What are problems of livestock?
Livestock are playing a key role in our daily life because they provide food for us, for instance, meats, milk, eggs and cheeses. However, do you calculate how many meats you consume during one week? At the same time, do you consider these two important questions: How many natural resources are utilized by raising livestock, such as cattle, pigs, chickens? And how many damages they made to the environment?
With the development of technology and increase of knowledge, citizens have opportunities to obtain more meats than before. As growth of human populations, towns expand into cities and cities into mega-cities, the agricultural lands are increasingly reducing while the demand of more food will urgently need to be contented. Between 1950 and 2000, the world’s population doubled, meat consumption increased five-fold. According the chart (republished under a Creative Commons licence) below, it shows numbers of meat production which are consumed by people around the world between 2010 and 2012. In average, people expended millions of tonnes of meat production on different livestock, especially in China (68.1 million tonnes), the EU (44.5 million tonnes), the USA (40.9 million tonnes) and Brazil (26.2 million tonnes).
Therefore, facing the huge consumption of meat production, we have to expand the area of farm land and provide enough feeding stuff and water to raise livestock. Form that, we cannot ignore harms made by blooms of raising livestock to environment, for example, soil erosion, water resource depletion, pollution, global warming and loss of biological diversity.
Impacts on global warming
Most of us know transport is a major contributor to global warming, because vast amounts of greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere. Then our government make some rules and plans to limit the number of private cars. However, the public often lose sight of livestock which can release more greenhouse gases than transport into the air. Greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane, for instance – trap solar energy and warm the earth’s surface. Quantities of greenhouse gases are often expressed as the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that would have the same global-warming potential. Tabassum-Abbasi et al (2015) highlight that livestock production cause 35-40% of global anthropogenic methane and 9% of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emission. Let us compare the emission of CO2 between different foods and car.
According the above-mentioned picture, the greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions from producing various foods can be clearly compared them with the emissions from a gasoline-powered passenger car. Apparently, producing half a pound of vegetables or fruits, like potatoes, apples and asparagus, releases the fewer quantity of CO2 (under 0.20 pound) which is the same as a car driving 0.27 mile. By contrast, the CO2 emissions from producing half a pound of meat productions such as chicken, pork and beef are much higher than vegetables and fruits. Especially, half a pound of beef can discharge 7.4 pounds of CO2 which is 37 times than asparagus’s, 13 times than chicken’s and 4 times than pork’s and it is equal to the emission from a car driving 9.81 miles. Thus, the emissions of CO2 form raising livestock are much more than people thought.
In addition, Tauseef et al (2013) claim that livestock activities also contribute to the emission of nitrous oxides (N2O) which is one of the three major greenhouse gases: 65% of global N2O anthropogenic emissions. And 64% of global anthropogenic ammonia (NH3) emission is caused by livestock manure and urine. In spite of NH3 do not belong to greenhouse gases, it contributes to N2O, because specialized soil bacteria can convert it to N2O (Wrage et al, 2001). All in all, the amount of emission from raising livestock contributes 15.5% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, so it can be considered that livestock make huge adverse impacts on environment.
Stress on water resources
At the beginning, let us do an interesting choice: between 8oz tasty steak and 17 times bubble bath, which one do you prefer? Hush! Do not tell your answer, keep it in your mind. But I have to tell you that producing 8oz steak use water resource of the same quantity as 17 bathtubs full. Source: https://www.hongkongfp.com/2015/11/27/a-steaks-contribution-to-global-warming/
You maybe feel shocked because you can image 17 bathtubs water which no doubt is quite a bit of resources, while it only produces 8oz steak. The truth is more than 8% of the global human water use is used by the livestock sector and it is mostly used for feed stuff. (Tabassum-Abbasi et al ,2015)
By comparison, the water used for drinking, servicing and industry takes up just 0.1% of the global water used. According to the picture below, it takes 14-201 gallons of water to produce one pound of potatoes, apples, wheat or asparagus while it takes about 1,846 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef which is approximately 74 times the amount necessary to produce one pound of potatoes. Similarly, producing per pound of chicken, pork and cheese consumes a lot of water resources. Therefore, a plenty of water resources is used by raising livestock which caused to a certain extent water shortages.
In conclusion, many adverse impacts of livestock sector are showing up. It not only is reflected by shortage of water resources, but also releases a huge amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Moreover, excessively raising livestock to meet the needs of eating meat also leads to other effects, such as soil erosion, pollution, loss of biological diversity and so on. In order to protect our living environment and save natural resources, the public need to establish and raise awareness of a right way of eating and using livestock. For example, people change their daily dietary patterns: less meat, more plants. The increasing number of meat consumption will be replaced by vegetables and fruits in diet that people will get a healthier body. At the same time, we’ll reduce not only calories, but our carbon footprint. It is a start to make life better!