--- The Vegetarian Travel Guide






The toll exacted on human health by a diet laden with saturated fat and cholesterol is devastating, and thoroughly documented. What is this same diet doing to our planet?

  • It takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline to produce one pound of feedlot beef.
  • Because of over-consumption of fish, all 17 of the worlds major fishing areas have reached or exceeded their natural limits. One-third of the worlds fish catch is fed directly to livestock.
  • 70% of US grain production is fed to livestock.
  • 5 million acres of rainforest are felled every year in South and Central America alone to create cattle pasture.
  • Roughly 20% of all currently threatened and endangered species in the US are harmed by livestock grazing.
  • Animal agriculture is a chief contributor to water pollution. Americas farm animals produce 10 times the waste produced by the human population.

The Good News About the Environment and Our Food Choices

Many farmers are rediscovering the farming methods of their grandfathers and augmenting this with new knowledge of sustainable techniques. These are achieving the same or greater yields without the use of costly, harmful and soil-depleting petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Ultimately, it is consumer demand that has brought us to this juncture of depleted and polluted soils, seas and fresh water supplies through the desire to have a "cheap" food supply. Only a profound change in consumer demand can prevent a total collapse of the seas and the soils.

By eating a varied plant-based diet, you can easily get all the nutrients you need to lead a healthy active life. Besides being easy, delicious, economical, fun and healthful, following a plant-based diet transforms your fork into a powerful tool for environmental protection and restoration.

Land Utilization and Soil Erosion

One-half of the Earths land mass is grazed by livestock.[1]

More than 60% of the worlds rangelands were damaged by overgrazing during the past half century.[2]

As much as 85% of rangeland in the western US is being degraded by overgrazing.[3]

Overgrazing is by far the most pervasive cause of desertification.[4]

35 pounds of topsoil are lost in the production of one pound of grain-fed beef.[5]

64% of US cropland produces livestock feed.[6]

Only 2% of US cropland produces fruits and vegetables.[7]

Pounds of edible product that can be produced on an acre of prime land: Apples 20,000; Carrots 30,000; Potatoes 40,000; Tomatoes 50,000; Beef 250 [8]

Water Consumption

The number of gallons of water needed to produce one pound of edible product: Apples 49; Carrots 33; Potatoes 24; Tomatoes 23; Beef 2,500 [9,10]

Endangered Species

At least 100 animals are added to the endangered species list each year.[11]

Between 19 and 22% of all threatened and endangered species are harmed by livestock grazing.[12]

Rainforest Destruction

5 million acres of rainforest are felled every year in South and Central America to create cattle pasture.[13]

Cattle ranching has destroyed more Central American rainforest than any other activity.[14]

70% of cleared forests in Panama and Costa Rica are now in pasture.[15]


Manure produced by all farm animals in the US annually is roughly 10 times the waste produced by the human population.[16]

Factory farms are the biggest contributors to polluted rivers and streams in the US.[17]

1,785 water bodies were impaired by feedlot pollution in 39 states in 1993.[18]

About 60,000 miles of streams in the US have fisheries impaired by feedlot pollution.[19]

More soot is emitted from the grills in Los Angeles fast food restaurants than all the city buses.[20]

Pesticides & Food Contamination

Since 1945 when pesticides made from petro-chemicals became popular, the following changes have occurred: [21,22,23]





overall pesticide use


overall crop losses due to insects


pesticides applied per acre of corn


The drinking water in nearly every midwestern city south of Chicago is contaminated with agricultural weed killers.[24]

Meat, poultry and dairy products contain the major source of pesticide residues in the western diet.[25]

95% of human exposure to the potent carcinogen dioxin comes from consuming meat, poultry and dairy.[26]

The EPA issued more than 1,000 warnings against eating fish from chemically-contaminated waters in 1994.[27]

Nearly half of all fish sampled by Consumers Union was contaminated with bacterial from human or animal feces.[28]

99% of US non-vegetarian mothers milk has significant levels of DDT.

Only 8% of US vegetarian mothers milk has significant levels of DDT.[29]

Resource Distribution

Resources used in the production of livestock:

33% of worlds fish catch [30]

38% of the worlds grain harvest [31]

50% of all the water used in the US [32]

60% of Brazils grain harvest [33]

70% of US grain harvest [34]

80% of US corn harvest [35]

Almost half of all energy expended in US agriculture [36]

14% of all cattle are fed back to cattle as part of protein-fortified feed.[37]

Approximately 8 million pounds of poultry manure are fed annually to Californias beef cattle.[38]

50% of all the antibiotics used in the US are fed to animals, and 80% of them are used to promote growth, not to treat disease.[39]

12-16 pounds of grain and soy are needed to produce one pound of grain-fed beef.[40]

All 17 of the worlds major fishing areas have reached or exceeded their natural limits due to overfishing.[41]

$3.7 billion subsidized animal feed grains in 1995. They are the USs most heavily subsidized crop.[42]

World Hunger

5 million children in the US go hungry every month.[43]

Approximately 40,000 people die each day worldwide due to hunger or hunger-related causes.[44]

If Americans reduced their intake of meat by merely 10%, 100,000,000 people could be fed using the land, water and energy that would be freed up from growing livestock feed.[45]

10 billion people could be sustained from present croplands if all ate a vegetarian diet.[46]

If everyone in the world cut their meat consumption to reduce their fat intake to the 30% level, there would be enough grain to feed the worlds population increases through the year 2000.[47]


[1] Lester Brown, et al., Vital Signs 1994 (Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1994), pg. 32.

