When we consume the products of cattle farming, we might feel distant from these concerns. After all, why should someone enjoying beef in one corner of the world care about what is happening to a rainforest miles away? Yet cattle farming presents a serious problem for us all. If the Amazon forests were to be destroyed completely to meet our demands, the world would experience more droughts, a warmer climate, and massive flooding. And this is just one of the examples of how cattle farming is destroying our environment, placing the future of people and the planet in danger.
So what exactly is cattle farming, and why is it bad for the environment?
Beef cattle are bulls and calves raised to be killed for meat. Many of the calves are turned into veal, by being killed 2-3 days after birth, and sometimes even after 2-3 hours. The rest are raised to be fattened for beef. Just as with dairy cows, beef cattle are selectively bred, to help produce and sell different commodities, like leaner meats. Most beef cattle in the U.S. are put in enclosures where they survive in unsanitary conditions, while only a small percentage are given access to pasture.
Often thought of as a “byproduct” of the dairy and meat industries, leather has in fact become one of the main sources of profit for cattle farmers. Leather is the skin of a cow, bull, or calf. It is usually young calves that are killed, for their soft and unmarked skin.
Why Is Cattle Farming Bad for the Environment?
Because of how normalized consumption of meat and dairy is, cattle farming is often romanticized as something essential and even empowering. But no matter how one looks at it, the facts still point to the overwhelmingly detrimental impact of cattle farming on the environment. Cattle farming is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases, thus being a major cause of climate change.
Cattle farming has also often displaced local communities who have ensured more regenerative and balanced uses of land in their environments. It causes air and water pollution. The industry also treats living beings as commodities and shows no consideration for their welfare. Finally, cattle farming depends on clearing the land of forests, which is the habitat of many animals, thus threatening biodiversity.
A cow produces approximately 37 kilos of feces every day. Now imagine 80-100 cows producing this much waste on a cattle farm every day. What happens to the waste? It either lies strewn around for the cows to live, breathe, and sit in it, or it is dumped on land or in bodies of water. Cattle waste contains a lot of nitrogen, which can contaminate water sources around farms over time. Nitrate contamination from a cattle farm infiltrated most of the wells in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin in just four years, forcing many people to relocate. The use of pesticides and insecticides on cattle farms just exacerbates the problem, by contaminating major water sources with harmful chemicals.
Overuse of Antibiotics
The easiest way for cattle farms to ensure the good health of animals is by feeding them antibiotics. However, this has a detrimental impact on the environment. The antibiotics may boost methane production in cattle, which means that their waste would release gases of even more harmful intensity. It has a more obviously devastating unintended consequence for humans too—overuse of drugs leads to the evolution of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Global warming is one of the clearest aspects of climate change. Essentially, days become hotter as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increase. Methane and ammonia are the most powerful gases that lead to global warming, and data from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization indicates that animal agriculture is the leading industry producing these emissions. Beef and dairy cattle, in particular, are responsible for the release of GHGs because of enteric fermentation during digestion. This means that the process that cattle undergo to break their food into soluble components builds up a lot of harmful gases.
Grass-fed cattle are often considered to be a sustainable solution for global warming. However, not only do they release emissions, but they also use a lot of land and run the risk of overgrazing.
In the video below, you can see Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Cattle Farm
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Video resource: Epic Machines