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May 20, 2017

Stop Eating Meat, Cape Town!

The City of Cape Town has tightened water restrictions again after an announcement that usable water levels in dams were only at 11.2%. They pleaded with the public to use only 100 litres a day. Well, this is all well and good, but how about curbing the water usage of the biggest culprits? And I'm not talking about big businesses who leave their sprinklers on all day or households who have swimming pools...

Here's looking at you, factory farms, meat farms, abattoirs! And, yes, I know that curbing their water usage has major economic setbacks, such as being unable to pay workers, meeting consumer demand, and so on. But we can use our lifestyles to change that.

On average, a single poultry abattoir deals with around 18,000 chickens a day to meet consumer demand. Processing a single bird uses around 17 litres, so that's already 306,000 litres used per day. Over 2 million litres a week. There are several poultry abattoirs in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Let's say there are 10: That's at least 20 million litres being used a week to process chickens. Just chickens. And you're being asked to use only 100 litres a day? Update 24 May 2017: It was pointed out to me by a commentator below (whom I only know as 'Anonymous' - thank you for fact-checking!) that I incorrectly stated 18,000 chickens per day as per the article I linked to, which actually stated 8,000 chickens. I apologise for this link error. Using this abattoir as an example, it would still mean, however, that 136,000 litres would be used per day - 952,000 litres per week - 9,520 million litres for an assumed amount of 10 poultry abattoirs. To me, this is still a lot of water being used when you're asked to use only 100 litres per day. Regardless of this, Selectra claims that a medium-sized poultry abattoir would process 20,000 birds per day. This is more than my original calculation anyway.

Add to this that, in essence, this water is sometimes returned to natural streams, within certain healthy and acceptable 'parameters', which are probably not met all the time, as many abattoirs struggle to maintain proper bacterial balance in their sludge dams - this is why they are sometimes red: it's not blood but algal bloom, and if this is released into natural streams... ruination of ecological system. Mostly, however, wastewater is dealt with in municipal sewer systems. And don't even get me started on the physical waste products, such as intestines, bones, and blood - where does all that go?

Perhaps it is time we took a more responsible outlook on drought over and above showering for only five minutes, making use of grey water, or only flushing once our toilets are good and dirty. What if we changed our lifestyles and stopped eating meat?

"Oh, but what about my protein needs?!" you ask.

"Okay, fine", you say, "but what about my calcium requirements?!"

Then you'll say, "Okay, smarty pants. What about my Omega oils intake?" To which I will say that it's likely you're deficient in them anyway and ...

"Erm, well I also need iron. Can't possibly get iron from anywhere else but meat!" Really?

"And Vitamin B12!?"

I detect a certain panic in your voice as you squeak, "...and zinc?!"

Do you really still want to tell me there is no other place to get everything you need to survive but meat?

"Oh, but I do take part in Meat Free Mondays! That's something, right?" Sure, it's something. But you have to ask yourself if it's enough.

Thank you so much to everyone who commented! I have also added some more related links below about water usage comparisons, since we are talking specifically about water.

Related Reading:

10 Vegan Cheat Sheets
From Lettuce to Beef: What's the Water Footprint of Your Food
The Water Footprint of Food
Waterwise: Your Water Footprint
And if there's one film you watch this weekend, please let it be this one!!!! Earthlings

{Lead image credit: By AerialcamSA - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link}