Water shortage caused by dairy and other beverages

Water shortage caused by dairy and other beverages

Vegan Society of Canada News
March 17th 2023

There are a lot of negative externalities from the dairy industry, not the least of which is the killing and exploitation of animals. But what is often ignored and causes suffering is no access to potable water.

For-profit corporations' relentless quest for profit maximization is often ahead of regulations. More than the motivation from those in government is needed to match the dominance of those seeking to increase their profit. Once we manage to close a loophole, another seems to appear almost immediately, and we have not been able to keep up with water management.

Fresh water may be the most significant resource on earth. Most animals are made mostly of water, and whatever gets into water eventually finds its way into us. Yet, worldwide, water is not protected and is poorly regulated, if at all. Most governments globally have royalties on many resources taken from the earth, but water is often overlooked and businesses can use it nearly without hindrance.

This lack of regulations combined with corporations’ endless quest to maximize their profits equals disaster. This is what many are finding out in the US, Mexico, and many other countries around the world as their houses and buildings lose running water.

The main loophole that gets exploited by the animal agriculture industry and others is the fact that most countries have regulations to prevent the export of water from their state, province or country but most do not regulate things that you make with the water. For example, alfalfa for dairy cows is water intensive so the animal agriculture industry in some regions is rapidly running out of water. China and the Middle East are exporting virtual water in the form of alfalfa to feed cattle in countries where it’s impossible to grow.

Instead of climate change being a warning bell needed to end animal agriculture in arid regions of the world, not only for the health of their population but also for the continued existence of society as we know it, it became a rallying call to further exploit animals by running other countries dry. This is only going to get worse as climate change slowly turns our planet into an oven.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia, itself running out of water, implemented new regulations to ban the growth of thirsty crops like alfalfa. Did the dairy industry in the Middle East go bankrupt? Of course not; businesses like Almarai Company, the largest dairy company in the Middle East, have increased their foreign investments in farmland to grow and export thirsty crops like alfalfa to feed their cows. They now own about 10,000 acres in Arizona and another 3,500 acres in Southern California.

An investigation in Arizona showed that many people’s wells are running dry; for-profit corporations have the means to dig deeper wells while households are losing running water. Arizona is not alone; similar stories are happening in other areas. In the last few decades, a lot of North American farmland has been purchased for this reason.

Countries do not keep track of exactly who is buying what and for what purposes. However, in some places, politicians are starting to ask questions, not with the motivation to end exploitation but most likely for national security. The current report in the US, as inadequate as it may be, recorded an increase in foreign ownership of farmland in 2020 of 2.4 million acres for a total of 2.9% of all farmland.

Some may disagree about the toxic effects of the animal agriculture industry, but most should agree that running out of water in your home or city to produce dairy or meat we don’t need is foolish and the kind of animal exploitation everyone can easily oppose.

Climate change will require us to make significant changes to our way of life and some hard decisions must be made, even if they seem uncomfortable initially. Our position is that what we eat is one of the easiest things to change in comparison to other options. Not only is it a benefit to combat climate change, but it helps our health and the antibiotic crisis. Having drinking water and being able to bathe when we want to is the priority over directing this resource to industries that are not necessary.

We denounce the practice of molecular or vsheld veganism as it is not concordant with the achievement of our vision. We oppose animal exploitation wherever it is, so it would be unethical to single out an industry when there is at least another major one that is egregiously similarly exploiting animals: the beverage industry.

Just like traditional dairy or meat, it’s unlikely that many beverages produced by some of the largest beverage companies are vegan certifiable. This could be due to sugar processed with animal by-products such as bone char, gelatin, palm oil, packaging, animal testing, non-vegan certifiable genetically modified ingredients, and exploitation of animals via slavery or slavery-like conditions. However, there is one more area where these businesses exploit animals and that’s with their irresponsible use of water and making it unavailable for them.

Many of the largest corporations have been plundering natural resources like water for years, similar to animal agriculture. As mentioned, they have the funds to dig deeper wells, then they resell this water in its natural form or as soft drinks to those who can afford it. The list of actions by large beverage corporations that exploit animals is nearly endless, including illegal land appropriation, union-busting activities, astroturfing, or corruption of scientists.

In case anyone had any doubt as to the suitability of beverages for people who self-identify as vegan, it should be crystal clear that they are made by many of the world’s largest businesses that are not concordant with the achievement of our vision, unsuitable for people who self-identify as vegan and are not vegan certifiable. As we all know, human animals tend to be the last animals to suffer from our own foolish actions. We can be assured that if the water scarcity these industries cause is exploiting human animals they are also causing the exploitation of non-human animals; it is simply that nobody has shined a light on that aspect so far. Do all animals and your health a favour and drink water, that is if potable water is still available.

Water is necessary for all life and is one of our most mismanaged resources. Running out of water due to irresponsible actions of the animal agriculture and beverage industries’ nearly unlimited use of water is not acceptable.

What is ethically wrong with killing, animal testing or any other form of animal exploitation is not where it occurs in the supply chain, or whether it occurs to an animal that looks like a cow, but that it occurs at all. Always support products, services, certifications and organizations that align with your beliefs. Ours are clear and our dedication to our vision is unwavering.

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