University of Waterloo Vegetarian Club

End Cruelty, Get Healthy, Save the Planet

Animal Agriculture

  • 1. General

    Livestock production is responsible for more climate change gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world. In total, it is responsible for 18% of human induced greenhouse gas emissions. Animal waste accounts for 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.

    Environmental damage associated with the production and consumption of animal products

  • Greenhouse gas production

  • (Nitrous oxide, methane, carbon dioxide)

  • Decreased biodiversity through habitat loss and ecosystem damage

  • Aquifer depletion; reduction in the availability of irrigation water

  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticide contamination of water

  • Heavy metal contamination of soil; soil erosion

  • Acid rain and forest damage from ammonia emissions

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), an international institute doing research on the livestock industry, predicts that meat- and dairy demand in developing nations will double by 2020. Urbanization and population growth will fuel a 100% surge in meat and milk consumption in developing world countries by 2020.




  • The number of animals killed for food worldwide in 2000 was: 45 billion (according to the UN FAO) - 306 million cattle, buffalo, and calves, 1.2 billion pigs, 795 million sheep and goats, and nearly 43 billion chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese.

  • Globally, meat consumption has tripled since 1961.

  • The 9900 million animals raised and killed for food account for 98% of all animals killed annually in the US.

2. Manure/Waste

1.5 billion tons of manure produced in North America per year

Solid sewage produced by humans per year: 0.73 Billion tons.

For every kilogram of meat produced 52.8kg of feces and urine are produced.

-Problems caused by or significantly increased by animal excrement and the production of animal feed:

-contamination of aquatic ecosystems, soil and drinking water by manure, pesticides and fertilizers

-acid rain and forest damage from ammonia emissions

-destruction of wildlife habitat

-soil erosion

-green house gas production

-depletion of aquifers for irrigation

-the typical North American diet requires twice as much water to produce as less meat-intensive diets.

-Intensive pig farms have made the air so unbearable in some rural communities that some residents must wear masks while outdoors.

-The EPA reports over 200 manure discharges and spills from animal farms killed more then a billion fish between 1990 and 1997

\chickens in the U.S. produce more solid manure then the entire human population.

Cattle excrete 40 kilograms of manure for every kilogram of edible beef produced. On hog-raising operations in the U.S., only about one sixth of manure is utilized. Excess animal waste often ends up in rivers and groundwater where it contributes to nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrate pollution

In January 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency signed agreements that will let thousands of factory-style farms escape severe penalties for fouling the air and water with animal excrement in exchange for data to help curb future pollution. Over 2,600 animal feeding operations in the egg, chicken, turkey, dairy and hog industries will be exempt from having to pay potential fines of up to $27,500 a day for violations either in the past or over the next four years

Millions of gallons of liquefied feces and urine seeped into the environment from collapsed, leaking or overflowing storage lagoons [like the one shown above at a pig factory farm], and flowed into rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater.

  • The EPA reports over 200 manure discharges and spills from animal farms killed more then one billion fish between 1990 and 1997

  • Wastes generated from factory farms are carried downstream and distributed, polluting surrounding habitats. An important example of this is the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that has arisen due to algal blooms resulting from nitrogen deposits. No marine species can survive these living conditions.

3. Environment: Inefficient Resources

70% of grain crops in the U.S. are fed to animals

It takes 7 pounds of corn to produce 1 pound of pork

\the cattle in the U.S. consume 8.7 billion peoples worth of calories

Between 1950 and 1994, global meat production increased nearly fourfold, during this period, production rates jumped from 18 to 35.4 kilograms per person. In Canada, farm animals also outweigh people by a factor of four to one.

US farm animals were fed 192.7 million tonnes of feed concentrates, the bulk of it corn, in order to produce 31.2 million tonnes of carcass meat – making for a ratio of 6.2 to 1. Broiler chickens are the most efficient requiring 3.4 kilograms of feed for every kilogram of meat. Pigs are the least efficient, with a feed to meat ratio of 8.4 to 1. For eggs expressed as weight, the ratio is 3.8 to 1. For cheese the ratio is 7.9 to 1

  • The cattle in the U.S. consume 8.7 billion people’s worth of calories

  • 70% of grain crops in the U.S. are fed to animals

4. Environment: Land

-improper grazing has caused extensive environmental damage and range land degradation in the western U.S

Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface. In Latin America, 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

A meat-based diet requires 7 times more land than a plant-based diet

Twenty million hectares (50 million acres) of tropical forest in Latin America have been cut down for livestock production since 1970.

