Thanks to the stellar work of the guys behind Cowspiracy, the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries is more widely-known than ever before. That said, there is still a lot of chaff and nonsense to wade through out there, and that’s why I’m proud to present the Environment Archive – all the sources I use on the show (and some extras), updated as I find them and annotated to make things a little easier on you.
Aren’t I nice?
As a little side-note – this archive doesn’t hold any scientific proof that human-influenced climate change is a real thing. This is for the same reason that I don’t think it is important to showcase evidence that shows evolution is real or space is real or that France exists.
To make things easier, I have listed a bunch of quotes from these sources, and some I’ve highlighted like this so you can pick them out quickly.
‘Livestock’s Long Shadow; Environmental Issues or Options‘, by The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
FAO Corporate Document Repository, 2006
This report was written by the FAO, building on the work of the Livestock, Environment and Development (LEAD) initiative. Unlike previous work, this report was designed to examine the environmental impact of the livestock sector, from an environmental perspective, as opposed to an industrial one.
“As the environment around the animals is increasingly modified and standardized, environmental impacts swiftly change. Public policies, in developed and developing countries alike, barely keep pace with rapid transformations in production technology and structural shifts in the sector. Environmental laws and programmes are usually put in place only after significant damage has already occurred. The focus continues to be placed on protection and restoration, rather than on the more cost-effective approaches of prevention and mitigation.” pg 4
“Directly and indirectly, through grazing and through feedcrop production, the livestock sector occupies about 3o percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface on the planet. In many situations, livestock are a major source or land-based pollution, emitting nutrients and organic matter, pathogens and drug residues into rivers, lakes and coastal seas. Animals and their wastes emit gases, some of which contribute to climate change, as do land-use changes caused by demand for feedgrains and grazing land. Livestock shape entire landscapes and their demands on land for pasture and feedcrop production modify and reduce natural habitats.” pg 4
“Agriculture is the largest user of water, accounting for 70 percent of total freshwater use.” pg 5
“The UN’s medium projection forecasts that world population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050” pg 7
“95 percent of the population increase is occurring in developing countries” pg 7
“Among the most critical issues [of land degradation] are the erosion of biodiversity (through habitat destruction or pollution of aquifers), climate change (through deforestation and the loss of soil organic matter releasing carbon to the atmosphere) and depletion of water resources (through alteration of the soil texture or removal of vegetation cover affecting water cycles).” pg 29
‘In the UK, chickens are fed around 50% wheat, approx 25% soymeal, approx 20% barley, with the remainder made up from oilseed meal, peas and fish meal’ pg 40
“More than 97% percent of the soymeal produced globally is fed to livestock’ pg 43
“Today, feed production is estimated to use approximately 30 percent of the emerged land” pg 45
“The effects of trampling depend on soil texture – soils with greater fractions of silt and clay are more easily compacted than sandy soils. Compacted and/or impermeable soils can have decreased infiltration rates, and therefore increased volume and velocity of runoff. Soils loosened by livestock during the dry season are a source of sediments at the beginning of the new rainy season.” pg 67
“Once emitted, methane remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years.” pg 82
“Methane is about 21 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.” pg 82
“Atmospheric concentrations of CH4 have increased by about 150 percent since pre-industrial times…The IPCC has estimated that slightly more than half of the current CH4 flux to the atmosphere is anthopogenic.” pg 82
“Livestock activities emit considerable amounts of [CO2, CH6 and N2O]. Direct emissions from livestock come from the respiratory process of all animals in the form of carbon dioxide. Ruminants, and to a minor extent also monogastrics, emit methane as part of their digestive process, which involves microbial fermentation of fibrous feeds. Animal manure also emits gases such as methane, nitrous oxides, ammonia and carbon dioxide” pg 83
“Livestock affect the carbon balance of land used for pasture or feedcrops, and thus indirectly contribute to releasing large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The same happens when forest is cleared for pastures” pg 83
“Only 2.5 percent of all water resources are fresh water. The oceans account for 96.5 percent, brackish water for around 1 percent. Furthermore, 70 percent of all freshwater resources are locked up in glaciers, and permanent snow and the atmosphere.” pg 125
The agricultural sector is the largest user of freshwater resources. In 2000, agriculture accounted for 70 percent of water use and 93 percent of water depletion worldwide” pg 126
“Today, people consume 30-300 litres [of water] a day per person for domestic purposes, while 3000 litres per day are needed to grow their daily food” pg 126
‘Water usage for livestock is projected to increase by over 50% by 2025’ pg 126
“At red meat abattoirs…between 44 and 60 percent [of water] of use is consumed in the slaughter, evisceration and boning areas. Water usage rates range from 6 to 15 litres per kilo of carcass” pg 132
“In poultry processing plants, water is used to wash carcasses and cleaning: hot water scalding of birds prior to defeathering; in water flumes for transporting feathers, heads, feet, and viscera and for chilling birds…Water use is in the range of 1590 litres per bird processed” pg 132
“Dairy products also require significant amounts of water. Best practice water use in commercial milk processes is reported to be 0.8 to 1 litre water/kg of milk” pg 132
“Most of the water used for livestock drinking and servicing returns to the environment in the form of manure and wastewater. Livestock excreta contain a considerable amount of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium), drug residues, heavy metals and pathogens. If these get into the water or accumulate in the soil, they can pose a serious threat to the environment” pg 136
