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So You Care About the Earth?

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.

environmentalist eating meat

  • The average American eats 200 pounds of meat per year, four times the world average, and 97% of Americans consume animal products regularly.

  • Raising a cow for food is an inefficient system: we lose 97 percent of the protein we feed cows (yes, even grass-fed cows). 

  • 70% of the protein is wasted when we produce milk and eggs. 

  • Models show that if the U.S. transitioned to a legume-based diet, it could healthily feed 190 million more people using the same land area. 

                                            Greenhouse Gasses

  • Methane, produced by cows, is a potent greenhouse gas which is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame.

  • Cows produce approximately 150 billion gallons of methane per day. Reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately.

  • Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.

  • 14.5-18% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture. This exceeds the emissions from all transportation combined. 

  • Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Emissions for agriculture projected to increase 80% by 2050.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.


  • Between 33-55% of freshwater consumption in the US is through animal agriculture. Plant-based foods are dozens of times more water-efficient

  • Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.  

  • A 10-minute shower takes about 20 gallons of water. A single egg takes over 50 gallons of water to produce.

  • A pound of chicken takes about 500 gallons of water to produce, a gallon of milk takes 900 gallons of water. 

  • A pound of beef takes between 1,800-2,500 gallons of water to produce. You could shower for seven hours straight and use less water than it takes to make a single eight ounce burger—without cheese.

  • Almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese.

  • One pound of pork takes 576 gallons of water.

  • Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption. Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.

  • Californians use 1500 gallons of water per person per day. Close to half is associated with meat and dairy products. 


From the LA Times: 


  • Beef is the single largest driver of deforestation worldwide.

  • Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land.

  • Nearly half of the contiguous US is devoted to animal agriculture. 

  • 1/3 of the planet is desertified, with livestock as the leading driver.

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.

  • 1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second, mostly to graze cattle or raise crops to feed to cattle.  

  • 136 million rainforest acres have been cleared for animal agriculture. 

Ten thousand years ago, 99% of biomass of the earth was wild animals. Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98% of the biomass. 

Extinction and Biodiversity

  • Up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day due to habitat destruction. 

  • "Predator control" programs designed to protect the livestock industry helped drive keystone predators like California grizzly bears and Mexican gray wolves extinct in their ecosystems.

  • More than 175 threatened or endangered species are imperiled by livestock on federal lands in the US, where livestock grazing is promoted, protected and subsidized on 270 million acres of our public lands in 11 western states.

  • Livestock grazing — not including the large portion of agriculture devoted to cattle production or other forms of meat production — is among the greatest direct threats to imperiled species, affecting 14 percent of threatened or endangered animals and 33 percent of threatened or endangered plants. 

  • At the behest of ranchers, a federal agency known as Wildlife Services shoots, traps, and poisons millions of animals every year, including wolves and foxes and bears in National Forests, to make more room for cows and other ranched animals.

  • According to the Center for Biological Diversity: 
    On behalf of cattle rancher, the US Government last year intentionally killed 357 gray wolves; 68,186 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 361 destroyed dens; 515,915 red-winged blackbirds; 338 black bears; 375 mountain lions; 1,002 bobcats; 173 river otters plus 537 killed “unintentionally”; 3,349 foxes, plus an unknown number of fox pups in 133 dens; and 22,521 beavers.

    The program also killed 17,739 prairie dogs outright, as well as an unknown number killed in more than 47,547 burrows that were destroyed or fumigated. These figures almost certainly underestimate the actual number of animals killed, as program insiders have revealed that Wildlife Services kills many more animals than it reports.


  • The wildlife-killing program unintentionally killed more than 2,700 animals last year, including bears, bobcats, foxes, muskrats, otters, porcupines, raccoons and turtles. Its killing of non-target birds included chickadees, cardinals, ducks, eagles, hawks, herons, owls and turkeys.

  • Dozens of domestic animals, including pets and livestock, were also killed or caught. Such data reveals the indiscriminate nature of painful leg-hold traps, strangulation snares, poisons and other methods used by federal agents.

  • Grazing cattle destroy native vegetation, damages soils and stream banks. 

  • After decades of livestock grazing, once-lush streams and riparian forests have been reduced to flat, dry wastelands; once-rich topsoil has been turned to dust, causing soil erosion, stream sedimentation and wholesale elimination of many aquatic habitats;

  • Almost half the land mass of the lower 48 states is dedicated to feeding the nation’s taste for beef, chicken and pork.  

  • "Now we say, only slightly fancifully: eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot.” ~Geophysicist Gidon Eshel, in the journal Science.  

Cows are an invasive species, not native to N. America. Brought here by Colombus, they are a damaging product of colonization.  


  • Grazing cattle destroy native vegetation, damage soils and stream banks, and contaminate waterways with fecal waste.

  • Agricultural pollution is a leading source of water-quality problems, with factory farms polluting 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminating groundwater in 17 states, 

  • Livestock produce 500 million tons of manure per year.