Much of the prairies in central Canada have been lost to agriculture. Of the four principle ecoregions, less than 24% of mixed prairie, 30% of fescue prairie, 20% of aspen parkland and 1% of tall-grass prairie remain in a natural, undisturbed state.

Roughly 1/5 of the world's land area is used for grazing, twice the area used for growing crops

Central America has seen over 1/3 of its forests cut since the early 1960's, while pasture land has increased by 50%.

According to a UN study titled "Global Assessment of Soil Degradation,” about 10.5% of the world's fertile land suffers from moderate to extreme degradation. Overgrazing by livestock and current farming practices are the principle causes

As the human population expands to nine billion hungry people in the coming decades, it is not hard to imagine every last forest, wetland and grassland being leveled for agriculture.

In Canada, fewer animals to feed could free up land for conversion to wilderness. Wilderness is crucial for biological diversity, wildlife habitat, preventing soil erosion, climate control, and as a store for carbon dioxide. Natural ecosystems also clean the air and water of pollutants.

  • 80% of all agricultural land in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food

  • More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farm animals.

  • 20 times more land is required to feed a meat-eater than to feed a strict vegetarian

  • Livestock production uses approx. 30% of the world's land surface (UN).

  • A “typical” American requires about 2 acres of cropland (over 1/3 of which is used to grow food for beef cattle) and 4.4 acres of grazing land (nearly all of which is used for beef cattle).

  • Agribusiness permits grazing in protected and public lands.

  • The UNEP Global Assessment of Soil Degradation Survey reveals that over 3 billion acres (12 million km2) (11% of the Earth's vegetated land) have been seriously degraded since 1945. Over-grazing by livestock accounts for 35% of this degraded land. Destructive agricultural practices account for 28% of global land degradation.

5. Dams

In Alberta most of the large rivers have been dammed for the main purpose of collecting water for irrigation. The cost of these dams are paid for with tax dollars

6. Pesticides

Farms tend to be treated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. In 1990, 64% of Canadian cropland was treated with commercial fertilizer and 55% was treated with herbicide.11 Pesticides can adversely affect non-target organisms such as birds and bees. Soil mixed with agricultural chemicals and manure runs into streams and groundwater where it can cause extensive water pollution.

On existing farmland, methods used to increase yields are causing environmental problems. Rivers are being dammed for additional irrigation. Applications of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers are being increased.

  • Livestock grazing is frequently accompanied by the massive manipulation of vegetation to increase forage production. This includes practices such as herbicide spraying, plowing and seeding, mechanical control such as chaining (the practice of removing brush by dragging a heavy anchor chain between two Caterpillar tractors), and controlled fire.

7. Organic vs. Veganism - Solutions

Organic farming can lessen some of the problems associated with agriculture – chemical dependency, erosion and pollution. But a shift in society toward plant-based diets would ease these problems simply by reducing the need for land.

A shift in society toward plant-based diets would ease these problems simply by reducing livestock populations and their demand for land and other resources. Fewer animals to feed could lead to a rebuilding of world grain reserves, ensuring dependable supplies for direct human consumption in countries facing food scarcity.

Eating low on the food chain is a powerful way to reduce the amount of land needed to support your existence (your ecological footprint). Less farmland means more wilderness. It also means less soil erosion, less dams, less pesticides, and less energy use.

Plant-based cuisine is also healthy for the body. Numerous studies show that vegetarian foods greatly help in the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and many other diet-related diseases.

As the earth's human population continues to expand, two things are critical for our survival: adequate food resources and intact wilderness areas. One sure way to achieve both is a dramatic shift in food choices, away from animal products toward plant-based foods.

Fewer animals to feed could lead to a rebuilding of world grain reserves, ensuring dependable supplies for direct human consumption in countries facing food scarcity

A shift in society toward plant-based diets would ease these problems simply by reducing livestock populations and their demand for land and other resources

Between 1950 and 1984, world cereal crop yields increased by an average of 3% per year. Since 1984 yield increases have slowed to around 1% a year “ less than the amount needed to keep pace with population growth. The result has been a 7% decline in world cereal production per capita “ from a peak of 375 kilograms in 1984 to 349 kilograms in 1994.1

As the human population expands to nine billion hungry people in the coming decades, it is not hard to imagine every last forest, wetland and grassland being levelled for agriculture.