“The most important water-borne bacterial and viral pathogens that are of primary importance to the public health and veterinary public health are: [Campylobacter spp, Escherichia Coli 0157:H7, Salmonella spp, Clostridium botulinum, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium parvum, Microsporidia spp, Fasciola spp, livestock parasitic diseases and and viral diseases such as Foot-and-mouth]” pg 142
“The US Geological Survey found antimicrobial residues in 48 percent of 139 streams surveyed nationwide” pg 143
“50 percent of progesterone administered to cattle was excreted in the faeces and 2 percent in the urine” pg 143
Trenbolone acetate can remain in manure piles for more than 270 days, suggesting that water can be contaminated by hormonally active agents through runoff for example…This supposition is supported by the increasing number of reported cases of feminization or masculinization of fish and the increased incidence of breast and testicular cancers and alterations of male genital tracts among mammals” pg 143
“The livestock sector is responsible for an estimated 55% of erosion and 32 percent and 33 percent, respectively, of the N and P load into freshwater sources” pg 167
“Habitat destruction, fragmentation and degradation are considered the major category of threat to global biodiversity. They are the major threat faced by birds, amphibians and mammals, affecting over 85 percent of threatened species in all three animal classes” pg 187
“Large-scale agricultural activities (including crop farming, livestock ranching and perennial crops such as coffee and oil palm) are reported to impact nearly half of the globally threatened birds affected by habitat destruction” pg 187
“52 percent of the world stocks [of fish] are fully exploited, and are therefore producing catches that are already at or very close to their maximum sustainable production limit” pg 205
“Pollution is potentially among the most damaging of all human influences on the oceans, in terms of both scale and consequences. Excessive nutrient inputs can turn marine areas into ‘dead zones’ almost devoid of higher animal life. Nutrients discharged in large quantities into coastal waters promote blooms of planktonic and benthic algae. Phytoplankton blooms contribute to increase water turbidity, reducing light penetration and adversely affecting pelagic and benthic biological communities. Algal blooms involving toxin-producing species can cause the accumulation of algal toxins in shellfish to levels that can be lethal to other marine species and humans. The organisms affected by algal toxins are shellfish and finfish, as well as other wildlife such as seabirds, sea otters, sea turtles, sea lions, manatees, dolphins and whales” pg 209
“In South Asia, vultures in the genus Gyps have declined by more than 95 percent in recent years owing to the toxic effects of the veterinary drug, Diclofenac, which is consumed when the birds feed on carcasses of livestock treated with the drug” pg 210
“Chemicals such as chromium and sulphides from tanneries affect aquatic life locally, while pesticides have ecotoxicological effects for aquatic flora and fauna on a much larger scale. Although many pesticides dissipate rapidly through mineralization, some are very resistant and impact the health of wild animals and plants, causing cancers, tumors and lesions, disrupting immune and endocrine systems, modifying reproductive behaviours and producing teratogenic effects (ie causing malformations of an embryo or fetus)” pg 211
‘Livestock and Climate Change’, by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang
World Watch, 2009
An article that addresses some mis-allocated greenhouse gases in the FAO’s ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ report.
‘Livestock products account for 51% of all greenhouse gases” pg 11
“Rainforest normally stores at least 200 tons of carbon per hectare. Where forest is replaced by moderately degraded grassland, the tonnage of carbon stored per hectare is reduced to 8” pg 13
‘Global Greenhouse Gases Emissions Data’, by USEPA
US Environmental Protection Agency Website
A summary breakdown of where the global greenhouse gases are coming from by industry and country.
“Transportation (14% of 2010 global greenhouse gas emissions): Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation. Almost all (95%) of the world’s transportation energy comes from petroleum-based fuels, largely gasoline and diesel”
‘Direct Global Warming Potentials‘, by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change, 2007
This page lists and qualifies the IPCC’s numbers on greenhouse gas emissions.
‘Methane has 72 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide’
‘Methane’s importance is often understated due to the format of analysing climate change over 100 year periods; over 100 years methane has the global warming potential of 25 times that of carbon dioxide, as opposed to 72 times over 20 years’
‘Nitrous Oxide has 289 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide’
‘Nitrous Oxide Emissions‘, by US Energy Information Administration
Energy Information Administration website, 2011
This page from the report ‘DOE/EIA-0573(2009)’ (catchy name there guys) details nitrous oxide emissions, and their sources.
“The largest source [of nitrous oxide emissions] is agriculture (73 percent)”
“The majority of agricultural emissions [of nitrous oxide] result from nitrogen fertilization of agricultural soils (87 percent of the agricultural total) and management of animal waste (13 percent)”
‘Anthropogenic Emissions of Methane in the United States’, by Scot M. Millera, Steven C. Wofsya, Anna M. Michalakb, Eric A. Kortc, Arlyn E. Andrewsd, Sebastien C. Biraude, Edward J. Dlugokenckyd, Janusz Eluszkiewiczf, Marc L. Fischerg, Greet Janssens-Maenhouth, Ben R. Milleri, John B. Milleri, Stephen A. Montzkad, Thomas Nehrkornf, and Colm Sweeney
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2013
The authors of this study used atmospheric readings of methane to determine a discrepancy in the reported level of methane admissions.
“In the south-central United States…total emissions are ∼2.7 times greater than in most inventories and account for 24 ± 3% of national emissions”
“CH4 emissions from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas alone account for 24% of US methane emissions, or 3.7% of the total US greenhouse gas budget”
“The mean annual US anthropogenic CH4 budget for 2007 and 2008 of 33.4 ± 1.4 TgC⋅y−1 or ∼7–8% of the total global CH4 source”
“The US EPA recently decreased its CH4 emission factors for fossil fuel extraction and processing by 25–30%, but we find that CH4 data from across North America instead indicate the need for a larger adjustment of the opposite sign.”
‘Cow Farts Have ‘Larger Greenhouse Gas Impact’ Than Previously Thought; Methane Pushes Climate Change’, by Phillip Ross
This article follows an interview with the team behind the ‘Anthropogenic Emissions of Methane in the United States’ report (see above).
