One of the reasons some of us are trying vegetarianism for January is the environmental impact of keeping animals for human consumption. The practice of rearing animals to provide food for humans is an ancient one and has been going on for at least 10,000 years. I’d argue that this has only really become a serious problem in the modern age when world human population has increased massively, ever larger swathes of land have been set aside for animals to graze at the expense of forest, and industrial production of animal product has become central in the human food chain.

Components of agricultural water footprint (from SAB Miller and WWF, 2009)

Some of the effects are obvious: more carbon emissions, fewer carbon sinks, excess water usage, changing climate. Taking just one of these factors I’m amazed to see that according to Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2010) the water footprint of bovine meat is 15,415 litres of water per kg, compared to 322 litres/kg for vegetables. For beef cattle 98% of the water used up is with respect to their feed.

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Chuck’s Vegetarian Risotto Tonight