April 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Founded by former Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the original Earth Day put environmental protection on the national radar, leading to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Forty years later, Earth Day has gone global. One billion people are expected to participate in Earth Day celebrations this month, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Tokyo, Japan.
That's all well and good. But planting trees and cleaning up rivers won't mean much in the long run if we continue to trash the planet with our meat habit. To truly "go green," we must start with what's on our plates.
Raising and killing animals for food wastes so many resources and causes so much destruction, it's hard to know where to begin.
According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, 30 percent of the Earth's ice-free land is now involved--either directly or indirectly--in livestock production. As the world's appetite for meat increases, countries around the globe are bulldozing huge swaths of land in order to make more room for animals and the crops that feed them.
Then there's the energy required to operate factory farms, feedlots, slaughterhouses and trucks that transport animals and the amount of water that is squandered on animal agriculture (it takes more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a single meat-eater compared to 300 gallons needed for a vegan). And don't forget the edible crops that are used to feed animals instead of hungry, malnourished people.
What else do we get from all the grain, fossil fuels and water that go into making meat and milk? More waste--in the form of tons and tons of feces.
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