Hi Friends of the Colorado River!
It’s time for a little controversy! I’m sure you’ve all been following the storm of news out of California and the Southwest U.S. about the drought and dwindling water supplies. In California, some of the wrath of the public and policymakers has focused on the meat industry — specifically on the cattle and dairy farms, and the alfalfa-hay industry that feeds them. Across the Colorado River basin — throughout all 7 states — over 75% of the water diverted out of the Colorado River is for agriculture. In some states like Colorado, nearly 90% is diverted out for agriculture, with a significant portion of that used for growing hay and corn which is fed to cattle in “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs, also known as feedlots), and then the animals go to slaughterhouses where the meat is shipped all over the planet.
Further, some of the hay that is grown in Imperial Irrigation District of Southern California as well as in all of the seven states is shipped to China to feed the burgeoning dairy industry there. Making this even more problematic is that the hay is often shipped free of charge in the ginormous container ships that come to the U.S. loaded with Chinese retail merchandise and would otherwise go back to China empty.
Folks in the vegetarian and vegan movement are very quick to make claims about the water use, pollution, animal cruelty, abysmal labor conditions, etc. in the meat industry. The amount of water needed to produce one hamburger is also ginormous compared to the amount of water to support a vegetarian diet. As just one example, take a look at this New York Times column, “Meat Makes The Planet Thirsty.” Here’s another story in Business Insider titled, “One chart sums up the real problem in the California drought — and it isn’t almonds.” (click through to see a great chart — in short, “food for cows” consumes massive amounts of water in California and across the Southwest U.S.)
Finally, what would the world be without People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)? They have long advocated for a vegan diet and have taken hold of the drought in California and across the Southwest U.S. to advocate for a vegan diet. In that vein, this week PETA ran this Very Provocative advertisement with Pamela Anderson. (Click through here to see the Huffingpost story on this ad.)
We’d like to know YOUR opinion on this topic. Is meat killing the Colorado River? Should we all stop eating meat? We’ve created a forum on facebook to discuss this — click through here to our facebook page and leave us your thoughts.