Human activity has contributed to the deterioration of the earth as global warming and climate change have proven to be a prevalent issue within our society. One of human’s biggest contribution to climate change is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture is the largest user of land and is the number one contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases which go hand in hand to global warming and climate change. Animal agriculture attributes to 18% of greenhouse gases emissions and approximately 9% of total carbon dioxide emissions.
Animal agriculture is also responsible for roughly 65% of all human- elated emissions of nitrous oxide which remains in the atmosphere for up to 150 years. Animal agriculture contributes to greenhouse gases emissions not only from the animals themselves but from the emissions released from factories to produce their feed and transportation of the animals and the animal products to retail stores. Mitigating and preventing the environmental factors that are being caused by animal agriculture will require changes in regulation, production practices, and consumer behavior.
Emissions produced from animal agriculture surpass the emissions produced from transportation and fuel emissions. Transportation and the burning of fossil fuels seem to be regarded as the main contributors to the emission of greenhouse gasses within the atmosphere. However the Food and Agricultural Organization conducted research and found that animal agriculture emits 18% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions while transportation emissions are only responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
As the numbers of animals killed for meat, egg, and dairy production increases, so does the amount of emissions being released into the atmosphere. Approximately 56 billion animals re killed for human consumption annually according to the Food and Agricultural Organization and this is expected to double by 2050. Individual animals produce relatively small amounts of methane, however with the large animal agricultural industry today, which adds up to over 1 billion animals killed annually, there is approximately 86 million metric tons of methane emissions produced worldwide.
In the United States, methane emissions from dairy cow and pig manure has increased by an average of 43% between the years 1990 and 2005. Animals in the United States alone generate approximately 500 million ons of waste annually and cattle produce around 150 billions of methane gas per day through manure and passing gas. Not only does animal manure affect the environment and produce greenhouse gas emissions but the manure management also accounts for 25% of agricultural methane emissions and 6% of nitrous oxide emissions.
Animal agriculture has grown into such a large industry and there is a surplus of livestock which lead to alternative living conditions. Because of this surplus there is not a sufficient amount of space so animals are confined in cages, stalls and warehouses. The animals lack the experience of natural ehaviors because these production systems lack environmental stimuli and adequate space. These animals don’t get the leisure and freedom to walk around and properly exercise.
Confining greater numbers of animals indoors and separating production operations from agricultural land will only further the environmental problems that we are currently experiencing. In order for animal welfare friendly practices to occur in all production facilities, there needs to be a decrease in the production rate of the animals because there are too many. In larger confinement operations a lot of the energy used goes owards heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.
Energy also goes towards feed crop production which includes the production of seeds, herbicides and pesticides, along with the fossil fuels emitted from operating all of the farm machinery. Farm animals and animal production facilities cover one-third of the planet’s land surface including facilities that contain the animals, feed the animals, and package and transport the animal products. Approximately 800 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted annually merely from the transportation of feed and animal products.
Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of habitat destruction as deforestation has commonly occurred for grazing land or cropland used for feed production. Animal agriculture is responsible for roughly 90% of the destruction of the Amazon. Soils act as carbon sinks and store carbon dioxide however human activities such as deforestation, have depleted the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil which then emit the carbon dioxide into the air.
Animal production contributes to the release of up to 28 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from cultivated soils. Animal Agriculture has affected most f Latin America which has experienced he largest lost of forests and resulted in the greatest release of stored carbon into the atmosphere which also resulted in a huge decrease in vegetation. Cattle confined in feedlots or in food warehouses are fed an unnatural diet of concentrated high-protein feed that consists of corn and soybeans.
Feeding the global population of these animals requires at least 80% of the worlds soy bean crop and more than one half of all corn, which is a plant dependent on nitrogen-based artificial fertilizers. In order to grow and maintain these feed crops, 50% of the US water supply is used nnually. Burning fossil fuels to produce fertilizers for feed crops emit roughly 41 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Artificial nitrogenous fertilizer is used to grow animal feed and most of this fertilizer is produced in factories that are dependent on fossil-fuel energy.
The reason for this diet is that it causes the animals to gain weight easily however this diet leads to increased methane emissions. Cattle that are raised on pastures and are fed a more natural and low-energy diet composed of grasses and other natural greens, produce manure containing alf of the methane gases found in cattle fed with unnatural diets. The amount of emissions produced from animals depend on the type of animal and the species and also the product being made.
Animal agriculture also consumes an average of 55 trillion gallons of water annually. ,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef and 1,000 gallons of water are needed to produce only 1 gallon of milk. It takes 477 gallons of water for 1 pound of eggs and 900 gallons of water for 1 pound of cheese. In order to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions that originate from animal agriculture there needs to be changes in roduction and consumption patterns. The average american consumes roughly 209 pounds of meat per year. Consumers need to decrease their intake of meat, eggs, and dairy products.
After conducting research, I have personally come up with the idea that there should be a law which regulates the amount of offspring produced by companies. The law should restrict each company that produces animal food products to control the reproduction rate of the livestock to produce specific amount of offspring. The only con about this idea is that it will result in a decrease in spending, products being sold, and a decrease in evenue. And it might also result in an increased price on all products.
However that might lead to consumers not purchasing these items as often as they do today. Accurately pricing products and environmental natural resources is also another step which will influence consumers behaviors. Another strategy is to change the livestock diets and use more natural diets that will reduce fermentation and methane emissions. Diets can include plant based bolus which are formulated to reduce excessive fermentation and also regulate metabolic activity of stomach bacteria in order to reduce methane emissions.