“The U.S. is spewing 50 percent more methane into the atmosphere”
“A single cow can produce between 250 and 500 liters, or about 66 to 132 gallons, of methane a day (the average U.S. vehicle gas tank can hold about 16 gallons of gas)”
‘The State of Food and Agriculture‘, by The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
This report takes a specific look at and suggests options to help mitigate climate change-related damage, particularly on the poorer communities of the world.
‘In order to meet the demand for food in 2050, annual production of crops and livestock will need to be 60 percent higher than it was in 2006. About 80 percent of the required increase will need to come from higher yields, however due to limits placed on yield from land degradation and water scarcity, this will not be possible. Many low income countries will find it impossible to ensure access to enough food without heightened efforts to reduce poverty and transition into sustainable agriculture’ pg 4
“Fisheries and aquaculture – which provide at least 50 percent of animal protein to millions of people in low-income countries – are already under multiple stresses, including overfishing, habitat loss and water pollution” pg 5
“The world’s oceans are becoming more acidic owing to increases in levels of atmospheric CO2, with particularly severe consequences for fisheries depending on shellfish and squid, mangroves and coral reef systems” pg 5
“Forests provide paid employment for more than 100 million people and support the livelihoods of many of the world’s rural poor. They are home to more than 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and provide food, medicines, fuel and critical ecosystem services.” pg 6
“A recent World Bank study (Hallegatte et al., 2016) estimated that, in the absence of economic growth, high impact climate change would increase the projected number of extremely poor in 2030 by 122 million people; in a scenario of prosperity, the increase would be just 16 million” pg 8
“Using the International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities (IMPACT), developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), it was estimated that by 2050 about 50 million more people could be at risk of undernourishment because of climate change” pg 8
‘Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2005’, by Nancy L. Barber
A USGS fact sheet running down the estimated water usage for the US in 2005.
“Withdrawals for irrigation totaled 128,000 Mgal/d, second only to total withdrawals for thermoelectric power, and represented 31 percent of total withdrawals and 37 percent of freshwater withdrawals”
‘Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues’, by David Pimentel, Bonnie Berger, David Filiberto, Michelle Newton, Benjamin Wolfe, Elizabeth Karabinakis, Steven Clark, Elaine Poon, Elizabeth Abbett, Sudha Nandagopal
American Institute of Biological Sciences, 2004
This report looks at the status of global water use, and how this ties in to future health issues.
“Agriculture consumes about 70% of fresh water worldwide”
“90% of the infectious diseases in developing countries are transmitted from polluted water”
“Approximately 1000 liters (L) of water are required to produce 1 kilogram (kg) of cereal grain, and 43,000 L to produce 1 kg of beef”
‘Water‘, by Environmental Working Group
This short article lists some facts about the water used for various foods.
“One gallon of tofu requires 219 gallons of water per pound, compared to 477 gallons for eggs, 896 gallons for cheese and 2,463 gallons for beef”
‘The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production’, by Bryan Walsh
In this Time article, Walsh recounts the findings from a few studies on environmental impact and agriculture.
“About 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat”
“Each year the livestock sector globally produces 586 million tons of milk, 124 million tons of poultry, 91 million tons of pork, 59 million tons of cattle and buffalo meat, and 11 million tons of meat from sheep and goats”
‘Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animals’, by Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra
This report looks specifically at the relationship between water usage and agriculture.
“The global average water footprint per ton of crop increases from sugar crops (roughly 200 m³/ton) and vegetables (~300 m³/ton) to pulses (~4,000 m³/ton) and nuts (~9,000 m³/ton). For animal products, the water footprint increases from milk (~1,000 m³/ton) and egg (~3,300 m³/ton) to beef (~15,400 m³/ton)” pg 410
“The average water footprint per calorie for beef is 20 times larger than for cereals and starchy roots” pg 410
“When we look at the water requirements for protein, we find that the water footprint per gram of protein for milk, eggs and chicken meat is about 1.5 times larger than for pulses. For beef, the water footprint per gram of protein is 6 times larger than for pulses” pg 410
“In the case of fat, we find that butter has a relatively small water footprint per gram of fat, even lower than for oil crops” pg 410
“Meat contributes 37% towards the food-related water footprint of an average American citizen. Replacing all meat by an equivalent amount of crop products such as pulses and nuts will result in a 30% reduction of the food-related water footprint of the average American citizen” pg 410
“Managing the demand for animal products by promoting a dietary shift away from a meat-rich diet will be an inevitable component in the environmental policy of governments” pg 413
‘NOAA-, EPA-supported scientists find average but large Gulf dead zone’, by NOAA
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014
This article looks at the Gulf of Mexico deadzone, following the 2014 survey.
“NOAA- and EPA-supported scientists have mapped the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, an area with low oxygen water, measuring 5,052 square miles — approximately the size of Connecticut”
““Dead zones,” also called hypoxia areas, are caused by nutrient runoff from agricultural and other human activities in the watershed and are highly affected by river discharge. These nutrients stimulate an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes, and consumes the oxygen needed to support life in the Gulf”
“The number of Dead Zones throughout the world has been increasing in the last several decades and [in 2014 totalled] over 550”
“The Dead Zone off the Louisiana coast is the second largest human-caused coastal hypoxic area in the global ocean and stretches from the mouth of the Mississippi River into Texas waters and less often, but increasingly more frequent, east of the Mississippi River”
‘Ocean Dead Zones Are Getting Worse Globally Due to Climate Change’, by Sarah Zielinski
This short article looks at dead zones and what causes them. Spoiler alert, it’s us. (mostly)
“Nearly all ocean dead zones will increase by the end of the century because of climate change”
“The dead zone problem can be tackled by reducing nutrient pollution. With less nitrogen or phosphorus to feed algal blooms, dead zones are less likely to form no matter how warm it gets”
‘Biodiversity and Food Choice: A Clarification’, by Dr Oppenlander
Comfortably Unaware, 2012
In this short article, Dr Oppenlander qualifies some previous comments made on species loss.
