Meat industry causes “dead zone”

Polluted lakeThe meat industry is being blamed for largest ever ‘dead zone’, the size of New Jersey, in the Gulf of Mexico. A new report shows that pollution from feed suppliers and companies like Tyson Foods are pouring into waterways, causing marine life to leave or die. The meat industry, already implicated in driving global warming, soil erosion and deforestation, has now been blamed for fueling what is expected to be the worst “dead zone” on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s what’s happening. Pollutants flowing into waterways from agriculture and wastewater accumulate, where they stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which decomposes and takes up all the oxygen in the water. This results in hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in the water, causing marine life either to flee or to die. When this happens the region of water is known as a dead zone.

The pollutants come not only from manure (Tyson alone generated 55 million tons of manure last year), but also from the runoff from farms that produce the vast amounts of feed necessary to feed the many millions of animals raised for meat. Included in this runoff are not only plant matter and eroded soil, but also the fertilizers used to grow them. In fact, 70% of all the crops raised in the United States goes to feed farm animals.

These pollutants make their way into rivers, lakes and streams and eventually into the Gulf, where they accumulate and ultimately kill off the marine life. But dead zones can be brought back to life. With the adoption of a vegetarian diet the pollution will be dramatically reduced, and the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone as well as other dead zones around the world can once again become teeming with life.

The report was issued by Mighty, an environmental group headed by former Congressman Henry Waxman.