!

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on July 05, 2012:

Nice to see animals in fields.

beingwell from Bangkok on June 12, 2012:

Very in-depth thought on meat consumption. I personally like eating meat (more of pork rather than beef actually). My relatives are hogs and cattle raisers. They do it the traditional way.. growing them on pastured fields.

Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia on March 27, 2012:

Good for you Global-Chica! You will soon find that meat doesn't really agree with you any more, now you know the facts.

Anna from New York, NY on March 27, 2012:

I found this hub very informative. I had no idea that agriculture is the #1 cause of water pollution in the US! I'm actually slowly becoming vegetarian and have drastically reduced the amount of meat I eat. So I hope that I'm helping the environment with this.

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