“We are losing species of life as well as ecosystems on Earth at an unprecedented and alarming rate, estimated to be anywhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times the “background rate”—that which had been seen for the previous several thousands of years”
“With estimates of 45% of all the land mass on Earth used by animal agriculture and 1 to 2 trillion fish extracted from our oceans each year (by fishing methods such as trawling, purse seine, long lines, explosives and other techniques that are damaging ecosystems)—eating animals (fishing and livestock production) is the largest contributing factor in habitat loss and constitutes the second largest sector implicated in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions which lead to climate change”
“Habitat loss is far and away the most pervasive threat to terrestrial animal species, impacting 86% of all mammals, 88% of amphibians, and 86% of all birds”
“One in every eight birds, one in every three amphibians and one in every four mammals is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the near future”
‘Freshwater Depletion: Realities of Choice’, by Dr Oppenlander
Comfortably Unaware, 2014
Another article from Dr Oppenlander looking at the meat industry’s impact on water, especially in water-stricken California.
“On average 2 to 3 gallons of water can be saved by reducing your time in the shower by one minute or by turning the water off while brushing your teeth. However, you can save more than 1,000 gallons per day by eliminating meat and dairy from your diet. That’s the average amount of water required to produce the nine ounces of meat that every American consumes per day, on average”
“In some areas of the southwest U.S., including California, it requires over 4,000 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef and over 1,000 gallons to produce just one gallon of milk–as compared to, on average, 6 to 30 gallons to produce a pound of vegetables, such as carrots or various greens”
“The state of California raises over 6 million cattle and 2 million dairy cows. Each animal drinks between 20 gallons (grazing beef cattle) and 40 gallons (dairy cow) of water daily. An additional 2 million annual gallons of virtual water (the amount of water used in the entire production process of an agricultural product) are tied up in grain and pasture to feed just one cow”
“Every year, California devotes 900,000 acres of its land to growing alfalfa, ninety-five percent of which is eaten by cattle (the other five percent by horses). Each one of these 900,000 alfalfa acres receives irrigation to the tune of 1 to 2 million gallons per year (50-80 acre inches per acre per year). Therefore, total freshwater used in California for just one year of hay production is 1.8 trillion gallons”
“Historically, the U.S. has heavily subsidized use of aquifer water for livestock and feed crops, such that farmers in the Ogallala and San Joaquin regions of the western U.S. (home of two of the largest aquifers on Earth) pay only 5 to 10 percent as much for their water as do residents in those areas”
‘Unit 9: Biodiversity Decline // Section 7: Habitat Loss: Causes and Consequences’, by Annenburg Learner
This online textbook is an online resource for learning about environmental science.
“Commercial forestry involves road-cutting through forests and the harvesting of trees that are important as shelter or food for some species”
“Dams change river flow patterns, dissolved oxygen levels, and water temperatures and may prevent fish from swimming upstream to spawn”
“Farmers clear land, withdraw large quantities of water from local sources, and introduce pesticides and chemical fertilizers to the environment”
“Ranching impacts land physically through grazing and generates air and water emissions from animal wastes”
“Urban development clears land and paves it, which changes local water cycles by increasing surface runoff and reducing groundwater supplies. It also generates air and water pollution from industrial activities and transportation”
‘How Eating Meat Hurts Wildlife and the Planet’, by Take Extinction Off Your Plate
This article runs through the impact on natural ecosystems by the meat and dairy industry.
“More than 175 threatened or endangered species are imperiled by livestock on federal lands, where livestock grazing is promoted, protected and subsidized on 270 million acres of our public lands in 11 western states”
“In the United States, 80 percent of agricultural land is used for raising animals and feed crops. That’s almost half the land mass of the lower 48 states dedicated to feeding the nation’s taste for beef, chicken and pork”
“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, in addition to impairing wetlands, lakes and estuaries”
” Meat production is also responsible for 80 percent of antibiotic use and 37 percent of pesticide use, creating health threats to children and wildlife”
‘Risk Assessment Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation‘, by National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)
This document reports on a summative risk assessment of the CAFO system, particularly looking at manure pollution.
“The nutrient load from CAFOs is large, with about 2.5 billion pounds of N and 1.4 billion pounds of P recoverable in manure. Total manure N is about 12.9 billion pounds and total manure P is about 3.8 billion pounds.”
“CAFO manure contains potentially pathogenic microorganisms. The combination of large herds and closely confined housing makes it likely that at least some animals are asymptomatic carriers of pathogenic organisms”
“The antibiotics administered to CAFO livestock may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens – especially those harbored within the livestock raised at these facilities. The sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics at CAFOs aggravates the problem”
“Naturally occurring and synthetic hormones administered to livestock to speed growth to market weight pollute the environment when released along with manure during land application or during an accidental release. The environmental effects of these compounds are largely unknown.”
“Animal farms produce as much manure as small and medium-size cities. A farm with 2500 dairy cattle is similar in waste load to a city of 411,000 people”
‘The Sixth Extinction‘, by Niles Eldredge
Action Bioscience, 2001
This fascinating article looks at the previous five global extinction events, and outlines why we are currently in, and the cause of, the sixth.
