Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

Media Coverage of California Water Shortage Omits Biggest Culprit — Animal Agriculture

April 7, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

In its extensive coverage of the California drought, the New York Times has consistently focused on the cultivation of crops without so much as mentioning animal agriculture, which is far more water intensive.

Cattle during California drought (photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Cattle during California drought (photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

The glaring omission has sent readers the message that fruits, vegetables and nuts  – not beef and dairy – are responsible for the state’s grave water shortage. Following are excerpts from the NY Times over the past three days.

April 6th: “Even as the worst drought in decades ravages California, . . . millions of pounds of thirsty crops like oranges, tomatoes and almonds continue to stream out of the state and onto the nation’s grocery shelves.”

April 5th: “The expansion of almonds, walnuts and other water-guzzling tree and vine crops has come under sharp criticism from some urban Californians.”

April 4th: ”There is likely to be increased pressure on the farms to move away from certain water-intensive crops — like almonds.”

Cultivating crops might be be water intensive, but it uses a fraction of the water consumed in animal agriculture. On California’s factory farms, which house tens of millions of chickens, pigs and cows, water is used not only to hydrate these animals but also to grow their feed and clean the facilities and slaughterhouses where they are raised and killed.

Cows in a California feedlot

Cows in a California feedlot

Eliminating animal agriculture, which inefficiently uses of a scarce resource and is altogether unnecessary, would undoubtedly help to curb California’s water shortage.

2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply

2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply

Following are just a few statistics that demonstrate the impact of animal agriculture on the water supply:

  • 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of beef compared to 100 gallons for a pound of wheat.
  • Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons of blue* water per ton. Pork, beef and butter use 121,000, 145,000 and 122,800 gallons per ton respectively. (*Blue water is water stored in lakes, rivers and aquifers.)
  • Each day, cows consume 23 gallons of water; humans drink less than one.
  • The amount of water needed to produce a gallon of milk is equivalent to one month of showers.
  • 132 gallons of water are used every time an animal is slaughtered.

One year ago (March, 2014), the NY Times published an op-ed, Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty, that included statistics comparing the amount of water used for crops and animals. So why is it omitting this vital information in its current coverage of the drought? Could it be a mere oversight? Or is it something more sinister?

2014 Climate March participants highlighted the the amount of water used in animal agriculture.

2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply



Comments via Facebook

TheirTurn.net Comments

  1. California Insider says:

    I am sure California has a backup plan! Stop using so much water SHARON STONE!

  2. Dale Blome says:

    Things are getting serious . We have to work together to create our own food supply independent of industrial agriculture . The global free market economy is going to put us on a diet of lead and gunpowder !

  3. Mark Meunier says:

    Thanks so much for writing this, Donny. I’m an unabashed liberal and a semi-regular viewer of MSNBC’s super-smart and trenchant “The Rachel Maddow Show.” They’ve *got* to know about the connection. Last week, this bastion of climate change consciousness-raising ran a story on the CA drought. Not once was animal ag mentioned! I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder sometimes whether major media outlets aren’t so beholden to the advertising dollars of companies that support animal exploitation that editorial boards refuse to shed light on the issue (à la the thesis of “Cowspiracy”).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *