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Cattle Ranching and It’s Increasing Affect on Deforestation Essay

One may not look at the hamburger in their hands and automatically think, “What was done to our environment in order to make this delicious piece of meat?” but it really is a question that any meat consumer should consider. Believe it or not, eating that one hamburger indirectly causes the rate of deforestation to increase every single day! It actually is quite simple how this hamburger affects both our environment and agriculture. In order for meat industries to be able to distribute their products to consumers, they need the cattle to be raised, fed, and grown and of course, cattle ranchers need a place to raise their cattle.

In order for these ranchers to have space for the cattle to do so, trees are actually being cut down to make room for these pastures. In turn, one of the largest impacts that the meat industry has on our environment is its contribution to the ever-increasing rise of deforestation all over the world. The thing that most people do not realize is that the land being used to raise the meat that they consume, was once a flourishing forest. This process of deforestation starts when the land inside a forest is cut through to make a reasonable enough size path for a road to reside. Once the area for the road is cleared, commercial farmers will move in and start to grow crops.

The problem with this is that rainforest soil is not efficient enough to handle crops that need sustainable soil. Needless to say, the crops do not endure for more than two to three years. More often than not, ranchers use the remnants of these now beaten down crops and grassy fields for their cattle to graze. There are many negative impacts caused by this deforestation and pasture conversion. With every tree cut down and cleared away, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are emitted into our atmosphere and pollute the air. The trees act as a sort of “canopy” and absorb much of the carbon to convert into woody tissue. Without having trees as tools of absorption, the carbon instead invades the air in which we breathe. Along with deforestation, the actual production of the aforementioned farming and meat industry emits many harmful chemicals into our world. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads. (

This goes hand in hand with deforestation because the production, from the cutting down of the trees and the processing that must occur, there are many harmful gases, like carbon dioxide, being emitted into the air. Soil degradation is also an outcome of this deforestation caused by the need for grazing land. The soil in the rainforests is very fragile. The different nutrients that the soil gains come from fallen leaves and branches from the trees. The trees also help to protect the soil from the radiating sun and any torrential rain. Native grasses provide few nutrients and little protection for the soil and the overgrazing actually accelerates the nutrient loss and erosion. The worst part is that livestock production compounds this damage, making it irreversible.

To put things even more into perspective, here is another frightening fact: it only takes between five to ten years for the overgrazing and nutrient loss caused by cattle and deforestation to turn the rainforest land into an eroded wasteland. An area of rainforest the size of seven football fields is destroyed every minute to make room for grazing cattle ( In contrast to those who eat meat, vegetarians save one acre of trees every year by eating a meat-free diet, thereby saving the need to cut down the trees for grazing purposes ( This is the true because if there is a decrease in the demand for meat, then there is a decrease in the amount trees being cut down since fewer cattle will need room to graze. The next time someone picks up a burger, I suggest you say to them, “I bet you didn’t know by eating that burger you are also killing acres of trees….”

Works Cited

Achor, Amy Blount. Animal Rights: A Beginner’s Guide. Ohio: WriteWare, Inc., 1996. Brown, Michael L. “Limiting Corrupt Incentives in a Global REDD Regime.” Ecology
Law Quarterly (2010): 237-267.
“Cattle Ranching and Deforestation.” Live Stock Policy Brief. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 13 Sept. 2010
“Eating For Life.” Vegetarian and Vegan Information. PETA. Web. 8
Apr. 2010. .
Fox, Michael Allen. “Vegetarianism and Planetary Health.” Ethics and Environment (2000):163-174.

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