“Homo sapiens became the first species to stop living inside local ecosystems. All other species, including our ancestral hominid ancestors, all pre-agricultural humans, and remnant hunter-gatherer societies still extant exist as semi-isolated populations playing specific roles (i.e., have “niches”) in local ecosystems”
“Though it is true that life, so incredibly resilient, has always recovered (though after long lags) after major extinction spasms, it is only after whatever has caused the extinction event has dissipated. That cause, in the case of the Sixth Extinction, is ourselves — Homo sapiens. This means we can continue on the path to our own extinction, or, preferably, we modify our behavior toward the global ecosystem of which we are still very much a part. The latter must happen before the Sixth Extinction can be declared over, and life can once again rebound”
‘Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction’, by Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anthony D. Barnosky, Andrés García, Robert M. Pringle and Todd M. Palmer
Science Advances, 2015
This study attempts to quantify the species lost since mankind’s spread, so as to identify if this really is the sixth extinction event. HINT: it is.
“In the islands of tropical Oceania, up to 1800 bird species (most described in the last few decades from subfossil remains) are estimated to have gone extinct in the ~2000 years since human colonization. Written records of extinctions of large mammals, birds, and reptiles date back to the 1600s and include species such as the dodo (Raphus cucullatus, extinguished in the 17th century), Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas, extinguished in the 18th century), and the Rodrigues giant tortoise (Cylindraspis peltastes, extinguished in the 19th century)”
“Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, 9 vertebrate extinctions would have been expected since 1900; however, under the conservative rate, 468 more vertebrates have gone extinct than would have if the background rate had persisted across all vertebrates under that period. Specifically, these 468 species include 69 mammal species, 80 bird species, 24 reptiles, 146 amphibians, and 158 fish”
“We can confidently conclude that modern extinction rates are exceptionally high, that they are increasing, and that they suggest a mass extinction under way—the sixth of its kind in Earth’s 4.5 billion years of history”
‘The Diverse Structure and Organization of U.S. Beef Cow-Calf Farms’, by William D. McBride, Kenneth Mathews, Jr.
This one goes into a lot of detail about how the beef industry is actually structured and talks about the money involved. It’s actually quite depressing.
“About 60 percent of U.S. beef cow-calf farms produce calves that are sold at or shortly after weaning”
‘Desertification, Drought Affect One Third of Planet, World’s Poorest People, Second Committee Told as It Continues Debate on Sustainable Development’, by United Nations
United Nations, 2012
The summary from the 67th general assembly of the United Nations, looking at the issue of desertification.
“Desertification affected one third of the earth’s surface and about 1.5 billion people globally”
‘Saving the World With Livestock? The Allan Savory Approach Examined’, by Richard Oppenlander
Free From Harm, 2013
In this article, Oppenlander tackles the (totally bat-shit insane) approach to environmental management as espoused by Allan Savory.
“Most grasslands were once forests, and we are cutting down forests at a rate of 30 million acres per year, globally. Another 20 to 30 million acres of forests are being degraded (destroyed by thinning and creating roads and disruptive corridors). These deforested areas are eventually converted to grasslands for cattle or for cultivating crops to feed livestock”
“Eating meat causes demand to raise more livestock, which is a miserably inefficient use of land as well as other natural resources, requiring from two to twenty acres to support just one cow. Therefore, in the pursuit for more land, raising livestock causes deforestation. Deforestation then causes erosion and topsoil loss, which then causes desertification. If we stopped deforestation, we would stop desertification. If we stopped eating meat, we would stop deforestation as well as loss of ancient grasslands”
“Argentina, though, has lost over 66 percent of all its forests over the past seventy-five years, with current deforestation rates at 210,000 acres per year. Over 40 percent of all plant and animal species are negatively impacted in that country”
“Zimbabwe is destroying their forests at rate of 1 percent per year…they have already lost more than 85 percent of their original forests, primarily due to raising livestock”
‘Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services’, by Boris Worm, Edward B. Barbier, Nicola Beaumont, J. Emmett Duffy, Carl Folke, Benjamin S. Halpern, Jeremy B. C. Jackson, Heike K. Lotze, Fiorenza Micheli, Stephen R. Palumbi, Enric Sala, Kimberley A. Selkoe, John J. Stachowicz, Reg Watson
Integrated Ocean Observing System, 2016
This study predicts that oceans will be devoid of fish by 2048 thanks to over fishing.
“[This study] projects the global collapse of all taxa currently fished by the mid–21st century (based on the extrapolation of regression to 100% in the year 2048)”
‘Fish count estimates’, by Fish Count
This article looks at the actual number of fish caught across a number of years.
“Between 0.97 and 2.7 trillion fish (ie 970,000,000,000 to 2,700,000,000,000) were caught from the wild globally each year for 1999-2007”
“Between 37 and 120 billion (ie 37,000,000,000 – 120,000,000,000) farmed fish slaughtered for food globally in 2010”
“On average each year for 2005-2009, between 0.45 and 1.0 trillion (ie 450,000,000,000 – 1,000,000,000,000) wild fish were caught for reduction to fish oil and fishmeal, mainly used to feed farmed fish”
“The numbers of decapod crustaceans killed in recorded aquaculture production in 2011 have been estimated as follows: 21-40 billion crayfish, crabs and lobsters and 150-380 billion shrimps and prawns”
‘Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problem in US Fisheries‘, by Amanda Keledjian, Gib Brogan, Beth Lowell, Jon Warrenchuk, Ben Enticknap, Geoff Shester, Michael Hirshfield and Dominique Cano-Stocco
Oceana’s in-depth report on by-kill, or the unintentional targets of fishing that get discarded, dying or dead, back into the ocean, lists some in depth statistics and the nine biggest offenders.
