The Meat and Dairy Industries' Harmful Effect on the Environment


Michelle’s Oral Presentation
Saturday December 01st 2007, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Michelle research,Presentation

For my part of the project, I mainly used the internet for research. However, some of the information I used in this project was from my AP Environmental Science class I took last year.

For the most part, the internet research led me to mainly newspaper or magazine articles. I found out that the beef and dairy industry negatively affects many aspects of the environment.           

 First of all, it can affect global climate change. The livestock sector is responsible for between 9-20% of carbon dioxide gas emissions. Agriculture adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere though burning biomass by deforestation; cutting down forests to make room for grazing pastures and crop growing. The fossil fuel usage to produce fertilizer to grow feed to produce meat and to transport the meat adds to the carbon dioxide emissions. Livestock are also producing up to one-third of the methane gas emissions, which can warm the world twenty times faster than carbon dioxide. Scientist also found that livestock are responsible for 64% of ammonia emissions, which can also lead to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.           

This leads to the problem of water pollution, acidification, and eutrophication. To expand on the ammonia’s effect on water, basically after it turns into acid rain, it rains into ponds, lakes, streams, etc. This large amount of ammonia can lower the pH level of the water to make it more acidic, which can cause deformities in, or kills off fish, amphibians, and other wildlife in the water. [Bring up frog article and pictures on blog] One article in particular I found interesting was about how frog deformities are lined to farm pollution. This is caused from a mixture of the pH lowering and from eutrophication. Eutrophication is when water is enriched with nutrients such as phosphates and nitrates, which can boost plant growth in the later. It mainly contributes to the growth of algae and sea grasses. The problem with this is that the plants take up more of the water’s dissolved oxygen percentage, leaving less for the fish and amphibians, which can make them outrageously deformed, or by suffocating them from lack of oxygen. And what contributes the extra nitrates and phosphates into the water system? The fertilizer and manure runoff from livestock farms. Pesticides that are used on the plants to make the cattle feed are also filled with the nutrients than can runoff the land and cause eutrophication. Eutrophication is also the cause of the “dead” zones in coastal areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico. The major sources of water pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones used on the livestock, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures.

            There are many interconnected environmental degradation cycles that occur from livestock production. [Bring up the diagrams and my little article about this on the blog]. It is easiest showing this in a flow chart, however it will not show up on the blog, so I will probably just show it in class.

            The livestock industry is also causing increasing water shortages around the country and the world. In America, it takes approximately 990 liters of water to produce one liter of milk. This is completely outrageous! It takes millions of gallons of water to quench cows’ thirst, to water the crops for the cows, and for the production of milk and other animal products. So in many rural areas, there is not enough water for the townspeople to use, because they are using so much for their livestock. They have to use water only at certain times of the day, and reduce personal water usage.           

Another major environmental and health concern is the amount of diseases livestock can spread to other animals, either waterborne, foodborne, or bacterial. There are at least 40 different types of diseases that can be transferred to humans through animal manure. Various livestock have been known to cause E. coli, Salmonella, C. jejuni (a.k.a. Campylobacter), Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia duodenalis (a.k.a. Giardiasis), and pfiesteria piscidia. Many of these diseases and bacteria can sicken and kill other creatures, including fish, amphibians, and small mammals.             

That was the extent of my research: climate change, water pollution and shortages, diseases, eutrophication, salinization, and erosion.

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