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The Environmental Impact of Eating Beef and Dairy Products

There are currently 1. 28 billion cattle populating the earth. They occupy nearly 24 percent of the landmass of the planet. Their combined weight exceeds that of the earth’s entire human population. Raising cows for beef has been linked to several environmental problems, and eating beef can worsen your health. The Dairy Industry puts not only your health in danger from consuming their products, but the lives of the cows that produce them. There is severe environmental damage brought on by cattle ranching, including the destruction of rainforests and grasslands.

Since 960 more than 25 percent of Central America’s forests have been cleared to create pastureland for grazing cattle. By the late 1970’s two-thirds of all agricultural land in Central America was occupied by cattle and other livestock. More than half the rual families in Central America-35 million people-are now landless or own too litle land to support themselves.

Cattle are also a major cause of desertification around the planet. Today about 1. billion cattle are trampling and stripping much of the vegetative cover from the earth’s remaining grasslands. Each animal eats its way through 900 pounds of vegetation a month. Without plants to anchor the soil, absorb the water, and recycle the nutrients, the land has become increasingly vulnerable to wind and water erosion. More than 60 percent of the world’s rangeland has been damaged by overgrazing during the past half century. Cattle ranching has also been linked to Global Warming.

The grain-fed-cattle complex is now a significant factor in the emission of three of the gases that cause the greenhouse effect- methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxides- and is likely to play an even larger role in Global Warming in the coming decades. The burning of fossil fuels accounted for nearly two- hirds of the 815 billion tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere in 1987. The other third came from the increased burning of the forests and grasslands. When the trees are cleared and burned to make room for cattle pastures, they emit a massive volume of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Commercial cattle ranching also contributes to Global Warming in other ways. With 70 percent of all U. S. grain production now devoted to livestock feed, much of ot for cattle, the energy burned by farm machinery and transport vehicles just to produce and ship the feed represents a significant addition to carbon dioxide emissions. It ow takes the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of grain-fed beef in the United States. To sustain the yearly beef requirements of an average family of four requires the use of more than 260 gallons of fossil fuel.

Finally; Nitrous Oxide, which accounts for 6 percent of the global warming effect, is released from fertilizer used in growing the feed; and methane, which makes up 18 percent, is emitted from the cattle. The final victims of the world cattle complex are the animals themselves. Immediately after birth, male calves are castrated to make them more “docile”, and to improve the quality of their meat. To ensure that he animals will not injure each other, they are dehorned with a chemical paste that burns out their horns’ roots.

Neither of these procedures is done with anesthesia. There are about 42,000 feedlots in 13 major cattle- feeding states in the United states. The feedlot is generaly a fenced-in area with a concrete feed trough along one side. In many of the larger feedlots, thousands of cattle are crowded together side by side in severely cramped quarters. To obtain the optimum weight gain in the minimum time, feedlot managers administer a variety of pharmaceuticals to their cattle, including growth-stimulating hormones and feed additives.

Anabolic steroids, in the form of small time-release pellets, are implanted in the animals’ ears. cattle are given estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone. The hormones stimulate the cells to produce additional protein, adding muscle and fat tissue more rapidly. Today 80 percent of all the herbicides used in the United States are sprayed on corn and soybeans. After being consumed by the cattle, these herbicides accumulate in their bodies and are passed along to the consumer in finished cuts of beef. eef now ranks number one in herbicide contamination and number two in overall pesticide contamination.

Some feedlots now expiriment with adding cardboard, newspapers, and sawdust to the feed to reduce costs. Other factory farms scrape up the manure from chicken houses and pigpens and add it directly to cattle feed. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials say that it is not uncommon for some feedlot operators to mix industrial sewage and oils into the feed to reduce costs and fatten animals more quickly.

Moving beyond beef in our daily diets is a personal decision, but one that has profound and far-reaching consequences. Millions of Americans and Europeans are making personal choices to move beyond beef, or at east to cut down their consumption, and this will have a significant impact on the future of our planet and humanity. Beef consumption in the United States has dropped markedly in the past 20 years, from 83 pounds per person per year in 1975 to less than 68 pounds per person per year in 1990.

Today’s dairy cow has been bred to be a milk machine, producing an average of 15,557 pounds of milk a year, almost 40 percent more than her counterpart of just 16 years ago. while the undomesticated cow produced enough milk to feed her one or two calves, a dairy cow in a modern dairy fa….. m produces about twenty times more milk than her calf needs. Excessive production demands, coupled with the trend toward confining cows indoors or in densely populated drylots (enclosures devoid of grass), have resulted in serious welfare and disease problems for the dairy cow.