“Global bycatch may amount to 40 percent of the world’s catch, totaling 63 billion pounds per year”
“Researchers estimate that 17-22 percent of U.S. catch is discarded every year”
“Federal fisheries managers authorize the killing of tens of thousands of sea turtles each year by commercial fisheries, primarily by Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawls”
“In 2010, more than 3,400 dusky sharks were captured as bycatch in just two bottom longline fisheries in the southeast region of the U.S—even though it is illegal to deliberately catch them”
“More than 300 pilot whales and almost 700 sea turtles were entangled or killed in a single year in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico longlines”
“Bycatch has been a persistent problem for decades, because it remains largely undocumented. As defined above, “bycatch” includes not only entangled wildlife, but also discarded fish that could not be brought to port because they were the wrong size, poor quality, low market value, or prohibited for conservation reasons”
“Not only are millions of pounds of fish thrown away every day, but scientists estimate that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals were killed around the world each year throughout the 1990s as a result of bycatch”
“Sea lions and large whales often become entangled in gillnets, while sea turtles are most often captured by trawls and longlines”
“Dusky shark populations off the Atlantic coast are estimated to have plummeted by 85 percent.”
“Approximately 90 percent of scalloped hammerheads die after being released from fishing gear even when fishermen follow safe handling protocols”
“8 Shrimp fishermen using skimmer trawls in shallower waters are exempt from using TEDs under the presumption that they will protect sea turtles from drowning by limiting the time their nets are towed through the water. However, observer data revealed that only 35 percent of fishermen complied with required tow time limits in 2012, with one in five tows exceeding 70 minutes,29 far longer than the 55-minute limit and the amount of time sea turtles can hold their breath”
‘Shark Fin Trade Myths and Truths: BYCATCH’, by Shark Savers
A fact sheet from Shark Savers about the myths behind shark fin soup.
“An estimated 50 million sharks are caught unintentionally as bycatch in commercial fisheries every year”
‘100 Million Sharks Killed Every Year, Study Shows On Eve of International Conference on Shark Protection’, by Dan Stone
National Geographic, 2013
This article from the National Geographic refers to a study that shows actually, the numbers of sharks being killed are much higher than Shark Savers quoted. In fact, the 100m estimate is conservative; the total could be nearly 300m.
“An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year around the world, a number that far exceeds what many populations need to recover”
“Between 6.4% and 7.9% of sharks of all species are killed annually”
“Only 4.9% of sharks can be killed each year to maintain population stability”
‘Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon’, by Sergio Margulis
The World Bank, 2004
This World Bank report on use of the amazon rainforest for agriculture is largely focused on how to improve things for the industry, but it provides some interesting facts.
“Land-use data on Amazonia demonstrates that the main cause of deforestation in the region is cattle ranching. Expansion of ranching since the early 1970s has been a continuous and inertial process”
‘Amazon Deforestation, Once Tamed, Comes Roaring Back’, by Hiroko Tabuchi, Claire Rigby and Jeremy White
New York Times, 2017
This New York Times article looks at the resurgence of deforestation, and the companies responsible.
“In the Brazilian Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest, deforestation rose in 2015 for the first time in nearly a decade, to nearly two million acres from August 2015 to July 2016”
“Only about 15 percent of the world’s forest cover remains intact”
“Deforestation is responsible for more than 80 percent of Bolivia’s total carbon dioxide emissions”
“A major culprit is the cultivation of soy, which has jumped more than 500 percent in Bolivia since 1991, to 3.8 million hectares in 2013, according to the most recent agricultural censuses. Little of that soy is consumed domestically. The vast majority is processed and exported as animal feed in a commodities trade that serves a global appetite for hamburgers, chicken and pork”
’10 Rainforest Facts for 2017′, by Rhett Butler
Monga Bay, 2017
This article runs down a list facts about rainforests.
“When plants grow they sequester atmospheric carbon in their tissues via the process of photosynthesis. Because rainforests are full of large trees and other plants, they store massive amounts of carbon. But when they are burned or chopped down, much of that carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (nitrous oxide, methane, and other nitrogen oxides)”
“Tropical forests are being destroyed at a rate of at least 8 million hectares or 31,000 square miles a year”
“Virtually all deforestation is driven by human activity. The biggest drivers of deforestation are agriculture — both industrial and subsistence — and cattle ranching. Much of this production is not consumed locally — instead it is sent to cities or overseas. That means consumers who may live far away from rainforests are usually at least partly responsible for the destruction of these beautiful and important landscapes”
‘Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests’, by Scientific American
An article looking at deforestation.
“We are losing upwards of 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest daily, and significantly degrading another 80,000 acres every day on top of that. Along with this loss and degradation, we are losing some 135 plant, animal and insect species every day—or some 50,000 species a year—as the forests fall”
“Rainforests are also home to some 50 percent of the world’s species”
“A quarter of our modern pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, but less than one percent of the trees and plants in the tropics have been tested for curative properties”
‘We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People… and Still Can’t End Hunger’, by Eric Holt-Giménez
Commons Dreams, 2012
This article lays out the argument that we have enough food for the poor; we need to address poverty.
“Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity”
“The world already produces more than 1 ½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050”
“The bulk of industrially produced grain crops goes to biofuels and confined animal feedlots rather than food for the 1 billion hungry”
‘U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat’, by Cornell Chronicle
Cornell Chronicle, 1997
An article on the findings of David Pimental, who says that we should feed the grain we feed cattle, to people. (He also talks about grass-fed beef – ignore that part)
“If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million”
“On lands where feed grain is produced, soil loss averages 13 tons per hectare per year.”
“Erosion may exceed 100 tons on severely overgrazed pastures, and 54 percent of U.S. pasture land is being overgrazed”
“More than half the U.S. grain and nearly 40 percent of world grain is being fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans”
‘Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States’, by Gidon Eshela, Alon Sheponb, Tamar Makovc, and Ron Milob,
This study calculates the exact impact the animal agriculture industries have one the planet.
‘The animal-based portion of the US diet uses 12,000 m² per person, 150m³ of water per year and 1.1 t per person per year of GHG emissions.’
‘Our Food Our Future‘, by Earthsave International
This leaflet showcases a number of facts, and quite succinctly sums the argument for going vegan.
