Vegetarianism and Water

I am not a vegetarian…but eat almost no meat and, perhaps stupidly, have not thought much about the environmental impacts of meat production. I just received an email pointing out the following post:

I’ve been vegetarian since 1982. I attended my first anti-vivisection protest in the spring of 1985 at UC San Diego, when anti-apartheid demonstrations were taking place. I first got interested in promoting vegetarianism in mainstream society after reading John Robbins’ Diet for a New America (1987). Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, it makes veganism seem as reasonable and mainstream as recycling.

Half the water consumed in the U.S. goes to irrigate land growing feed and fodder for livestock. Huge amounts of water wash away their excrement. U.S. livestock produce 20 times as much excrement as does the entire human population; creating sewage which is 10 to several hundred times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage. Animal wastes cause 10 times more water pollution than does the U.S. human population; the meat industry causes 3 times as much harmful organic water pollution than the rest of the nation’s industries combined. Meat producers are the number one industrial polluters in our nation, contributing to half the water pollution in the United States.

Joanna Macy, author of Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, depicts the advantages of America moving towards a vegan diet in her foreword to Diet for a New America:

“The effects on our physical health are immediate. The incidence of cancer and heart attack, the nation’s biggest killers, drops precipitously. So do many other diseases now demonstrably and causally linked to consumption of animal proteins and fats, such as osteoporosis…

“The social, ecological, and economic consequences, as we Americans turn away from animal food products, are equally remarkable. We find that the grain we previously fed to fatten livestock can now feed five times the U.S. population; so we have become able to alleviate malnutrition and hunger on a worldwide scale…

“The great forests of the world, that we had been decimating for grazing purposes, begin to grow again. Oxygen-producing trees are no longer sacrificed for cholesterol-producing steaks.

“The water crisis eases. As we stop raising and grinding up cattle for hamburgers, we discover that ranching and farm factories had been the major drain on our water resources. The amount now available for irrigation and hydroelectric power doubles. Meanwhile, the change in diet frees over 90% of the fossil fuel previously used to produce food. With this liberation of water energy and fossil fuel energy, our reliance on oil imports declines, as does the rationale for building nuclear power plants…”

Joanna Macy admits, “This scenario is wildly, absurdly utopian. It is also clearly the way we are meant to live, built to live.” What could possibly make it a reality? “It is this very book!”

Paul McCartney also says, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty. Let’s do it! Going veggie is the single best idea for the new century.”