Another book from ISKCON that is very interesting and relevant to present times. It deals about the environmental crisis that the world is facing now and how it can be countered by simple yet effective ways. The book showss the practicality & relevancy of the vedic way of life to the present day environmental degradation like Pollution, Global Warming, etc.
Excert from Chapter 2
Killing animals for food, fur, leather, and cosmetics is one of the most environmentally destructive practices taking place on the earth today. The Krishna consciousness movement’s policies of protecting animals, especially cows, and broadly promoting a spiritual vegetarian diet could—if widely adopted—relieve many environmental problems…
… Jeremy Rifkin warns in his widely read book Beyond Beef: “Today, millions of Americans, Europeans, and Japanese are consuming countless hamburgers, steaks, and roasts, oblivious to the impact their dietary habits are having on the biosphere and the very survivability of life on earth. Every pound of grain-fed flesh is secured at the expense of a burned forest, an eroded rangeland, a barren field, a dried-up river or stream, and the release of millions of tons of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane into the skies.”
According to Vegetarian Times, half of the annual destruction of tropical rain forests is caused by clearing land for beef cattle ranches. Each pound of hamburger made from Central American or South American beef costs about 55 square feet of rain forest vegetation.
In the United States, about 260 million acres of forest have been cleared for a meat-centered diet. Each person who becomes a vegetarian saves one acre of trees per year.
About 40% of the land in the western United States is used for grazing beef cattle. This has had a detrimental effect on wildlife. Fencing has forced deer and antelope out of their natural habitats.
About half the world’s grain is consumed by animals that are later slaughtered for meat.8 This is a very inefficient process. It takes 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to produce 1 pound of feedlot beef. If people were to subsist on grains and other vegetarian foods alone, this would put far less strain on the earth’s agricultural lands. About 20 vegetarians can be fed from the land it takes to feed 1 meat eater.
Eighty per cent of the corn raised in the United States is fed to livestock, as well as 95% of the oats. Altogether, 56% of all agricultural land in the United States is used for beef production. If all the soybeans and grain fed yearly to US livestock were set aside for human consumption, it would feed 1.3 billion people.
Soil Erosion and Desertification
Overgrazing and the intensive production of feed grain for cattle and other meat animals results in high levels of soil erosion. According to Alan B. Durning of the Worldwatch Institute (1986), one pound of beef from cattle raised on feedlots represents the loss of 35 pounds of topsoil. Over the past few centuries, the United States has lost about two-thirds of its topsoil.
In other countries, such as Australia and the nations of Africa on the southern edge of the Sahara, cattle grazing and feed-crop production on marginal lands contribute substantially to desertification.
Burning of oil in the production of feed grain results in air pollution, including carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. Another major source of air pollution is the burning of tropical forests to clear land for cattle grazing.
The meat industry burns up a lot of fossil fuel, pouring pollutants into the air. Calorie for calorie, it takes 39 times more energy to produce beef than soybeans. The petroleum used in the United States would decrease by 60% if people adopted a vegetarian diet.
The meat industry, in addition to producing carbon dioxide, is also responsible for other greenhouse gases, such as methane. Methane is produced directly by the digestive process of cows. This greenhouse gas is considered very dangerous because each molecule of methane traps 20 times more heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide.
How big a threat to the planet is the methane emitted by cows? Overall, the effect is not significant, certainly not enough to justify fears of cows destroying the planet by global warming. Each year about 500 million tons of methane enter the atmosphere, contributing about 18% of the total greenhouse gases. Cows account for 60 million tons of the methane, about 12%.16 Therefore, methane emitted by cows amounts to only 2% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. It should also be kept in mind that feedlot cows, because they eat more, produce more methane than range-fed cows. In India, there are about 270 million cows, but 99.9% of them are range fed. Therefore they produce less methane than an equivalent number of feedlot cows.
About 50% of the water pollution in the United States is linked to livestock. Pesticides and fertilizers used in helping grow feed grains run off into lakes and rivers. They also pollute ground water. In the feedlots and stockyard holding pens, there is also a tremendous amount of pesticide runoff. Organic contaminants from huge concentrations of animal excrement and urine at feedlots and stockyards also pollute water. This waste is anywhere from ten to hundreds of times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage. According to a German documentary film (Fleisch Frisst Menschen [Flesh Devours Man] by Wolfgang Kharuna), nitrates evaporating from open tanks of concentrated livestock waste in the Netherlands have resulted in extremely high levels of forest-killing acid rain.
All around the world, the beef industry is wasting the diminishing supplies of fresh water. For example, the livestock industry in the United States takes about 50% of the water consumed each year.
Feeding the average meat-eater requires about 4,200 gallons of water per day, versus 1,200 gallons per day for a person following a lacto-vegetarian diet. While it takes only 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat.
The Bottom Line
Reducing or eliminating meat consumption would have substantial positive effects on the environment. Fewer trees would be cut, less soil would be eroded, and desertification would be substantially slowed. A major source of air and water pollution would be removed, and scarce fresh water would be conserved. “To go beyond beef is to transform our very thinking about appropriate behavior toward nature,” says Jeremy Rifkin. “We come to appreciate the source of our sustenance, the divinely inspired creation that deserves nurture and requires stewardship. Nature is no longer viewed as an enemy to be subdued and tamed.”