The Brazilian rainforest in the state of Mato Grosso, which forms a valuable canopy and is the natural habitat of many animal and plant species, has been rapidly threatened. From 2001 to 2004, over one million (1,334,369) acres of rainforest were lost.
According to a recent report compiled by researchers from the University of Maryland, the main culprit for this deforestation is cattle raising. American scientific writer Jeremy Rifkin stated that even in the 1980s, for every hamburger eaten in the USA, six square meters of rainforest had been converted to pasture. While most of the trees are cut to create pasture land, the rainforest is also being destroyed to produce soy crops that are exported for cows in Europe.
According to data provided by the FAO, the clearing of forests to create pastures and fields creates 5,291 billion pounds per year of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the most potent greenhouse gases. In Brazil and Bolivia, it is projected that almost seven and a half million acres of forest will be lost by 2010.
One third of the ice-free parts of the earth's surface are currently covered with pastures for cattle, while 33 per cent of the world's arable land is used to grow food for animals. Raising livestock is a very ineffective way of feeding the growing population of our planet: In order to produce an overall 127,868 million pounds of meat a year, an annual 169,756 million pounds of food have to be fed to the animals.
The 41,888 million pounds of food wasted this way could feed millions of people instead, and millions of animal lives would be saved! According to another study, deforested land greatly contributes to global warming, raising temperatures up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Croplands also tend to significantly heat up the environment, followed by pastures. In contrast, rainforests transpire water through their leaves and roots, creating a natural cooling effect. These green lungs of our planet Earth also absorb a lot of CO2 and "exhale" oxygen instead. The Amazon rainforest, for instance, produces more than 20 % of the world's oxygen. These findings show very clearly that to prevent global warming and the resulting climate change, a vegetarian diet is one of the most effective ways. Besides, it saves lives!
Further reading: Jeremy Rifkin: Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture. Frances Moore Lappe: Diet for a Small Planet.