  • Soybeans require 6-17 less land and 6-20 times less fossil

fuel than meat. Greenhouse emissions are even lower as soybeans are often used as CO

8. Energy

The housing of pigs and chickens in huge windowless sheds requires energy for artificial ventilation, conveyor belts and electric lighting. Slaughterhouses are also energy and water intensive.

Before they are slaughtered, livestock travel an average of 1,000 miles, but some journeys are much longer. Long-distance transport not only increases the opportunities for animals to come into contact with—and to spread—diseases, but also increases their susceptibility to infection.

For harvesting fish, extensive energy and resources go into building, maintaining and fueling fleets of trawlers.

  • Raising animals for food requires more than 1/3 of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S.

9. Overfishing

The average harvest has gone from less than 9 kilograms per person in 1950 to more than 19 kilograms by 1989. Of the 200 top marine fish resources in the world in 1994, about 35% were in decline and 25% were fully exploited

Aquaculture (farmed fish), which accounted for 17% of the world seafood harvest in the world's fishing industry is also causing harm to wildlife. Disease pathogens can spread easily among the high densities of fish, and concentrated fecal wastes and drugs can contaminate adjacent waters

At least 140 distinct salmon stocks in British Columbia are already extinct.


Those who claim to care about the well-being of human beings and the preservation of our environment should become vegetarians for that reason alone. They would thereby increase the amount of grain available to feed people elsewhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, and cease contributing to the clearing of forests.…

-Peter Singer

The way that we breed animals for food is a threat to the planet. It pollutes our environment while consuming huge amounts of water, grain, petroleum, pesticides and drugs. The results are disastrous.

-David Brubaker, PhD – Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins University

11. Water

  • The meat industry causes more water pollution in the United States than all other industries combined.

  • Livestock production is the greatest source of non-point water pollution in the West.

  • It takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons.A totally vegetarian diet requires only 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day.

12. Greenhouse Gases

  • The production of meat causes global warming

  • Factory farms are the largest source of airborne methane in the U.S.

  • Methane traps heat in the atmosphere 20 times more effectively than carbon dioxide does.

  • A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science

Lab grown “meat” ??

13. Biodiversity/Species Loss

  • Of the five plant species placed on the National Endangered Species List in August and September of 1989, three were victims of grazing.

  • Types of animals killed on behalf of the livestock industry: grizzly bear, black bear, wolf, coyote, fox, mountain lion, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi, golden eagle, bald eagle, California condor, raven, deer, pronghorn, bighorn, buffalo, elk, horse, burro, prairie dog, jackrabbit, kangaroo rat, pocket mouse, pocket gopher, grasshopper, rattlesnake, etc.

  • Humans are now fishing not only in deeper waters, but also lower on the food chain. As these lower levels of the ocean food chain decline, the chances of recovery of fish species nearer to the top of the food chain are diminished even further.

  • About 25% of the world's major fisheries are currently over-fished and another 40% are estimated to be fully-fished. As a result of over-fishing and poor land use, freshwater fish are among the most highly threatened group of animals in the world. 20% are either extinct, threatened or vulnerable. Commercially important fish such as the coral reef Napoleon wrasse, the Patagonian toothfish, the Atlantic toothfish, the basking shark and the whale shark could end up on the endangered list as well."

  • According to the Senior Director for water policy at TPWD ( unknown), “ There are four pounds of by-catch for every pound of shrimp.” What happens to those fish? - flounder, crabs, croakers, anchovies, along with some small trout and redfish - are dead, squashed into a little ball in the back of the net.

Every year, atleast 150,000 sea turtles drown in shrimp nets each year. The National Academy of Sciences conducted a study that found that the shrimp industry is the main cause of human-related death in

  • Tanneries

    \to stop decomposition, today’s tanneries use dangerous substances like formaldehyde, mineral salts, coal-tar derivatives and cyanide-based oils and dyes.

    Animal skin is turned into finished leather through the use of dangerous mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, cyanide-based oils and dyes, chrome, and other toxins.

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