Meat isn’t just murder, according to Dame Vivienne Westwood, it’s also depleting the world’s water supplies. Appearing in a new video for People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals, the legendary designer reveals the role the livestock trade plays in diverting the wet stuff from lakes, rivers, and aquifers, not just to slake the animals’ thirst, but also to grow the crops used to fatten them. It takes 16 pounds of grain—plus all the water and land that goes with it—to produce a single pound of meat, says Westwood in the spot, which is screening in advance of World Water Day on March 22. “By avoiding meat, you do more for the environment than recycling or driving a hybrid car combined,” she adds.
Westwood’s numbers check out. A watershed study by the United Nations singled out animal agriculture as one of the leading causes of climate change.
Likewise, a story in the New York Times earlier this month yoked beef with a water footprint of nearly four million gallons of water per ton produced. “Sugar crops” such as sugar beets, in contrast, require 52,000 gallons per ton; vegetables 85,000 gallons per ton; and starchy roots roughly 102,200 gallons per ton.
Westwood underscores the urgency of our impending crisis. “I do believe we are an endangered species, and we actually need to think what we’re doing, not just that it’s a choice, we can take it or leave it,” she says. “Otherwise it will be mass extinction in a few generations. It won’t be the animals.”