02 The environmental impacts of eating meat

'Animal industries are one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global'UN report, Livestock's Long Shadow

The facts*

Although conserving water at home is important, it represents just a tiny portion of the actual water needed to sustain us. A 2004 Melbourne University study concluded that, 'water use through food consumption is 90% of a household's water use' See the chart for a comparison of water use per day.


The food items in a typical shopping basket in Victoria have travelled a total of 70,803km to reach your table, which is almost the equivalent of travelling twice around the circumference of the earth. This is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global climate change.6

Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes in the world combined.7

Over 50% of global human-caused greenhouse gases can be attributed to livestock and their by-products.

Australia's livestock will produce substantially more warming over the next 20 years than all of our coal fired power stations put together.

A June 2010 report by the United Nations identified animal agriculture and food consumption as one of the most significant drivers of environmental pressures and climate change, stating that 'a substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a worldwide diet change away from animal products.'/p>


Grazing takes up nearly 60% of the Australian continent. Clearing of forests and bush land for grazing and animal industries has resulted in habitat loss throughout Australia, which is the major cause of wildlife becoming threatened, endangered or extinct.

The number of animal species in Australia is declining at a higher rate than any other country except the USA and the biggest contributing factor is land clearing for animal pasture.

We grow enough edible grain to provide 50% more than is required for every person in the world, yet 27,000 children under the age of 5 die of poverty and starvation every day. Much of this edible grain is used to feed animals for meat, dairy and egg production.

If you factor in the amount of grain needed to produce meat, a single hectare of land can produce 29 times more food in the form of vegetables than in the form of chicken meat, 73 times more than pork and 78 times more than beef.8

*source: Vegetarian Network Victoria, 2010, Eating up the World: the Environmental Consequences of Human Food Choices, 3rd Reprint September 2010, unless footnoted otherwise.