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Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment

factory farming deforestation climate change carbon food water corn

Fossil Fuels

  • More than a third of all raw materials and fossil fuels consumed in the United States are used in animal production (Ecological Cooking” by Joanne Stepaniak and Kathy Hecker)
  • The production of one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input as a calorie of plant protein. (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
  • Producing a single hamburger uses enough fuel to drive 20 miles and causes the loss of five times its weight in topsoil. (The Food Revolution” by John Robbins)


  • Nearly half of all the water used in the United States goes to raising animals for food (The Food Revolution” by John Robbins). It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat and only 25 gallons to produce one pound of wheat (Water Inputs in California Food Production” by Marcia Kreith)
  • To produce a day’s food for one meat-eater takes over 4,000 gallons; for a lacto-ovo vegetarian, only 1200 gallons; for a vegan, only 300 gallons (The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook)
  • Animals raised for food produce approximately 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population and animal farms pollute our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. Run-offs of animal waste, pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics are contributing to dead zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reef and health problems. (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).


  • Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass. (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)
  • Seven football fields’ worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them. (The Smithsonian Institution)
  • Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 80% is used to raise animals for food and grow grain to feed them—that’s almost half the total land mass of the lower 48 states (Major Uses of Land in the United States” by Marlow Vesterby and Kenneth S. Krupa)


  • The massive amounts of excrement produced by livestock farms emit toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air. Roughly 80% of ammonia emissions in the U.S. come from animal waste (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
  • When the cesspools holding tons of urine and feces get full, factory farms will frequently get around water pollution limits by spraying liquid manure into the air, creating mists that are carried away by the wind. (Neighbors of Vast Hog Farms Say Foul Air Endangers Their Health,” by Jennifer Lee, The New York Times 11 May 2003)
  • Air pollutants generated by animal farms can cause respiratory illness, lung inflammation, and increase vulnerability to respiratory diseases, such as asthma. Emissions of reactive organics and ammonia from animal farming can play a role in the formation of ozone (smog) and air pollution (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)


  • In the U.S., 70% of the grain grown is fed to animals on feedlots (Plants, Genes, and Agriculture” by  Jones and Bartlet)
  • It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat. (The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat by Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt). Fish on fish farms must be fed 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce one pound of farmed fish flesh (The Food Revolution” by John Robbins)
  • The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth (The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat” by Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt)

Climate Change

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined)  (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)
  • Livestock account for an estimated 9% of global CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions, estimated 35-40% of global CH4 (Methane) emissions and 65% of NO2 (Nitrous Oxide) emissions (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)
  • By replacing your “regular car” with a Toyota Prius the average person can prevent the emission of about 1 tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere, By replacing an omnivorous diet with a vegan diet the average person can prevent the emission of about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s 50% more CO2 saved! (It’s better to green your diet than your car”, The New Scientist, December 17, 2005.)

In addition to all of the above, let’s not forget that the expansion of livestock farming is one of the key factors leading to deforestation in parts of the world such as Latin America and posing a significant threat of the Earth’s biodiversity. Our Oceans are not being spared either and over-fishing is having a devastating impact on our marine ecosystems. This is not just a problem that impacts our planet, it’s a humanitarian crisis. Our demand for animal based products is diverting precious resources like land, water and fossil fuels to produce farmed animals instead of feeding the estimated billion + people that are malnourished in the world.

We can all start working on sustainable alternatives or attempt to make sustainable choices as a solution to this problem, but the easiest solution is the elimination of the demand for animal based products. Switching to a plant-based lifestyle is the only long term solution that not only benefits the environment, but also the animals and our health.

Image Source: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3


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10 comments on “Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment”

Click to add comment
Allan Howard
6 Months Ago

Thanks for putting all the stats together. Great work!

8 Months Ago

This article is quite possibly the dumbest thing that I have ever read in my life.

Allan Howard
26 Mar 2018

Could you elaborate May.

1 Years Ago

This information is so mind-boggling and devastating. However, we can use it now to make positive changes.

Danielle McCarty
1 Years Ago

This article was really intriguing and interesting. It was great.

3 Years Ago

It\'s crazy that something I had never heard associated with climate change can have such an affect. I\'m doubtful that much of this will be changed because of the hold that the meat industry has over people. I think the only way to change things is for enough people to give up meat, and as is seen in another viewers comments, not everyone is concerned with the environmental impact they\'re having.

Azor Cole
3 Years Ago

Smart move with the "regular car". I was a bit crestfallen when I learned the hummer comparison was not entirely valid, turned into an "example" of why vegans were all wrong. Great post, all for the cause.

4 Years Ago

no you're just selfish

6 Years Ago

good i need more facts about farming and more pic

7 Years Ago

Doesn't interest me in saving world hunger. I choose to eat meat and will not change. Where I live we have food that's all that matters to me not other malneurished countries.

Nalani Shintani
03 Dec 2012

Your apathy towards other humans is disturbing and selfish. Maybe it is harder to care about people starving in countries miles away, but there are millions of hungry people within the united states itself, and you're basically telling them they should just go starve because you need the food that could feed them to feed a cow so you can get a hamburger.

21 Oct 2014

this is not only selfish and disturbing, it\'s foolish because animal production harms the local environment at every level. john is contributing to the pollution and devastation of his local river systems, topsoil and not to mention health.

14 Dec 2014

fun fact: this planet wasn\'t built for you, john. youre only one this planet for a short time so think of someone other than yourself when you choose to eat dead animals

22 Apr 2015

Remember kids, don\'t feed the trolls....

23 Feb 2017

I completely agree with this. (the not meat eating part)

12 Jul 2017

Wow and it is people who are unwilling to change for the greater good who will kill the planet and ruin it for everything else.

7 Years Ago

This should be edited to reflect that this is all related to factory farming, not raising livestock in general. Incomplete information is no better than being uninformed.

David Kwon
23 Mar 2011

Livestock raising is practically factory farming now. Factory farming as of 2009 accounted for 98% of the poultry industry, 95% of the dairy industry, 80% of the fishing industry, and 75% of the cattle industry. Traditional farms like the Niman Cattle ranches, they're a dying breed.

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