Environmental Pollution

We pay three prices for meat

When an animal product is purchased, three prices have to be paid: one by the consumer, one by the taxpayer and one by nature. Cheap meat is made possible by polluting the environment.

Meat consumption leads to “dead zones”

Around the mouths of the Mississippi, some 20,000 square kilometers of the sea have so little oxygen that a “dead zone” has formed. The cause of this marine desolation lies in the over-fertilization of the Mississippi basin, where almost all the United States feed production and industrial farms are concentrated. Nitrogen and phosphorus are washed down the river into the Gulf. There these nutrients stimulate the growth of algae, aquatic plants and bacteria, which use up the oxygen dissolved in the sea water.

Over fertilization damages ecosystems worldwide

In Asia, pig and poultry farms in coastal China, Vietnam and Thailand pollute the South China Sea with nitrogen. The northern part of the Caspian Sea is loaded with nitrogen that comes down the Volga. Many of the seas surrounding Europe are affected: the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Irish Sea, the Spanish Coast and the Adriatic all have dead zones. The problems are caused not only by potassium, drug residues, disease causing organisms and heavy metals.
Source Heinrich Böll Foundation

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Nitrates in groundwater can cause cancer

It is not just the seas: industrialized livestock production harms the land too. Slurry and maure from livestock-producing areas are applied, often indiscriminately, to the soil. They can pose an even greater threat than the overuse of mineral fertilizer, especially on well drained soils. Nitrates are washed down into the groundwater, which can lead to contamination of our drinking water and damage our health. In our bodies they can be converted into nitrosamines, which are suspected to cause cancer of the oesophagus and stomach. Source Heinrich Böll Foundation

Unless otherwise mentioned, the source of content on this page is from the Heinrich Böll Organisation | Meat Atlas — Facts & Figures about the meat we eat — 2014. Download here as pdf file to read the entire publication. Alternatively you can visit the Heinrich Böll Organisation to read more about this and other important topics.

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