Reef or Beef? Animal Agriculture Is Killing Corals

Posted on by PETA Australia

According to a government report, the Great Barrier Reef just faced what may have been its worst summer on record, with extreme coral bleaching and other issues caused by the climate catastrophe – of which animal agriculture is a leading driver.

New PETA billboards have been erected in reef tour gateway cities Cairns and Townsville to take aim at Australia’s environmentally devastating appetite for animal flesh. The ad features a haunting image of cow skulls intermingled with the bleached bones of a dying reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its fifth global warming–driven mass bleaching in just eight years, and at least 10% of corals are affected on 73% of reefs. The Queensland government says that the biggest threat to the reef is the climate catastrophe – of which animal agriculture is a leading driver. Queensland’s production of 1.1 million tonnes of beef annually harms the planet via the production of atmosphere-heating greenhouse gases like methane and nitrogen and the clearing of land for grazing. The Wilderness Society found that beef production is responsible for 73% of all land clearing in Queensland and more than 94% of land clearing in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area.

Even a half-degree increase in water temperature can stress corals, which can lead to their starvation and death. Coral reefs are also negatively impacted by excessive carbon dioxide, which can slow coral growth rates by as much as 50%. But it’s not just the production of meat, involving the cruel forced breeding, confinement, and horrific slaughter of animals, that harms the reefs – what comes after you eat a steak also makes a splash. The faeces of meat-eaters are loaded with nitrogen, an element which, in excess, causes algal blooms that suck up available oxygen, release toxins, and ultimately eliminate other organisms in rivers, seas, and the ocean. It’s estimated that human wastewater alone adds 6.2 million tonnes of nitrogen to coastal waters annually.

Australians love the great outdoors, and our economy relies heavily on tourism, so it’s important to highlight how bad habits – such as an appetite for the flesh of dead cows – damage the magnificent natural wonders in our own backyard. Simply put, every time you eat meat, you’re contributing to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

Scientists have long warned that meat consumption is largely responsible for the escalating climate catastrophe, and reefs are only one victim. Happily, we can all do our part to change things: research shows that vegan eating results in 75% less climate-heating emissions, water pollution, and land use than meat-heavy consumption. A vegan world would not only be better for the planet but also spare billions of sensitive animals a miserable life and a terrifying death.