/me closes eyes, holds breath and dives into the swamp of a highly opinionated-type node...
Just the facts, ma'am.
Vegetarianism is not NECESSARILY environmentally friendly
Yes, McEvils cut down rainforests for cattle pastures. Yes, abbatoirs and processing plants can spew out some heftily toxic effluents.
The fact, however, is that agriculture is the single biggest cause of environmental degradation in Australia.
It's worse than mining
It's worse than grazing
Hell, I didn't want to believe it. Surely evil, capitalist bastard mining companies do far, far more damage than kindly farmers who bring us healthy, leafy veggies? Surely those acres of vibrant green sugarcane are much friendlier to the soil than smelly great cows roaming about a dusty pasture?
Growing food crops, particularly in a country like Australia (not exactly famed for it's rolling grasslands and nutrient-rich soil) has a scary list of side effects:
Acid sulfate soil exposure
Heavy metal contamination from fertilisers and organic soil amendments
Algal blooms in rivers from nutrient runoff
Pesticide and herbicide contamination of soil, water and air
... shall I go on?
Goddamn, now I've got to node half this stuff...
Even organic farming causes nasties, as a great many organic amendments (used instead of commercial fertilisers) are over-used, and often contain high heavy metal concentrations.
This does not mean that grazing has no negative impacts. It does not mean that in some parts of the world, the soil cannot easily support intensive cropping for the next 500 years. This is, however, the case in most of Australia.
Personally, I couldn't care less what people decide to eat. I'd just like them to make their choices with all the facts on hand.
Note to Australians: If we really wanted to make the best use of our country's resources, not to mention caring for our health, we'd be chowing down on roo at most meals. Australian kangaroo populations are out of control and require culling, but in their wisdom certain environmental groups who should have known better lobbied to stop large supermarket chains from selling meat from the cute little critters.