Every cow fattened in Gambella state in southern Ethiopia and exported to Abu Dhabi or Britain is taking the pressure off water supplies back home but increasing it elsewhere. Global agribusiness has for 30 years turned to tropical rainforests — not for their timber but for the land that can be used to graze cattle or grow palm oil and soya. Millions of hectares of trees have been felled to provide burgers for the US and more recently animal feed for farms for Europe, China and Japan. In its latest food report What's Feeding Our Food?
Friends of the Earth estimates that around 6m hectares of forest land a year — an area equivalent to Latvia or twice the size of Belgium — and a similar acreage of peat and wetlands elsewhere, is converted to farmland a year. Of that, it says, most goes to livestock or to grow the crops to feed the cattle. As soya becomes the world's major crop for chicken feed, so the industry is driving cattle ranching deeper into the forests. Industrial-scale agriculture now dominates the western livestock and poultry industries, and a single farm can now generate as much waste as a city.
A cow excretes around 40kg of manure for every kilogram of edible beef it puts on and when you have many thousands crowded into a small area the effect can be dramatic. Their manure and urine is funnelled into massive waste lagoons sometimes holding as many as 40m gallons. These cesspools often break, leak or overflow, polluting underground water supplies and rivers with nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrates.
Tens of thousands of miles of rivers in the US, Europe and Asia are polluted each year. A single spill of millions of gallons of waste from a North Carolina pig factory lagoon in killed about 10 million fish and forced the closure of , acres of coastal wetlands to shellfishing.
The sheer quantity of animals now being raised for humans to eat now threatens the earth's biodiversity. More than one third of the world's "ecoregions" identified by conservation group WWF are said to be threatened by livestock and giant US group Conservation International reckons that 23 out of odd global "biodiversity hotspots" — the places considered most valuable for life — are now seriously affected by livestock production.
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The present oil pollution disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is not the only problem that the region faces. Most summers between 13,, sq km of sea at the mouth of the Mississippi become a "dead zone", caused when vast quantities of excess nutrients from animal waste, factory farms, sewage, nitrogen compounds and fertiliser are swept down the mighty river.
This causes algal blooms which take up all the oxygen in the water to the point where little can live. Nearly dead zones ranging in size from one to over 70,sq km have now been identified, from the Scandinavian fjords to the South China Sea. Animal farming is not the only culprit, but it is one of the worst. Anyone who has lived close to a large factory farm knows the smells can be extreme.
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Aside from greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, cows and pigs produce many other polluting gases. Nearly two thirds of the manmade ammonia — a major contributor to acid rain — is also generated by livestock. In addition, concentrated factory farming of animals contributes to ozone pollution. Animal waste contains many pathogens including salmonella, E coli, cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform, which can transfer to humans through water run-off or manure or touch.
In addition, millions of pounds of antibiotics is added to animal feed a year to speed the growth of cattle. But this contributes to the rise of resistant bacteria, and so makes it harder to treat human illnesses. The western animal farming economy is based on oil, which is why there were food riots in 23 countries when the oil price peaked in Every link in the chain of events that brings meat to the table demands electricity, from the production of the fertiliser put on the land to grow the animal feed, to pumping the water they need from the rivers or deep underground, to the fuel needed to transport the meat in giant refrigerated ships and the supermarket shelves.
According to some studies, as much as one-third of all fossil fuels produced in the United States now go towards animal agriculture. But the quantities are still staggering: according to the Vegetarian Society, the average British carnivore eats over 11, animals in a lifetime: 1 goose, 1 rabbit, 4 cattle, 18 pigs, 23 sheep and lambs, 28 ducks, 39 turkeys, 1, chickens, 3, shellfish and 6, fish.
For this, say the vegetarians, the meat eaters get increased chances of obesity, cancers, heart diseases and other illnesses as well as a hole in the pocket.
Vegetarianism: The Basic Facts
A meat diet is generally considered twice as expensive as a vegetarian one. Topics Vegetarianism OFM vegetarian recipe special. Food global Food Environment Greenhouse gas emissions Ethical and green living features.
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Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. However, there were few deaths in either group, so the observed differences may have been due to chance. For heart protection, it's best to choose high-fiber whole grains and legumes, which are digested slowly and have a low glycemic index — that is, they help keep blood sugar levels steady.
