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"Livestock's Long Shadow"

In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published a report called "Livestock's Long Shadow," cataloging the devastating effects of farm animals on the environment. Not just cows, but all major farm animals (sheep, goats, "ham and eggs") are included in the report.

But the biggest bad guy is our friend the cow. (Not your fault, Bessy.) Negative effects on the environment include such issues as:

  • acid rain
  • contamination of water by pesticides
  • deforestation
  • global warming
  • water consumption

Let's be honest: There are plenty of disputed "facts" out there. The Greens say one thing, the cattlemen another (they even go so far as to say that "in reality [cattle] are an important tool for land management and environmental preservation.") Government and academia are likely to be more objective (although still subject to various political pressures).

But this is the U.N. One former FAO employee says the FAO "is no reckless foe of the cattle industry. For such a conservative institution to publish this report, you have to know that the problem is very serious."

Read his summary and comments on the report. Or read this summary from the FAO itself, or the one at Wikipedia that includes some criticism of the report.

Or, if you have the time, read the full report. It's sobering.

Meanwhile, eat less meat, use less dairy. Go vegetarian or vegan--at least once a week!

And Live and Let Live.


  1. The staggering ramifications of meat production and consumption are becoming more well-known and, as an intern with the non-profit Meatless Monday, I am thrilled to see you as an advocate of the meatless Monday concept. There are a plethora of recipes on the website (Featured this week: Cameo Herbed Potatoes as well as cooking tips, news, and articles. A project of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Meatless Monday has a strong nutrition focus and is also concerned with helping reduce environmental impact. For the history and science behind the campaign check out the Youtube video as well:
    Thanks! Ashwini

  2. Thanks, Ashwini! (Also the name of one of my best friends in China!)

    The Meatless Monday site is a great resource regarding the healthy aspect of vegetarianism. But I haven't seen much about the compassion aspect. Is there anything like that on the site?

    Thanks again for commenting.