  • In the U.S. livestock produce 116,000 lbs of waste per second. 

  • Animal farms produce massive amounts of animal waste like urine and manure that emit around 400 different harmful gases (including nitrous oxide, ammonia, particulate matter, endotoxins, and hydrogen sulfide) into  the atmosphere which can be extremely dangerous to local communities. 

By avoiding animal products, you could reduce your carbon footprint by nearly 73 percent. The carbon footprint of meat production is more than just a big number. For polar bears, it’s a factor in whether or not they’ll live to see the end of this century.


  • We could see fishless oceans by the year 2048.

  • 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted.

  • 90-100 million tons of fish are pulled from our oceans each year, equating to 2.7 trillion animals lives.

  • For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.

  • 40-50 million sharks killed in fishing lines and nets.

  • Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded deadzones around the world in our oceans.

  • Huge open-air waste lagoons, often as big as several football fields, are prone to leaks and spills. In 1995 an eight-acre hog waste lagoon in North Carolina burst, spilling 25 million gallons of manure into the New River. The spill killed about 10 million fish and closed 364,000 acres of coastal wetlands to shellfishing.

  • Runoff of chicken and hog waste from factory farms in Maryland and North Carolina is believed to have contributed to outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscicida, killing millions of fish and causing skin irritation, short-term memory loss and other cognitive problems in local people.

  • Nutrients in animal waste cause algal blooms, which use up oxygen in the water, contributing to a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico where there’s not enough oxygen to support aquatic life. The dead zone fluctuates in size each year, extending a record 8,500 square miles during the summer of 2002 and stretching over 7,700 square miles during the summer of 2010.

  • Dead zones in the oceans have quadrupled in size since 1950 - a dramatic surge that has been linked to the animal agriculture industry. 

  • Scientists are warning that this could lead to mass extinction in the long run, as sea creatures cannot survive in these zones - and could also negatively impact the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea.

  • Oxygen is fundamental to life in the oceans. The decline in ocean oxygen, caused by animal agriculture run-off, ranks

       among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment. 

                                  Whales and Dolphins

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Why Local, Grass-Fed Beef, and the latest Regenerative Agriculture Movement is Still Problematic 

We often hear people arguing that grass-fed beef is not only better than factory farmed meat, but that it can actually be beneficial for the environment. While we definitely need alternatives to the industrial farming model, we do not need to default to a system which exploits animals and introduces even more non-native species into the ecosystem. 

  • Grass-fed beef is worse than factory farmed meat in some ways. Because the cows are allowed to live longer (it takes longer for them to reach 'market weight') they actually consume more water and release more greenhouse gasses than factory farmed cows. In the end, they weigh less than a factory farmed cow, so it takes more grass-fed cows to feed the same number of people. 

  • It takes a great deal more land to raise grass-fed beef that it does to raise a factory-farmed cow. If everyone on earth only ate grass-fed beef, we would need multiple planets to have enough room for that much grassland. (see the 'Privilege' section on our Social Justice page). 

  • About 75% to 80% of grass-fed beef sold in the U.S. is grown abroad, from Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America, according to a 2017 report from the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Many U.S. customers who want to support local food are likely unaware of the foreign origin of most grass-fed beef. By law, if meat is "processed," or passes through a USDA-inspected plant (a requirement for all imported beef), it can be labeled as a product of the U.S. Therefore, 75-80% of grass fed beef Americans eat, comes with the added environmental cost of being shipped around the world. 

  • We often hear people say it is better for the environment to eat locally so that's why they're eating animals, but that has been debunked. In places as diverse as the journal Science Daily and the Harvard Business Review, it has been shown that even vegetables flown in from around the world still has a lower carbon footprint than eating animals raised locally. Of course, if you can get locally grown plant foods, that is the best scenario.
  • “Regenerative Agriculture” describes farming and grazing practices that claim to mitigate climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity – resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.  According to 'Regeneration International', the key to regenerative agriculture is that it not only “does no harm” to the land, but actually improves it. We posit that by introducing a non-native species (cows) onto a land, it is inherently doing harm by displacing native species. 

  • Nassim Nobari writes brilliantly about this in an article for Seed the Commons entitled: 'A Call to Counter the False Narrative of Regenerative Grazing': 

    "Proponents of regenerative agriculture misrepresent vegans as advocating for ecosystems without animals. They posit that animals fulfill integral functions in their ecosystems and that without them, an ecosystem can only be unhealthy and an agricultural system can only be unsustainable. Nobody is disagreeing with them, but we don’t need to commodify animals for animal life to be present. In fact, grazing in California is wiping out the diversity of animal life to make way for a few species we have decided to subjugate and profit off of.

    In the United States, farm animals are exotic species that were introduced by settlers and that have been in conflict with native wildlife since the beginning of colonization. The native Tule elk and bison could be fulfilling their ecological roles as ruminants, instead they continue to die off and to be killed because ranchers are given preferential access to land and tax dollars. Apparently all the talk of needing ruminants to build soil is less appealing when we can’t line our pockets with them.

