In 1996, U.S. factory farms produced 1.4 billion tons of animal waste—130 times more than humans did.(1) The waste produced in a single year would fill 6.7 million train boxcars—enough to circle the Earth 12 1/2 times.(2)
Unfortunately, much of this waste ends up in our rivers and streams. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, factory farming pollutes U.S. waterways more than all industrial sources combined.(3) The effects are often deadly. For example, runoff from animal waste is linked to a 7,000-square mile “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that can no longer support aquatic life.(4) And scientists suspect that runoff of manure from chicken and hog farms is one of the leading causes of the devastating pfiesteria outbreaks that have killed billions of fish from Delaware to Alabama. The pfiesteria microorganism causes its human victims to suffer from memory loss, skin lesions, and incapacitating fatigue.(5)
Raising animals for food is also taking its toll on the world’s forests. Since 1960, more than one-quarter of the rain forests in Central America have been destroyed to create cattle pastures. Of the Amazonian rain forest cleared in South America, more than 38 percent has been used for ranching.(6) Rain forests are vital to the survival of the planet because they are the Earth’s primary source of oxygen. And scientists are increasingly exploring the use of rain-forest plants in medications to treat and cure human diseases.
Cattle grazing is endangering plant species in the United States, too. The Government Accounting Office says that livestock grazing has threatened or eliminated more plant species than any other single factor.(7) And as much as 85 percent of rangeland in the Western part of the United States is being destroyed by overgrazing.(8)
The cost in transportation of food produced in other countries and across our own in resources and release of carbon dioxide is stagering. Much of the carbon dioxide that is released into our atmosphere is produced by the transportation of food and other goods across the globe.
The only true way to live a sustainable lifestyle is to consider what you eat and try to adopt a diet based less on meat and more on locally grown food. Hopefully the websites below will help you start.
Oklahoma Food Cooperative
The Oklahoma Food Cooperative is a grassroots network uniting Oklahoma folks interested in sustainably produced, locally grown food. The Coop only sells food and non-food products that are made in Oklahoma. They do this via an order delivery system and generally have over 2,200 different items available each month.
Stillwater Farmer’s Market
Stillwater’s summer outdoor and winter indoor markets offer a variety of locally grown and/or produced foods with many value added items. The outdoor market is located at 309 North Main in Strickland Park from April through October on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am – 1pm. The indoor market is located at 215 West Ninth in the NewsPress lobby from November through March on Saturdays, 10am – 1pm.
Nature’s Supply Natural Food Market in Stillwater carries a wide variety of local and non-local foods, specializing in naturally or organically grown produce, allergen free foods including gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and more.
Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair. Convivia are chapters of Slow Food that form the foundation of conviviality and provide the grassroots fuel for the movement. Slow Food has two Oklahoma Convivium: Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
The Kerr Center is a non-profit educational foundation that believes sustainable agriculture must be socially equitable, profitable for producers and ecologically sound. The Kerr Center values and supports the family farm structure of agriculture, a fair playing field for independent farmers and ranchers, public research for the public domain, the enhancement and protection of natural resources, respect for nature, local food systems and better communities.
PETA’s website for Vegetarian and Vegan lifestyles
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a great website that offers many resources on the relationship of what we eat and the effects on the environment and our health. The offer a vegetarian starter kit (http://www.vegetarianstarterkit.com/) as well as fact sheets and recipes.
EarthSave leads a global movement of people from all walks of life who are taking concrete steps to promote healthy and life-sustaining food choices. They: supply information, support and practical programs to those who have learned that their food choices impact environmental and human health, support individuals in making food choices that promote health, reduce health care costs, and provide greater independence from the medical system, raise awareness of the ecological destruction linked to the production of “food animals”, and advocate and promote a delicious, planet-friendly diet.
Organic Consumers Association
The Organic Consumers Association is a grassroots non-profit public interest organization which deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, corporate accountability, and environmental sustainability. They are the only organization in the US focused exclusively on representing the views and interests of the nation’s estimated ten million organic consumers.
Community Food Security Coalition
The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3), North American organization dedicated to building strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all people at all times. We seek to develop self-reliance among all communities in obtaining their food and to create a system of growing, manufacturing, processing, making available, and selling food that is regionally based and grounded in the principles of justice, democracy, and sustainability.
Pesticides Action Network – North America
PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five PAN Regional Centers worldwide, PANNA links local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens’ action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to insure the transition to a just and viable society.
HappyCow’s Global Guide is a free vegetarian restaurant guide, providing vegetarians around the world with vegetarian & vegan healthy restaurant dining and health food store locations.
- Debbie Howlett, “Lakes of Animal Waste Pose Environmental Risk,” USA Today, 30 Dec. 1997, p. A7.
- John Lang, “Environmentalists Rap Factory Farms for Manure Production,” Scripps Howard News Service, 9 Jun. 1998.
- Neal D. Barnard and Simon Chaitowitz, “Show You Care About the Earth, Go Vegetarian,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 23 Apr. 1998, p. B9.
- Howlett (Ibid).
- Mary Hager and Larry Reibstein, “The ‘Cell From Hell,'” Newsweek, 25 Aug. 1997, p. 63.
- Jeremy Rifkin, “Big, Bad Beef,” The New York Times, 23 Mar. 1992.
- Barnard (Ibid).
- Rifkin (Ibid).