Animal agriculture is the number one pollutant of America's waterways. Animal excrement (often contaminated with toxic chemicals and hormones) runs into groundwater, rivers and topsoil, ruining potable water and land. Ammonia emissions from this excrement trigger acid rain and produce greenhouse gases. More than 1/3 of the fossil fuels used in the US are used to raise animals for food. Water, land, and plant food are grossly misused to produce drastically smaller amounts of animal-based "food" in the end.
Daily water usage in the US for...
An omnivore : 4,200 Gallons
A vegetarian: 1,200 Gallons
A vegan: 300 Gallons
Yearly land usage in the US for food...
An omnivore : 3.3 Acres
A vegetarian: 1/2 Acre
A vegan: 1/6 Acre
To make one pound of "food"...
Pound of beef = 2,500 Gallons of water
Pound of apples = 49 Gallons of water
Pound of lettuce = 23 Gallons of water
To make one pound of "food"...
Pound of meat = 7 pounds of grain or soy
Pound of grain or soy = 1 pound of grain or soy
Those numbers sound INSANE, don't they? But the math makes sense. If you grow plant food to feed animals that you eventually intend to eat, then you must expend much more water and land, and create more food and pollution in the process. To learn the facts behind what meat (and all other animal) production does to our world and then to continue to eat meat is like giving the finger to every living thing on Earth. It's acknowledging that we have a limited number of resources (which, hopefully, we all ready knew), and that we're running through them at as much as 14 times faster (vegan to omnivore comparison), just as a matter of preference. We prefer to eat certain things, and that's really just more important that starving countries, fatally polluted waters, land that's too desiccated to produce food any longer, or the suffering of sentient animals.
One of the most confounding misconceptions about vegans is that they "only care about animals" and think of humans as second class citizens. Unlike someone who admittedly believes that certain species are more inferior than their own (omnivores, I'm looking at you), vegans share a value for all life. There's bad apples in every bunch, so of course there are vegans who don't fit this exact mold, but no vegan I have ever known (or heard of outside an urban legend or smear article), would wish harm upon another human. I saw a "Feed the Children" infomercial once and was shocked to learn that the fundraising campaign was to drill wells so these emaciated and sickly people could just have clean water to drink. The thought that the simple selection of one's food affects whether other nations starve or have enough to eat and drink is powerful. Feeding 7 pounds of vegetables into an animal to get 1 pound of meat makes no sense. The water it takes to create 1 pound of beef could provide all the water needs of someone on a vegan diet for over a week. Imagine that. One steak dinner is equivalent to over 8 days of life saving water and 7 pounds of food.
There's always someone who flippantly counters these staggering and homicidal facts with "but meat tastes good", or some such thoughtless nonsense. (When is Natural Selection going to weed these useful citizens out?) But all jokes about tofu and tree hugging aside, it comes down to a matter of one population's taste preferences being more important than another population starving and dying. Some people seem programmed not to comprehend the magnitude of this fact, but I choose to take responsibility for my actions, and you can, too. It's not a problem you can blame on the government or bad luck or an unsolvable force. I am vegan due in part to a concern for the lives of other humans around me, and the world that we live on. I refuse to let something as trivial as the food I eat destroy either.