The modern dairy cow is usually artifically inseminated, pumped full of hormones and growth stimulants, and super-ovulated so she can churn out more calves, faster and faster. Cows are fed a diet geared toward high production. This diet, which is heavy in grain, is fed to species whose digestive track is suited to roughages. High-production diets create many health problems, including severe metabolic disorders and painful lameness, which are compounded by confinement. Also, at any given time, half of U. S. dairy cattle have mastitis (a painful udder inflamation, usually caused by infection).

Today’s cow is typically burned out (unable to keep up production) and sent to slaughter, for human consumption and other uses, at an average age of four years. Her natural life span would be from twenty to twenty-five years. A recent analysis by the FDA found that meat from dairy cows and their calves was the source of 60 percent of those drug and other hemical residues found in edible meats in ammounts that violated allowable limits (Dairy cows are the source for the majority of processed beef and 26 percent of hamburger in the United States ).

The government’s ability to ensure a safe milk supply has also come into question. Despite a dairy product surplus and with cows already pushed to their limits, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), a genetically engineered drug injected into dairy cows to increase milk production, has been approved for use by American dairy farmers. Embryo transfer, cloning, the creation of transgenic cows, and the engineering of cows to secrete harmaceuticals and other substances in their milk are also under way.

Another practice growing in popularity is tail docking, the removal of about two-thirds of an adult dairy cow’s tail- without use of an anesthetic. This procedure, the rationale for which is that it keeps cows cleaner, is completely unnecessary. It also deprives the cow of her natural means of swatting flies. Newborn dairy calves are typically taken from their mothers at birth of shortly thereafter. Some female calves are kept as replacements for cows in the dairy herd.

The other calves are sent to slaughter s babies, to veal farms, or to be raised for beef. Many are sent to stockyards when only one or two days old, even before they can walk. Calves in the sale/slaughter pipeline are often transported long distances, subjected to rough handling, and exposed to numerous diseases and weather extremes. They may be given no opportunity to rest or eat. Calves destined to be slaughtered at sixteen weeks old for “milk-fed” veal spend their lives in crates so narrow that they are unable even to turn around.

Denied water and solid food, they are fed a diet consisting solely of an intentionally iron-deficient milk replacement, ften containing antibiotics, which they typically lap up from a bucket twice a day. Veal is a by-product of the dairy industry that owes its existance to the surplus calves delivered by ten million dairy cows every year. Veal consumption has decreased from its peak of 3. 5 pounds per capita to under one pound per capita in 1993, owing in large part to the public’s refusal to purchase inhumanely produced products such as milk-fed veal.

Another by-product of the dairy industry is the downed animal- an animal who is too weak, ill, or injured to stand or walk without assistance. Burned-out dairy cows and newborn calves make up a large percentage f downed animals, who often suffer from brutal treatment at livestock markets. Baby calves that cannot walk are often dragged or thrown and are trampled by other animals. Downed dairy cows are painfully dragged off trucks and across stockyards by chains or ropes tied around one leg.

Both downed calves and cows are shocked with electric prods, kicked, and beaten during the transport and auction process in futile attempts to get them to move on their own. They are often left without food, water, or veterinary care, sometimes for days at a time, untill they either die or are loaded onto trucks yet again for a trip to laughter. as many as 90 percent of downed animals could be prevented by simple improvements in management, handling, and transportation practices, including keeping newborn calves on the farm of their birth for a minimum of five days before sending them to market.

There are many health problems linked with eating beef and dairy products. Harvard scientists found that women who had beef, lamb, or pork as a daily main dish ran two and a half the risk of developing colon cancer as did those who ate the meats less than once a month. The conclusions are drawn from a study of 88,751 nurses that was begun in 1980. Eating beef has lso been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. Drinking milk has been linked to asthma, allergies, intestinal bleeding, and juvenile diabetes.

Cutting dairy products out of your diet gives you a greater chance of avoiding bronchial, respiratory, and stomach problems. Eating Beef, as well as dairy products, has an extreme impact on the environment. Raising cows for beef has been linked to several environmental problems, such as Global Warming, and eating beef can worsen your health. The dairy industry puts not only your health in danger from consuming dairy products, but that of the cows who make them as well.

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