[2] Robert Repetto "Renewable Resources and Population Growth," Population and Environment 10:4 (Summer 1989) pg. 228-29 cited in Rifkin, Beyond Beef (New York: Dutton Press, 1992).

[3] Myra Klockenbrink, "The New Range War Has the Desert as Foe," New York Times,Aug. 20, 1991, pg. C4.

[4] Ibid., pg. 3.

[5] Ibid., pg. 3.

[6] US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Statistics 1989; p. 390, table 554, "Crops: Area, Yield, Production and Value, United States, 1986-99" (Washington, DC: GPO, 1989).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Tom Aldridge and Herb Schlubach, "Water Requirements for Food Production," Soil and Water, no. 38 (Fall 1978), University of California Cooperative Extension, 13017; Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Population, Resources, Environment (San Francisco: Freemna, 1972), pg. 75-76.

[9] Ibid., pg. 13-17.

[10] Georg Borgstrom, presentation to the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1981, cited in John Robbins, Diet for a New America (Walpole, NH: Stillpoint, 1987), pg. 367.

[11] Losos, et al., The Living Landscape (Washington, DC: Wilderness Society and Environmental Defense Fund, 1993), pg. 20.

[12] Ibid, pg. 10.

[13] Norman Myers, The Primary Source: Tropical Forests and Our Future, 1992, cited in Brown et al. as per note 7.

[14] Lewis Scott, The Rainforest Book (Venice, CA: The Living Planet Press, 1990).

[15] Alan During and Holly Brough, Taking Stock, Worldwatch Paper #103 (Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1991), pg. 25.

[16] Jim Mason, "Fowling the Waters," E Magazine, Sep/Oct 1995, pg. 33.

[17] EPA workgroup report 1994, cited in Jim Mason, note 15.

[18] Natural Resources Defense Council and International Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, Hog Wash: Factory Farm Giveaways in Clean Water Act Proposals, July 1995.

[19] Ibid.

[20] San Jose Mercury News, Sept. 6, 1994.

[21] Pimental, et al., Handbook of Pest Management in Agriculture, 2nd ed. (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1990).

[22] David Pimental, Cornell University, as quoted by Lisa Y. Lefferts and Roger Blobaum, "Eating as if the Earth Mattered," E Magazine, Jan/Feb 1992, pg. 32.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Environmental Working Group and Physicians for Social Responsibility, "Tap Water Blues," Oct. 1994.

[25] Lewis Regenstein, How to Survive in America the Poisoned (Herndon, VA: Acropolis Books, 1982), pg. 173.

[26] EPA study cited in USA Today, Sept. 13, 1994.

[27] Rachels Environment and Health Weekly, #450, July 13, 1995.

[28] Ibid.

[29] "A Brief Review of Selected Environmental Contamination Incidents with a Potential for Health Effects," prepared by the Library of Congress for the Committee on Environment and Public Works, US Senate (Aug 1980), pg. 173-174.

[30] Carl Safina, "The Worlds Imperiled Fish," Scientific American, Nov. 1995.

[31] Lester Brown and Gary Gardner, State of the World 1996,W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1996 pg. 93

[32] Frances Moore Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet, 10th Anniversary edition (New York: Ballantine Books, 1982), pg. 69.

[33] Brown, Lenssen and Kane, Vital Signs 1995, Worldwatch Institute, 1995, pg. 137.

[34] USDA, Economic Research Service, "World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, WASD-256," July 11, 1991, tables 256,-7, -16, -19, -23.

[35] USDA, Agricultural Statistics 1989; pg. 31, table 40, "Corn: Supply and Disappearance US, 1974-1988."

[36] USDA, Economic Research Service, "World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, WASD-256," July 11, 1991, pg. 17.

[37] Amended Petition Requesting the Food and Drug Administration to Halt the Feeding of Ruminant Animal Protein to Ruminants, The Foundation of Economic Trends, Washington, DC, June 3, 1993.

[38] James W. Oltjen, "Potential Sources of Water Contamination from Confined and Grazing Animal Operations," Animal Agriculture: Impacts on Water Quality in California,University of California, Davis, October 1994, pg. 10.

[39] Gurney Williams III, "Swearing Off the Miracle," Vegetarian Times, Feb, 1994.

[40] USDA figures as cited in Frances Moore Lappe, op. cit. note 35, pg. 70.

[41] Lester Brown, op. cit, note 1.

[42] "Eating into the deficit," US News and World Report,March 6, 1995, pg. 73-78.

[43] Colin Greer, "Something is Robbing Our Children," Parade Magazine, March 5, 1995.

[44] Patricia Allen, "The Human Face of Sustainable Agriculture," Issue Paper No. 4, Nov. 1994, University of California, Santa Cruz, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

[45] Lester Brown, as quoted by Resenberger, "Curb on US Waste Urged to Help the Worlds Hungry," New York Times, 14 Nov. 1974, adjusted using 1988 figures from USDA, Agricultural Statistics 1989, table 74, "High Protein Feeds," and table 75, "Feed Concentrates Fed to Livestock and Poultry."

[46] Council for Science and Technology, How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature?, Feb. 1994, pg. 13.

[47] Lester Brown and Gary Gardner, op. cit. note 34., pg. 4.




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