“Acres of US land producing hay for livestock: 56 million”
“Acres of US land producing vegetables for humans: 4 million”
“Amount of U.S. agricultural land used for feed grains and animal farms: 80%”
“Amount of land needed to feed a pure vegetarian for a year: 1/6 acre”
“Amount of land needed to feed a meat-eater for a year: 31/4 acres (about 20 times as much)”
“Amount of rainforest needed to produce just one hamburger: 55 square feet”
“Amount of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry, and mining, including fossil fuels) used in the U.S. each year that go into raising animals for food: 33%”
“Amount of fossil fuel energy needed to produce animal protein: 8 times that of plant protein”
‘Facts and Sources‘, by Cowspiracy
The facts and figures page for Cowspiracy, one of the most important environmental films ever. Full stop.
‘Land required to feed one person for a year; vegan = 1/6th acre, vegetarian = 3x as much as a vegan, meat eater = 18x as much as a vegan’
‘Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK’, by Peter Scarborough, Paul N. Appleby, Anja Mizdrak, Adam D. M. Briggs, Ruth C. Travis, Kathryn E. Bradbury, Timothy J. Key
Springer Link, 2014
This experiment on diets in the UK looked to determine which diet had the highest Green House Gases footprint. Spoiler alert – vegans win. Again. Right?
“Values of dietary GHG emissions for meat-eaters (results reported for women and then men) was 46 % and 51 % higher than for fish-eaters, 50 % and 54 % higher than for vegetarians and 99 % and 102 % higher than for vegans”
“After adjustment for sex and age, an average 2,000 kcal high meat diet had 2.5 times as many GHG emissions than an average 2,000 kcal vegan diet”
“Moving from a high meat diet to a vegan diet would reduce the carbon footprint by 1,560kgCO2e/year. For context, an individual travelling on an economy return flight from London to New York has an addition to their carbon footprint of 960kgCO2e”
‘The Vegan Calculator‘, by The Vegan Web Designer
This handy little tool lets you actually tell people in quantifiable terms what difference you’re making. So you stick it to ’em!
‘Every day as a vegan you save: 1100 gallons of water, 30 sq ft of forest, 40 lbs of grain, 20 lbs of CO² and 1 animal’s life’
‘What the Dairy Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know’ by Neal Barnard MD
Dr Barnard talks in depth about dairy, and its profound (negative) effects on the human body.
“Americans eat a million animals every hour”
‘If you brush your teeth and leave the tap running the whole time, you use 1 gallon of water’ If you take a shower (luxurious) you use 20 gallons of water, washing your car takes 65 gallons, producing 1 gallon of milk takes 683 gallons (to grow the alfalfa)’
‘In a day, a cow will produce maybe 8 gallons of milk, but will produce around 15 gallons of manure’
‘Mission Blue‘, by Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon
Mission Blue follows the incredible career of scientist and icon Dr Sylvia Earle, as she recounts the her memories of the ocean, and what the incredible cost of environmental damage has wrought upon the world’s seas.
“If I seem like a radical, it might be because I see things that others do not”
‘Earth without the ocean would be a lot like Mars’
‘There is only 50% of the world’s coral remaining in the ocean’
‘There are only 5% of the world’s Pacific Bluefin Tuna, 10% of the world’s sharks and 5% of North Atlantic Cod remaining in the ocean’
‘Spotter planes and fleets of trawlers can capture tonnes of fish in minutes’
‘Should you stop eating fish?’ by Natasha Scripture
In Natasha’s interview with Dr Sylvia Earle, the subject of sustainable fishing and diet comes up.
“Eating fish is a choice, not a necessity”
“Some people believe that the sole purpose of fish is for us to eat them. They are seen as commodities. Yet wild fish, like wild birds, have a place in the natural ecosystem which outweighs their value as food. They’re part of the systems that make the planet function in our favor, and we should be protecting them because of their importance to the ocean. They are carbon-based units, conduits for nutrients, and critical elements in ocean food webs. If people really understood the methods being used to capture wild fish, they might think about choosing whether to eat them at all, because the methods are so destructive and wasteful”
“Our use of large-scale extraction of wildlife from the sea is profoundly detrimental to the environment”
“The factory ships that use enormous nets or log lines, some of which are 50- to 60-miles long, with baited hooks every few feet, they take more than can be replenished naturally, and they take indiscriminately. Worst of all are the bottom trawls that scoop up the whole ecosystem. And most of what’s taken in them is simply discarded”
“It’s not eco-conscious to eat tuna — maybe thousands of plants make a single pound of Blue Fin Tuna. It’s also difficult to replenish that species of fish, as they take years to mature. Not to mention that you’re consuming all of the toxins that the fish has consumed over the years”
“There’s no question that a plant-based diet is better for you and better for the planet”
“Think about what it takes to make a plant compared to what it takes to make a plant-eater, like a cow, chicken or pig”
“We’re taking large quantities of ocean wildlife, grinding them up, and turning them into chicken food or cow food or pig food — or even into fish food”
“There are 250,000 kinds of land-based plants — and then in the ocean, depending on how you count, if you include the plankton — you’re looking at maybe another 20,000 that we know about”
‘Grizzly Bear Hair Reveals Toxic Exposure to Mercury through Salmon Consumption’ by Marie Noël, Jody Spence, Kate A. Harris, Charles T. Robbins, Jennifer K. Fortin, Peter S. Ross, and Jennie R. Christensen
Environmental Science and Technology, 2014
This study looks at the presence of mercury in grizzly bears as measured in their back hair.