Soluble fiber also helps reduce cholesterol levels. Refined carbohydrates and starches like potatoes, white rice, and white-flour products cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, which increases the risk of heart attack and diabetes a risk factor for heart disease. Nuts are also heart-protective.
Are Vegetarians Prone To Vitamin Deficiencies?
They have a low glycemic index and contain many antioxidants, vegetable protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy fatty acids. The downside: nuts pack a lot of calories, so restrict your daily intake to a small handful about an ounce. The upside: because of their fat content, even a small amount of nuts can satisfy the appetite. Walnuts, in particular, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits.
Even so, fish are the best source of omega-3s, and it's not clear whether plant-derived omega-3s are an adequate substitute for fish in the diet. One study suggests that omega-3s from walnuts and fish both work to lower heart disease risk, but by different routes. Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there's evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than nonvegetarians do.
But the differences aren't large. A vegetarian diet can make it easier to get the recommended minimum of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but a purely vegetarian diet is not necessarily better than a plant-based diet that also includes fish or poultry. For example, in a pooled analysis of data from the Oxford Vegetarian Study and EPIC-Oxford, fish-eaters had a lower risk of certain cancers than vegetarians. If you stop eating red meat whether or not you become a vegetarian , you'll eliminate a risk factor for colon cancer.
It's not clear whether avoiding all animal products reduces the risk further. Vegetarians usually have lower levels of potentially carcinogenic substances in their colons, but studies comparing cancer rates in vegetarians and nonvegetarians have shown inconsistent results.
Becoming a vegetarian
Type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that a predominantly plant-based diet can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. In studies of Seventh-day Adventists, vegetarians' risk of developing diabetes was half that of nonvegetarians, even after taking BMI into account. The Harvard-based Women's Health Study found a similar correlation between eating red meat especially processed meats, such as bacon and hot dogs and diabetes risk, after adjusting for BMI, total calorie intake, and exercise. Some women are reluctant to try a vegetarian diet — especially one that doesn't include calcium-rich dairy products — because they're concerned about osteoporosis.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians see "Varieties of vegetarians" consume at least as much calcium as meat-eaters, but vegans typically consume less. But vegans who consumed at least milligrams of calcium per day were not especially vulnerable to fractures. Certain vegetables can supply calcium, including bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collards, and kale.
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Spinach and Swiss chard, which also contain calcium, are not such good choices, because along with the calcium they have oxalates, which make it harder for the body to absorb calcium. Moreover, the high potassium and magnesium content of fruits and vegetables reduces blood acidity, lowering the urinary excretion of calcium. People who follow a vegetarian diet and especially a vegan diet may be at risk of getting insufficient vitamin D and vitamin K, both needed for bone health.
Although green leafy vegetables contain some vitamin K, vegans may also need to rely on fortified foods, including some types of soy milk, rice milk, organic orange juice, and breakfast cereals. They may also want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Becoming a vegetarian requires planning and knowledge of plant-based nutrition. Here are some resources that can help:. American Dietetic Association www. Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom www.
Research shows that lacto-ovo vegetarians generally get the recommended daily amount of protein, which is easily obtained from dairy products and eggs. Women need about 0. Because the protein in vegetables is somewhat different from animal protein, vegans may need 0. There are many plant sources that can help vegans meet their protein needs, including peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds, nuts, soy products, and whole grains for example, wheat, oats, barley, and brown rice.
Vegetarians used to be told that they had to combine "complementary" plant proteins rice with beans, for example at every meal to get all the amino acids contained in meat protein. Now, health experts say that such rigid planning is unnecessary. According to the American Dietetic Association, eating a wide variety of protein sources every day is sufficient. Vitamin B Vitamin B 12 is found only in animal products, but those products include dairy foods and eggs, so most vegetarians get all they need.
If you avoid animal products altogether, you should eat foods fortified with vitamin B 12 certain soy and rice beverages and breakfast cereals or take a vitamin B 12 supplement to avoid a deficiency, which can cause neurological problems and pernicious anemia.
Studies show that in Western countries, vegetarians tend to get the same amount of iron as meat eaters. But the iron in meat especially red meat is more readily absorbed than the kind found in plant foods, known as non-heme iron. The absorption of non-heme iron is enhanced by vitamin C and other acids found in fruits and vegetables, but it may be inhibited by the phytic acid in whole grains, beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts.
Phytic acid in whole grains, seeds, beans, and legumes also reduces zinc absorption, but vegetarians in Western countries do not appear to be zinc-deficient.