It is estimated that up to 80% of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to cattle ranching. This has hit Brazil particularly hard, but is increasingly beginning to affect Peru and Bolivia too. Cattle need space to roam, and to make that space, ranchers burn down the forest. But it’s not only land for cattle themselves that’s needed. Land is also cleared to grow soy to feed livestock. 80% of soy produced in the world is fed to livestock, so even some of the beef you eat in the UK has been fed on it.
By calorie, meat is an incredibly inefficient way of feeding the world. Raising cattle requires huge amounts of both cereal crops and water. That’s why high meat consumption is associated with wealthy countries, where incomes are high enough to pay for the high cost of raising cattle. As incomes around the world grow though, demand for meat is expanding, especially in the huge cities of China and India.
And the consequences of all those burgers go beyond destruction of the rainforest. Cattle flatulence and belching account for 16% of annual emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.