Mapping the world's opinions

argument top image

Should we stop eating meat for the environment? Show more Show less

Several forms of pollution - e.g. deforestation, eutrophication of water, leaching of nitrates, antibacterial resistance, release of ammonia, nitrous oxides and methane in the atmosphere - are associated to livestock production. Should we stop eating meat to prevent major environmental pollution?

Yes - We should all stop eating meat Show more Show less

Not consuming meat is the only way to prevent an ecological catastrophe
< Previous (3 of 4 Positions) Next >

Livestock causes the release of polluting gases

Livestock natural production of polluting gases is highly significant as well as not treated adequately
< Previous (3 of 4 Arguments) Next >

Context

The Argument

Livestock produce a variety of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, which all accumulate in the atmosphere and warm the climate. The greatest producer of greenhouse gases in beef production is the methane produced by cows in the digestive process. This alone accounts for over 60% of total emissions from beef production. [1] Cattle emit methane through their waste, belching, and farting. The methane is made by the microbes in cows’ digestive tracts that break down and ferment their food. Methane is about 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere. Methane also diffuses into the air quicker than carbon dioxide, which leads to a quicker warming effect on the world’s climate than other greenhouse gases. [2] Ammonia is another harmful emission that comes from cattle waste. Livestock produce about two-thirds of the ammonia that is released into the atmosphere from human activity. Ammonia is a toxin to aquatic animal life, harms fertile soil, and contributes to bringing the pollutants that cause acid rain into our atmosphere.[2] Nitrous oxide is also a greenhouse gas that livestock naturally produce. Nitrous oxide is released from livestock manure and is produced at a higher rate if the level of protein in the animal’s diet exceeds their nutritional requirements, which happens frequently in factory farming, as livestock is given an excess of protein to gain body mass as efficiently as possible.[1] Agriculture, especially fertilizer and animal waste, is the largest source of nitrous oxide production. Agriculture alone accounts for about three quarters of all U.S. nitrous oxide emissions. Though nitrous oxide is a relatively small percentage of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, it has about 300 times the climate warming power of carbon dioxide. Additionally, nitrous oxide converts oxygen into nitrogen oxides in the stratosphere. These nitrogen oxides can damage the ozone layer, which is our primary protection against the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. [3]

Counter arguments

A "polluter pays" tax could hold corporations accountable for the gases that their livestock release. This would mean that the corporation has to pay a certain amount of money to the government to account for the amount of greenhouse gases that the livestock release. The government could put that money towards research on how to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases or towards protecting and creating more forests and other natural resources that can fight against climate change. A "polluter pays" tax works as long as the tax is high enough to fully financially account for the reversal of the damage being caused in meat production. If a tax paid by corporations could offset the amount of damage being done to the environment, then meat consumption would not have to be reduced.

Framing

Premises

Rejecting the premises

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/environmental-footprint-of-beef-production-6#methane
  2. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/5-reasons-cow-farts-matter-and-could-destroy-the-w/
  3. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11092019/nitrous-oxide-climate-pollutant-explainer-greenhouse-gas-agriculture-livestock

Explore related arguments

This page was last edited on Monday, 29 Jun 2020 at 06:00 UTC