“Mercury (Hg) remains a contaminant of concern for the health of the environment. It bioaccumulates up the food chain in its methylated form and can cause a variety of short and long-term toxic effects in top predators such as grizzly bears”
“Asian emissions contribute between 15% and 24% of mercury deposition over the western United States”
“Recent estimates still suggest future increase in global anthropogenic Hg emissions as a result of an increase from the largest contributor, East Asia, which accounts for nearly 40% of the total”
“Salmon are also biovectors of Hg, a contaminant known for its deleterious effects on mammalian immune and neurological systems”
“Salmon also contributes to significant exposure to Hg”
“Females feeding on large quantities of salmon prior to the hibernation period may put their cubs at risk as gestation and lactation are known to contribute to in utero and neonatal Hg exposure through maternal transfer”
‘EPR Intensive Farming: How to comply Contents Version 2 January 2010’ by Environment Agency
This is the UK gov update on intensive farming practices.
“This note applies to Section 6.9 of Schedule 1 to the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) Part A(1)(a) Rearing of poultry or pigs intensively in an installation with more than:
(i) 40,000 places for poultry;
(ii) 2,000 places for production pigs (over 30kg) and/or
(iii) 750 places for sows.
Poultry includes chickens, layers, pullets, turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl and quail. Pigs reared outdoors are excluded, but housed free-range poultry (egg-laying and chickens reared for
meat) are included”
“Carcasses may be disposed of off-site as part of the National Fallen Stock Scheme, to a licensed knackerman, rendering plant, hunt kennel, maggot farm or authorised incinerator”
‘Portuguese agriculture and the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions—can vegetables control livestock emissions?’ by Paulo Reis Mourao and Vítor Domingues Martinho
Springer Link, 2017
This study looks at the relationship between agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions in Portugal. As expected, it falls in line with the global model, although there is a secondary focus on synthetic fertilizer production as well – something I’m going to look more into.
“A balanced relationship between economic activity and the environment for sustainable development is a permanent concern for many countries and policymakers”
“Crops and livestock emit gases with greenhouse implications, specifically methane and nitrous oxide produced through sources such as the enteric fermentation, manure management, rice cultivation, agricultural soils, and waste burning”
“Although the level of urbanization verified in Portugal over the past decade has been responsible for the increased greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through urban waste production and treatment and energy consumption, agriculture has also been associated with problems in environment degradation. The impact of agriculture, forestry, and fishing on gas emissions (13.7%) is significantly greater than its overall share of the economy (2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP)), which is relevant in terms of the balance between environmental and economic impacts”
“Regarding livestock production, enteric fermentation in Portuguese agriculture primarily impacts greenhouse gas emissions through methane production during the digestion process of ruminants (cattle, sheep, and goats), but it may occur in other animals to a lesser degree”
“In 2012, dairy cattle contributed 24.3–29.4% of methane emissions from enteric fermentation, whereas non-dairy cattle contributed 39.4–55.2%. Thus, cattle are responsible for approximately 79.5% of the total methane emitted from enteric fermentation. Sheep contributed 14.4–23.3%, goats 2.4–4.5%, and swine 1.9–2.9%”
“Methane is the major emission resulting from manure management, with swine contributing 83% of emissions in 2012. The nitrous oxide emitted from manure management mostly comes from dairy cattle (47.6%) and poultry (33.4%)”
“We concluded that the rise in productivity of fruit and vegetable production was associated with a more effective control of greenhouse gas emission levels”
“More significant levels of animal production tended to be associated with higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions”
‘Top Trends in Prepared Foods 2017: Exploring trends in meat, fish and seafood; pasta, noodles and rice; prepared meals; savory deli food; soup; and meat substitutes’ by Global Data
Global Data, 2017
This report determines six trends that companies in the food industry should follow in order to maximize their money. [Abstract-only source]
“44% of consumers in Germany follow a low-meat diet, which is a significant increase from 2014 (26%)”
“6% of US consumers now claim to be vegan, up from just 1% in 2014”
“It has identified six key trends impacting innovation in prepared foods –
– Go Meat-Free: Rising veganism and awareness of the impact of meat consumption are driving demand for meat-free products substitutes.
– Premiumized Junk Food: High-quality ingredients can raise the image of food categories that are traditionally seen as unhealthy.
– Healthy Swaps: Consumers are becoming savvier about food ingredients, so offering alternative prepared foods with enhanced health benefits will appeal.
– Inspiration Borrowers: Borrowing ideas from other food categories to inspire novel innovations creates opportunities to attract experimental consumers and capitalize on social media exposure.
– Fresh and Easy: Time-scarce consumers seek convenience but also want to cook their food with fresh and natural ingredients. Meal kits offer both aspects to appeal to these consumers.
– Ethical Eating: Consumers connect ethical and sustainable lifestyles with wellbeing and wellness, creating demand for more ethical prepared foods”
“With meat consumption being continually blamed for negative effects on the environment, lab-grown meat may make its way into the mass market to combat these concerns. It also represents a cruelty-free option. A group of social-savvy tech teams are promising cruelty-free cultured “chicken” will be available by 2022. The technology will even allow consumers globally to try meat based on rare wild animals, such as panda”
‘Environmental impact of omnivorous, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, and vegan diet’ by Alice Rosi, Pedro Mena, Nicoletta Pellegrini, Silvia Turroni, Erasmo Neviani, Ilario Ferrocino, Raffaella Di Cagno, Luca Ruini, Roberto Ciati, Donato Angelino, Jane Maddock, Marco Gobbetti, Furio Brighenti, Daniele Del Rio and Francesca Scazzina
Scientific Reports, 2017
This study looks at the environmental impact of a small number of Italians [Abstract-only source]
“The omnivorous choice generated worse carbon, water and ecological footprints than other diets”
“No differences were found for the environmental impacts of ovo-lacto-vegetarians and vegans, which also had diets more adherent to the Mediterranean pattern”