image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com (Flickr CC)

A: The environmental impact of meat and dairy products is a complex problem.

The livestock industry is damaging our planet in many ways. It is polluting the air – according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, it generates more greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2 (18%) and methane, than the whole world’s transport (13,5 %).

It is polluting the water – gigantic containers called “lagoons”, where livestock animals’ manure and urine are stored, may leak or even break under heavy rains and storms. The waste is highly toxic and very often contains lots of antibiotics and dangerous bacteria.

Factory farming is also wasting far too much water:

Animals need much more water than grain to produce the same amount of food, and ending malnutrition and feeding even more mouths will take still more water.

Alex Kirby, BBC News Online environmental correspondent

Factory farming causes deforestation – for example, according to an article in the Ecologist, 98% of imported soy animal feed for Britain’s poultry, pig and dairy farms originates in South America, where soybean farming has been linked to deforestation. To read more about this issue, go to this article.

Not only are billions of animals killed for meat every year, but millions die because of deforestation, which is decimating ecosystems.

It has been estimated that one hamburger made from Costa Rican beef results in the eradication of one large tree, 50 saplings, seedlings from 20-30 different species, hundreds of species of insects and a huge diversity of mosses, funghi and microorganisms

– Zephie Begolo, Viva! environment campaigner

Overfishing, which simply means catching too much fish, is also a significant problem, as more and more marine ecosystems are thretened with collapse.

From overfishing.org:

It’s not only the fish that is affected by fishing. As we are fishing down the food web the increasing effort needed to catch something of commercial value [,] marine mammals, sharks, sea birds, and non commercially viable fish species in the web of marine biodiversity are overexploited, killed as bycatch and discarded (up to 80% of the catch for certain fisheries), and threatened by the industrialized fisheries.

To find out more on how to go green and get support cutting down on meat and dairy products, visit the homepage for Viva! HOT! Campaign.

If you have any questions about environmental issues or anything else relating to the site and topics we cover on Greenfudge, just Ask Joanna.