    The false dichotomy between veganism and sustainable agriculture serves to protect a culture of carnism but it also harms the environment, as the environmental movement fails to consider the potential benefits of shifting to plant-based ecological farming systems. Domesticated animals are not a necessary component of ecological farming and doing without them would help protect biodiversity, save water and land, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and still build soil to sequester carbon.

    Even if large ruminants or herbivores were indeed absent and necessary to a given region, why can’t we imagine bringing animals into nature without commodifying them, micromanaging their whole existence and cutting short their natural lifespan? It is also curious that, when it comes to animals, the problems caused by the near-extinction of native species are to be solved by bringing in more of the invasive species. This is the opposite strategy that we have with plants. I often witness the care that conservationists apply to the restoration of native habitats: native species are replanted, areas are fenced off and invasive plants are diligently removed or even sprayed with pesticide, one by one, to give native plants a better chance. Cows are responsible for the loss of food sources and habitat of native animals–and somehow more cows are the solution?

    The cows introduced to California were not merely a byproduct of European presence but rather a key driver and mechanism of colonization. Present-day pro-grazing propaganda recycles ideas of Manifest Destiny, whereby the land is brought to its full potential through European agriculture. These days, the narrative is that cows are necessary to “heal” the soil and save us from a catastrophic future. The public buys it because of convenience (you can have your steak and feel virtuous too) and because Eurocentrism and the cultural legacy of settler colonialism endow pro-grazing arguments and imagery with intuitive appeal."


  • As Angel Lynn writes in her article entitled 'Gentle World':

    "People think this is better – the ideas of grass-fed and free-range are very popular – but what is happening is that farmers are stealing the land from the wildlife to use for cows and whomever else they’re grazing. This often requires killing wild animals through trapping, shooting or ‘aerial gunning’, poisoning and many other ways. These animals are exterminated so we can use the land to graze food animals. Wild horses are also rounded up; there are many places in the U.S. where wild horses live on the land and they just round them up and corral them so the land can be used to raise cows. It’s horrendous.” In the Bay Area, organic dairy farming has caused the deaths of native Tule elk due to fencing and competition over water and forage, yet dairy farms continue to successfully market themselves as stewards of the land."


  • The American Wild Horse Campaign describes the problem in an article entitled: 'Thousands of Wild Horses May Be Killed So You Can Eat Meat". 

    "Wild horses have already been relocated to make room for cattle ranchers, who claim that resources are too limited to support the horses. What they fail to mention, however, is that resources are being used to feed cows who are raised and killed for human consumption.  And this won’t be the first time wildlife has been culled to make room for the meat industry. Millions of wild animals are killed every year as the meat industry encroaches on wildlife habitats.

    In fact, more than half the land in the continental United States is used to raise animals for food. In 2013 more than 2 million wild animals were killed because they were seen as a threat to animal agriculture industries. These included more than 75,000 wolves; 3,700 foxes; and 419 bears. The fact is that by consuming animals, you indirectly support the destruction of wildlife populations.

    A significant way to protect wildlife is to withdraw support of the meat industry altogether by adopting a responsible, compassionate plant-based diet.

    Slaughtering horses for food is illegal in the U.S., but a market exists beyond our borders, in Europe, Japan and Russia. This is why  trailers full of horses, are regularly sent into Mexico and Canada, where slaughter is legal. Last year, 81,573 horses made the trip. They were mostly slaughtered for one reason only: so Americans can eat grass-fed beef. 


  • Allan Savory, from Zimbwabe, has been one of the leading proponents of using livestock to restore ecosystems and to 'mimic nature.' Although his ideas have been widely embraced by those looking for reasons to continue eating meat, many of his theories have been debunked and do not hold up to scrutiny. 

  • In addition, it is important to know about Allan Savory's background. His leading team members (Director of Research and all co-founders of the Savory Institute) are derived entirely from the meat and dairy industry. Most of them own and continue to operate very large cattle and other livestock ranches for the purpose of slaughtering, selling, and eating meat, not necessarily to improve grasslands. Savory supervised the killing of game animals and advocated the mass culling of elephants and hippos, convinced that they were destroying the habitat. He called for a project to slaughter more than 40,000 elephants — until it came under heavy criticism when officials realized that these gentle, innocent giants were not the problem.

  • You can read James McWilliams article entitled All Sizzle and No Steak, Why Allan Savory's TED Talk about how  cattle can reverse global warming is dead wrong here

  • You can read Saving the World With Livestock? The Allan Savory Approach Examined , by Dr. Richard Oppenlander here.  


To read the scientific papers behind these facts, click here  or come over to our research page. 

If you love whales, dolphins, horses, wild spaces, oceans, trees, rainforests, and/or balanced ecosystems, you can benefit ALL of these by eating a plant-based diet.   

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