NZVS logo Search Facebook Twitter


Animal farming is one of the most significant contributors to the serious environmental problems facing our planet.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that eating plant foods is healthier and more efficient than feeding animals to produce meat: animal farming (and meat eating) is one of the most significant contributors to the serious environmental problems facing our planet.

It contributes to:

  • global warming
  • deforestation
  • land degradation
  • pollution
  • water shortages
  • loss of bio-diversity
  • habitat destruction
  • over-fishing

Here are some facts to ‘chew’ on:

Global warming

  • Cows are the biggest producers nitrous oxide and of methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon.
  • The agricultural sector is the biggest producer of New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions.
  • Dairy farming is increasing our emissions annually.
  • Farmed animals contribute more to greenhouse warming than all forms of transport combined. [FAO, 2006]

Deforestation, land degradation, pollution

  • Globally, animal farming is the main cause of deforestation and a major contributor to land degradation.
  • Pastoral animal farming impact includes erosion and sedimentation of streams and rivers.
  • Intensive animal farming contaminates soil, ground water and streams, and increases the risk of soil compaction.
  • Water quality in New Zealand rivers and lakes has declined in regions dominated by pastoral animal farming.

Loss of biodiversity

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for extensive deforestation and cultivation of enormous tracks of land. The cultivation of land ruins animals’ natural habitat and forces millions of them to be evicted from their homes, causing long-term harm to our wildlife.
  • Wild animals -from wolves to elk to prairie dogs – pay the price of meat production. Some are killed because they prey on cows; others die en masse to make room for agricultural operations; still more are put in harm’s way by pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change. [take extinction off your plate]
  • By choosing to go veg, you are taking extinction off your plate!

Water shortage

  • Meat is a water waster. It takes far less water to produce plant foods than meat.
  • Estimated the water requirement to produce a kilo of beef is 15415 litre. When you consider that the global average water footprint of wheat is 1827 litre/kg, for potato is 287 litre/kg the waste is plain and obvious. [Water foot print org]
  • Animal agriculture is not only wasting massive amounts of fresh water but also responsible to water pollution. Animal waste, antibiotics and hormones, farm pollutant –including nitrogen, phosphorus – are entering our waterways severely harming the ecosystem. [NRDC, 2005]


  • Modern fishing practices cause massive damage to both wildlife and the sea itself.
  • Every year, millions of tons of ‘dead by catch’ are tossed overboard.
  • Moving to fish farming is not the solution as, just as for other intensive animal farming, it pollutes the environment and destroys wildlife.

Going (and staying!) vegetarian is the only genuine way to cut down on the massive impact the meat-eating diet is having on our planet. A plant-based diet requires 10–20 times less land than a meat-based diet. And the least environmental impact is caused by eating a vegan diet high in organic produce.

It makes you think, doesn’t it?


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2006): The Livestock’s Long Shadow. Available at:

Natural Resources Defense Council (2005). ‘Facts about pollution from Livestock Farms’. Available at:

Take Extinction Off Your Plate:

Water foot print org: Product gallery. Available at:

Some interesting links with further information: