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Are Cows Drinking Australia Dry?

Are Cows Drinking Australia Dry?

Posted 28 April 2009   by Jesse         Permalink | 15 Comments

Tags: global warming, environment, cows, dairy, water, veg, vegan, rant, posters, Donn Pattendon

I think I've just found my new favourite cartoon! This brilliant illustration was sent to us by the insightful and very talented Donn Pattenden (thanks Donn!).

Cows are Drinking Australia Dry

This is one issue that really stirs me up. The meat and dairy industries are huge water guzzlers. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that one glass of milk takes roughly 200 litres of water to produce. That's almost 3 days worth of showers! But that's nothing compared to the 100,000 litres of water that David Pimentel, a water resource specialist, says is required to produce just 1 kilo of beef!

In a country as dry as Australia, this sort of squandering of water just doesn't make sense. I live in Brisbane, where water shortages are a real threat (just like many of our other cities). We've been told to keep our domestic water usage below 140L of water per person per day...

I'm all for water conservation at home. In fact, we've just installed a new rain water tank :-) ... but when 70% of global water usage is for agriculture, it seems like what we eat and drink would be a smart place for us to start looking at how we can save water.

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RaV3N RaV3N 28 April 2009
I love the cartoon!

Maybe farmers should be made to install a rain water tank per head of cattle... 200L for a single glass of milk? Is it really worth it?!
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_Matt _Matt 30 April 2009

Those numbers are crazyy!!
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RaV3N RaV3N 30 April 2009
There was an article in the West Australian yesterday about how the Water Corp are saying how much water WE are wasting, so I sent a letter to the editor saying they are looking at the wrong people and should look at the dairy industry... do you think they published it? No. Too afraid to unleash the truth no doubt.
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chl0e chl0e 3 May 2009
hey guys, i love what you are doing to get this msg across, and i would love to help..
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chl0e chl0e 3 May 2009
With the demand to feed Australia's (and the worlds) ever growing population, it is no wonder the agricultural and animal production industries are huge..

And it is a real problem for the environment AND of course animal welfare!!!

An interesting suggestion, i think, for dealing with these issues with cattle... is replacing the whole beef industry eventually with kangaroo..
despite the publics concern over using our national emblem for food... kangaroo's ARE a pest in Australia, and by utilising them for meat, they would have a smaller impact on the environment (land degredation and gas production), and would use less water..!!!
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gaytee. gaytee. 4 May 2009
oh wow.
and all these years we've been deprived of water fights, all we needed to do was give up meat!
stupid australia, wake up!
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Jacqui T Jacqui T 5 May 2009
Thing is, if we don't milk cows here come diseases :/
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Rodney Rodney 8 May 2009
No Milk   ....   No Milo!!!!! cry

But in all seriousness   them figures seem very extreme.
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Angie Angie 8 May 2009
I'd just to comment on chl0e's suggestion that we could consider eventually replacing the whole beef industry with Kangaroo. This is something that crops up a quite a bit and on the surface it can almost seem reasonable. Unfortunately there is a lot of mis-information in the media about kangaroos being pests and a kinder, more environmentally sound alternative to cattle.

To start with there is much suffering in current kangaroo hunting and nowhere near enough regulation of the industry. Did you know that "Decapitation or bludgeoning is demanded when a shooter finds a hairless baby still in its mother's pouch, while older joeys must be bashed or shot."?
read more:

Or that even conservative estimates suggest that at least 4% of adult kangaroos commercially %u2018processed%u2019 each year, or around 100,000 carcasses, show evidence that they were not humanely shot in the head as is required by the kangaroo industry Code of Practice?

As for kangaroos being 'pests' a two year investigation revealed that the future of this unique species could actually be a risk due to hunting. In shooting areas, since the commencement of the drought, kangaroo numbers have fallen some 59%!
read more:

Now in regards to stepping it all up a notch and replacing the commercial beef industry with kangaroos, the numbers just don't ad up. Some of the best research done of this is by Geoff Russell of Animal Liberation SA (one of Animals Australia's member groups). Read all about it here:

So really, the best thing we can do as a nation to protect water supplies and of course cut out animal cruelty is  to cut animal products out of our diet as much as possible.

cow peace
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chl0e chl0e 10 May 2009
yes but until EVERYONE stops eating meat, other alternatives need 2 be considered i guess..

i was aware of most of those issues u mentioned.. obviously alot more research and regulation of the industry needs 2 be done for any good 2 come out of the idea.. =( =(
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Sabrina Sabrina 11 May 2009
I don't eat beef and I havent been for year, I don't see why everyone can just give up one meat. I also dont eat pork and I dont miss it at all. I think everyone should try and give up just one meat if not them all.
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Dannielle Dannielle 14 May 2009
One question - if we dont eat beef and we dont milk cows, what happens to them?  do they just die off and become extinct because we have no use for them???  i should think not, as that in itself would be abhorrent. so then, what have we achieved?  nothing. cause they are still here doing the things they do, drinking water, tearing up the earth and farting, as well as now overpopulating the planet and becoming a pest. Seriously dudes. We have always been meant to eat meat and drink milk, this is why we were able to evolve the way we did.  what we should be doing is maintaining the most humane farming and consumption etiquite that we can, by treating all animals in a caring manner until (and while executing) their death. we are after all just another creature in the food chain of this planet. do you propose we should stop all other carnivores from hunting???
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_Matt _Matt 22 May 2009

You simply don't make sense. You submit that once we stop consuming meat, all the animals that would be here for consumption would still be here, "drinking water, tearing up the earth and farting." In fact, they would not be here, they would be nowhere. If everyone stopped eating meat, they would no longer be bred, and so, would not longer be here having a massive effect on climate change.

We were also not meant to eat meat and drink milk from another species - look at our teeth, they are shaped for grinding food, like vegetables and fruit; not ripping apart flesh and bringing down prey. We are also the only species on earth which consumes another's milk; the milk used to make cow calves grow fast - probably not a good idea for us to drink it eh?

I also do not propose we stop all wild carnivores from hunting as that is nature. I, and others, are able to think a little bit deeper than the average lion, tiger or cheetah. Though judging by your comments above, it seems you are not.
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kellisgirl kellisgirl 5 May 2012
We owe our existence as large-brained hominids to ancestors who couldn't grow their own food in harsh climates but needed a protein source, so we began to hunt.
But we also owe our existence to modern ancestors who DID grow their own food. Since the advent of agriculture as an industry, only about 1% of the ENTIRE planet grows food for their own use. And while ag industries may spout about 'feeding the world's hungry', we know it isn't altruism - it's profit.
Silly as this may sound, if we all grew a fruit, vegetable or grain, learned to barter with neighbors who also grow a few of their own & did it on a local, sustainable scale, we wouldn't NEED industrial agriculture. Or genetically altered foods - yet another 'industry' under the guise of humanitarianism. Add a few egg-layers, maybe a milk producer and you become a self-reliant entity.
The heartbreaking thing about industries that control the basics - food and water - is that these aren't luxuries; they are necessities we can't live without and I personally resent my fellow humans being vicitimized (for lack of a better term) by Big Ag. We have become so inured to others providing for us, we've become incapable of doing for ourselves. They control what we consume and the quality & content. They can also, in theory, decide how much or how little of that food can be made available.
No industry producing essentials should have that kind of power.
1%. Maybe it's time to start raising up that percentage.
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cow girl cow girl 19 January 2013
How many litres of water does a wet cow drink a day?
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