Top Pro & Con Arguments


A vegetarian diet is better for the environment.

Overgrazing livestock hurts the environment through soil compaction, erosion, and harm to native plants and animals. Significant portions of the 11 western states are grazed by livestock. [29] Grazing has been a factor in the listing of at least 171 species of animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act because the large tracts of flat land interrupt natural habitats. [92] Grazing has also damaged streams and riparian areas in the western United States. [93] Abstaining from meat would help restore land more naturally suited to provide habitat for native plants and animals.

A vegetarian diet conserves water. Producing one pound of beef takes about 1,800 gallons of water, about 576 gallons per pound of pork, about 486 gallons per pound of turkey, and about 468 gallons per pound of chicken. A pound of tofu only takes about 302 gallons. [151] [152] [153]

Meanwhile, raising animals for food contributes to air and water pollution. Manure produces toxic hydrogen sulfide and ammonia which pollute the air and leach poisonous nitrates into nearby waters. [32] Runoff laden with manure is a major cause of “dead zones” in 173,000 miles of US waterways, including the 7,700-square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. [32] [115]People living near CAFOs often have respiratory problems from hydrogen sulfide and ammonia air pollution. A peer-reviewed 2006 study of Iowa students near a CAFO found 19.7% had asthma – nearly three times the state average of 6.7%. [166]

A vegetarian diet leads to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are created by enteric fermentation (aka animal farts and burps), manure decomposition, and deforestation to make room for grazing animals and growing feed. A June 2014 peer-reviewed study found that diets including meat cause the creation of up to 54% more greenhouse gas emissions than vegetarian diets. [134] According to the United Nations Environment Programme, a “worldwide diet change away from animal products” is necessary to stop the worst effects of global climate change. [104]

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