Meat industry has been in the past few years experienced much growth as more people embrace the idea of incorporating meat into their diet. This growth is expected to continue growing more in the future as the population increases. This is driven by the fact that as the population grows, there is more demand for animal products, and a large proportion of the population become affluent. Beef is mostly liked for it is one of the most readily available sources of protein and is available on most parts of the world if not on all parts.
As the meat industry continues to grow, there has been mixed reactions about it. Meat consumers continue to appreciate the evolvement and growth off the industries. On the other hand, there has been a lot of criticism by those who are against the idea of industry growth. Many of those who are against the growth have provided reasons to try and justify their claims that the meat industry is acting as a major contribution of environmental pollution. Most of the critics are the people on diet who rarely or never take meat as they believe in living as vegetarians.
As much as the meat industry has negative impacts, it also has positive impacts. One of the major positive impacts is realized on extensive farming. Most of the meat consumed comes from livestock. Under proper management, livestock manure can be used in farming on the land. This improves the amount of nutrients in the soil leading to higher production and increased vegetation growth. This is a positive contribution to the environment as the soil becomes fertile, and vegetation grows, the environment becomes more conducive. Also, some animal manure can be used to boost food by fish farmers. Manure accelerates growth of micro- plants on the fish ponds and hence sustaining them. This leads to higher and faster production of fish which acts to maintain the ecosystem.
Also, the meat industry is useful as livestock converts materials that would have just gone to waste into high protein food. Much livestock consumes wastes from food processing industries. If these materials were left on the surface, they would pollute the environment. Ruminants also help to control noxious weed. This reduces the amount of herbicides that would have been applied on those weeds and as a result, prevent environmental pollution. This is also useful on recurrent weeds which are hard to control using herbicides as they regenerate even after application. They feed on these weeds and digest them converting them from waste products to products which can be consumed by humans.
On the other hand, meat industry has led to several negative impacts to the environment. One of the negative impacts has been the destruction of eco-system. More land has been cleared to give place for grazing. This has led to the destruction of natural vegetation as the animals overgraze on the land. Overgrazing has led to the depletion of vegetation cover on the ground. This, as a result, encourages accumulation of carbon (IV) oxide in the atmosphere. Accumulation of carbon (IV) oxide is one of the major reasons that result to global warming and toxic environment.
Animals emit a lot of greenhouse gases increasing the chances of global warming. Animals produce a lot of carbon (IV) oxide and methane. It is estimated that livestock releases 16% of the earth's methane. This is purely from the livestock themselves without accounting for the other chemicals used in the production. The gases arise from the fecal matter and the excretion. When the livestock produces their fecal matter, it decomposes; on the process of decomposing it produces these two gases which include methane and carbon (IV) oxide.
Livestock raises two main issues when discussing environmental impacts on water. First concern is contamination. Contamination occurs when manure and other animal wastes leak off and are eroded to the water sources. Nitrates found in the manure act as a threat to both human beings using the water and also other animals that use the water. If the soil was contaminated with toxics, it leads to death of fish. The type and amount of nitrates that are produced are highly dependent on the animal feed that the animal took. If the animal takes food that is highly concentrated in ammonia, then the nitrates in its fecal matter will be more poisonous. These gases contribute greatly in the issue of global warming and also acidic rain. Acidic rain as a result leads to destruction of some crops and death of aquatic animals.
Water overuse is another concern about animal pollution to the environment. Livestock consumes a lot of water to produce meat. Irrigation of the feed crops used as feed to the animals also accelerates the overuse of water. This is a concern as water conservation is one of the main problems in environment conservation; water that is wasted on these purposes could be used to grow various types of vegetation which would help preserve biodiversity.
Increase in livestock production means the amount of fodder used must also be increased. The high demand for fodder means that the fodder that is available must be made to grow faster. This need for accelerated growth has led to the adoption of genetically modified crops. These hormones are passed on to the animals (Thomas). GM is a major threat to the biodiversity as a massive increase in one part mostly animals would mean depletion of materials that are available. If for example livestock animals increased massively in number, it would mean that they would deplete the vegetation that is available and as a result cause erosion due to lack of cover to the ground
Grazing occupy most of the land and depletion of the vegetation cover. Much of the vegetation is cleared so as to give room for rearing of animals. This destroys the natural vegetation cover and also it destroys habitats to some animals that live on this vegetation. Clearing of the vegetation is non-selective and hence it means that even the rare crop species will be cleared and as a result, they will be lost. They may be lost forever in case of rare species which brings a problem in a balanced eco system.
Despite this reasons, it is evident that this is one of the fastest growing business as more and more people need meet on their diet. As a result, livestock rearing must since it also provides income to the farmers. The best option is to practice controlled farming. Farmers should ensure that they avoid the negative preventable environment damaging activities like overgrazing. The farmers should also practice soil conservation to make sure that there is no leak of nutrients from the animal excretes to the water sources.
Fiddes, Nick. Meat: A Natural Symbol. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Hui, Y. Handbook of Meat and Meat Processing, Second Edition. New York: CRC Press, 2012.
MacKinney, Ross. Environmental Pollution Control Microbiology: A Fifty-Year Perspective. New York: CRC Press, 2011.
Nierenberg, Danielle. Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry. London: Worldwatch Institute, 2005.
Thomas, Sarah. Water Pollution Issues and Developments. New York: Nova Publishers,, 2008.