Animal Aid

Another good reason to go veggie

Posted 7 September 2004

Animal Aid statement on the global water shortage

The increasing problem of global water shortage has been widely featured in the media recently. Animal Aid has addressed this issue through advocating a vegetarian diet that is both environmentally and animal friendly.

Modern western livestock farming is a hugely wasteful use of water. While it takes, on average, 113 litres of water to produce one pound of wheat, it requires an astonishing 11,250 litres of water to produce one pound of beef. Vegetarians need less than a third the amount of water to sustain their diet than meat eaters. By moving down the food chain, twice as much nutritional benefit is obtained out of each litre of water consumed in food production.

The inefficiency of modern food production is further highlighted by the fact that 38% of the world's grain goes to feeding livestock, when this plant-based protein would be far better used by being fed directly to people. Between five and ten times more protein per acre can be produced by growing cereals and legumes (beans, lentils, peas), than using the land to graze livestock. This gross waste of resources is magnified again after slaughter, as just 35-40% of a cow's body weight is used for human consumption. The low efficiency of food conversion and high water needs of cattle production therefore poses a significant threat to the world's ability to feed the very poorest people. In contrast, increased production and consumption of a more diverse range of plant foods can yield potent health and environmental gains.


Livestock farming is also a major source of water pollution. A rough estimate by the World Bank (Nov 2001) indicates that about 100,000 square kilometres in the developing world are already threatened by a build up of huge volumes of animal manure. This causes "severe nutrient loading" leading to degradation of waterways and subsequent damage to aquatic ecosystems.

With a global water shortage looming on the horizon, these issues must be taken seriously.

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