You probably don’t think much about cattle on a daily basis – not when you sit down to eat a bit of beef, not while holding a hamburger, and certainly not while staring at a cut of your favorite steak. However, the beef we consume so often does more than leave its mark on our taste buds. The cattle who roam and ultimately become our source of protein have a great impact on the world itself, and the environment as a whole. Not all of their lasting impact is positive as well – here are the ways in which the cattle around the world harm the environment within which they roam.
Perhaps most detrimental to the human populace, cattle can cause serious harm in the medical field. Cattle are typically given antibiotics and supplements on a daily basis; not because the cows themselves are ill, although they are used for that purpose as well, but in an effort to bulk up the animals before they become meat for consumption. In their daily diet, cattle consume many antibiotics and supplements to promote their growth throughout their brief lives. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics used are for animals rather than human disease treatment. 90 percent of those antibiotics are given to the cattle through food or water – and those drugs seep into both the animal meat and the land itself. The more prevalent antibiotics are, the more bacteria become resistant to them, which leads to an increase in widespread bacteria in the environment.
Additionally, cattle need large areas within which to roam while growing. They cannot be confined to small areas, but rather require great, grassy spaces. This leads many cattle owners to seek more land – which, in turn, causes degradation of land and loss of biodiversity. 26 percent of the Earth itself is dedicated to cattle grazing, which means that many forests, plains, and other plant-filled areas have been eliminated due to overgrazing. As the cattle eat, they kill off the plants in the surrounding areas, getting rid of entire swaths of plant life and varieties. As the cattle move to new areas to graze, more trees must be cut down, and the loss of natural life grows greater. Today, as much as 70 percent of the Amazon rain forest land is used for grazing.
Finally, cattle leave one last important effect behind: greenhouse gases. With so many cattle roaming upon so many different lands, they together expel a large amount of gaseous emissions. Every release of internal gas contributes to the pollution of the surrounding air, and works within the Earth’s atmosphere to create the greenhouse effect and its thinning of our protective environment. As increasing numbers of cattle roam and are born, the gases they emit grow, too, and enlarge the greenhouse effect.