Ref: What's Wrong With Industrial Agriculture: by Leo Horrigan, Robert S. Lawrence, and Polly Walker, of the Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, published in Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 110, Number 5, May 2002.
This paper offers a substantial description of industrial agriculture practices, and the effects on human health, the environment, and the global economy, presenting abundant detail and statistics. It also gives a clear explanation of sustainability, as viewed by modern agriculturists, and presents the following conclusion:
The following article excerpt was reprinted at Organic Consumers Association - possibly the best online resource for anything to do with organic and sustainable agriculture.
'These problems are complex and have no single solution, which leaves many people feeling powerless to affect them.
One personal act that can have a profound impact on these issues is reducing meat consumption.
To produce 1 pound of feedlot beef requires about 2,400 gallons of water and 7 pounds of grain (42). Considering that the average American consumes 97 pounds of beef (and 273 pounds of meat in all) each year, even modest reductions in meat consumption in such a culture would substantially reduce the burden on our natural resources.
For the United States and other industrialized nations, lowered meat consumption would yield significant public health benefits, particularly a reduction in heart disease, several cancers, and other chronic diseases. These diseases are largely associated with the excessive fat and protein intakes that are characteristic of animal-based diets. Coupled with sedentary lifestyles, excess meat consumption also contributes to the epidemic of obesity.
Public policies that encourage a shift toward a more plant-based diet could bolster individual actions in this area. These policies should include preventing factory farms from polluting and requiring them to pay cleanup costs when they do pollute.
Without such policies, the products of factory farms will continue to be artificially cheap, in that prices will not reflect their impact on the environment, human health, animal welfare, or the economic and social stability of rural communities.
Both the individual and collective actions described above would hasten the shift toward a more sustainable agriculture, which is an important component in the larger transition to a sustainable economy.
Sustainable agriculture is not merely a package of prescribed methods. More important, it is a change in mindset whereby agriculture acknowledges its dependence on a finite natural resource base--including the finite quality of fossil fuel energy that is now a critical component of conventional farming systems.
It also recognizes that farm management problems (weeds, insects, etc.) cannot be dealt with in isolation but must be seen as part of a whole ecosystem whose balance must be maintained.
In this paper we have introduced some of the environmental and human health problems inherent in industrial agriculture. In many respects, industrial-style meat production provides a worst-case example of these problems. It also provides an opportunity for dramatic improvements in environmental stewardship and public health.
Because meat consumption is such a major component in the broader issues described here, its reduction--through both individual and collective action--can have profound effects on the health of humans, animals, and the environment.'
Note: the above paper didn't come right out and say, go vegetarian, but if reducing meat consumption could have such a dramatic effect, it isn't much of a stretch to imagine what the effect would be if more people went vegetarian.
According to a 2003 Harris Interactive poll, commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, 2.8 percent of those surveyed, or approximately 5.7 million Americans, are vegetarians, omitting red meat, fish and poultry from their diets. That was almost three years ago.
If vegetarian diet is growing by 20% a year - one figure that's been tossed around a bit - then there should be close to 10 million vegetarians in the US by 2006. That's quite a nice little fringe group, just in the US. No statistics, of course, but my impression is that the growth rate is increasing.
Earthsave International: Examines the role of animal agriculture in the creation of methane gas, the most potent and dangerous cause of global warming. Strongly advocates vegetarian diet.
The Food Revolution, by John Robbins - How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life And Our World': For more details about how vegetarian diet can save the planet.
Veggie Revolution: A new book about a very old subject, one ignored by most other books on the connection between vegetarianism, social activism and the environment.
Living The Sustainable Life: Savvy Veg Tells How To Be Good & Stay Sane
Spread Peace.Org: This site has a vegan forum:
Envirolink: Online environmental community, sustainability links, and nothing about vegetarian diet.
Planet Friendly: Canadian site with excellent sustainable living resources. Vegetarian diet was found lurking in their Sustainable Living Guide under Food, Gardening, Agriculture. The lone link is to a Google vegetarian directory, via DMOZ.
Organic Consumers: The only site where I found significant material directly addressing sustainability. Nevertheless, the articles were heavily slanted toward rationalizations of meat consumption. E.G. An Animal's Place by Michael Pollan.
Mahatma Gandhi, A Votary For Sustainable Living: Just as a change of pace - Gandhi was vegetarian.