The amount of land and water required for animal agriculture is astonishing. This is especially true when one realizes that animal agriculture uses approximately 78% of all agricultural land but only produces 18% of the calories we eat. On average, a glass of cow’s milk requires approximately 23x more land and water than a glass of soy and oat milk. Because European and North-American countries consume vast amounts of dairy products per capita, the impact of dairy on the environment is not as small as many people think.
Just in drinking water, a dairy cow drinks approximately 150 litres of water per day. But many people forget that cows consume vast quantities of water through their feed and that it is not only grass they eat. In general, cows also eat large amounts of grain, corn and soy – grass is not even on the menu for factory-farmed cows. Growing soy and grain takes immense resources when it comes to water. This is primarily because most feed is produced in regions where it can grow all year, usually somewhere warm and tropical, where freshwater is often hard to come by. Here, water irrigation systems are put in place that use large quantities of water to grow the soy, grain and maize used to feed European or North-American cows.
The beef and dairy industry are the main drivers of the deforestation of the Amazon, Cerrado, and Chaco biomes in South America. These biomes are slashed and burned to be turned into pasture land for cows to graze (mainly beef and leather for global export) or produce cheap feed for the worldwide animal agriculture sector. Therefore, the first world’s lust is directly responsible for the massive amount of landgrab and the destruction of the environment taking place in these regions, impacting the lives of millions of people (many of which are indigenous) and more plants, animals, birds and insects than one can count.
These reasons should be enough to cut dairy out of your diet. For many of us, plant-based alternatives are within reach. These products are not only more ethical, but they are also better for your health, the planet and all living beings on it.