Category Archives: water shortage


Nicholas Kristof

By Leslie Goldberg

In an amazing example of the difference between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk,” Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist who has wrung his hands about the animal cruelty inherent in factory farming, turned his sights on the California drought and… and… and… can you believe it? Animal agriculture!

YAY! Finally somebody at the Gray Lady is going to tell the truth about water use in our state!

On your marks, get set, go, Nicholas!

He starts off strong with a quiz:

Which consumes the most water?

A) a 10-minute shower.

B) a handful of 10 almonds.

C) a quarterpound hamburger patty.

D) a washing machine load.

Yup, it’s the burger!! Ding, ding, ding.

The columnist explains carefully that the shower might use 25 gallons. The almonds? A gallon each. The washing machine uses 35 gallons per load. And the burger uses around 450 gallons.

He goes on to talk about the California drought and what a freaking bummer it is, especially when he and his daughter are out hiking and see how the streams and lakes are all dried up.

He even explains how meat, dairy and egg production stack up against plant foods in terms of water. He writes, “A mandarin orange consumes 14 gallons of water. A head of lettuce, 12 gallons. A bunch of grapes, 24 gallons. One single walnut, 2 gallons.”

In an impressive burst of truth-telling, he goes on to write: “… a single egg takes 53 gallons of water to produce. A pound of chicken, 468 gallons. A gallon of milk, 880 gallons. And a pound of beef, 1,800 gallons of water.”

Woo hoo! Go Nick, go. Tell it! Tell us all if we want to save the habitability of the planet we need to go vegan, now. Save the animals! Save the water! Strike a blow against climate change!

But as he comes into the home stretch, our hero Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times stumbles:

“Like most Americans, I eat meat, but it’s worth thinking hard about the inefficiency in that hamburger patty — and the small lake that has dried up to make it possible. Maybe our industrial agriculture system is beginning to change, for we’re seeing some signs of a food revolution in America, with greater emphasis on organic food and animal rights.”

Buy organic and give Walmart a big pat on the back as well for joining the “humane meat” bullshit brigade.
Think, baby, think.

Umm. I’m thinking if I should still keep reading the Times.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


By Leslie Goldberg

Since Gov. Jerry Brown has announced that the little people now should cut back their water consumption by 25 percent, the folks in the animal food industry must be popping the champagne corks. Not only has Brown declined to ask agriculture, including animal agriculture, to cut back, it looks to me like none of the major American media outlets are focusing on livestock and calling it out for the mega-sponge it is.

Instead, the press recently has managed to suggest the idea it’s fruits and vegetables that are the culprits and if we want to do right we should not only turn off the sprinklers but ditch the almond milk and maybe skip the salad. Ok, ok, we should definitely turn off the sprinklers and phase out those oversized spa bathtubs, I agree. But there has been scarcely a hiccup about animal ag with a few exceptions and that’s a serious bummer.

Animal agriculture deserves more than a hiccup! And hamburgers are costing us way more than $1 a piece. Forty-seven percent of California’s water is used for meat and dairy products, according to a study by the Pacific Institute.

California’s biggest crop happens to be not almonds, tomatoes or lettuce. It’s alfalfa. Michael Pollan said during an interview with, that about 25 percent of our water is going to raise alfalfa, which is primarily for animal feed – not avocado sandwiches.

And possibly the worst of it is that a lot of that alfalfa is being shipped from California to Asia and the Middle East, areas that have started to glom onto the West’s genius animal-food-heavy diet.

“A hundred billion gallons of water per year is being exported in the form of alfalfa from California,” said Professor Robert Glennon from Arizona College of Law, who was quoted in a BBC article. “It’s a huge amount. It’s enough for a year’s supply of water for a million families – it’s a lot of water, particularly when you’re looking at the dreadful drought throughout the south-west.”

So the animal agricultural water footprint is, yes, the animals themselves, but also growing feed crops for not just California’s meat and dairy industry but that of China and the Middle East.

“Wonderful,” I sarcastically write.

However, I think there may be hope. I’m one of those pesky lefties who believes almost nothing happens in this country unless the mega-corporations want it to happen. Somehow I can’t imagine all the non-animal agricultural corporations standing by and watching this one economic sector, animal agriculture, take us down.

And of course, as consumers of these animal products, we can do something too: not be consumers of animal products. “Changing one’s diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with edible plants like legumes, nuts and tubers results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual’s food-related water footprint,” wrote James McWilliams in a New York Times op ed piece back in early March. “Going vegetarian, a better option in many respects, reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent.”

It’s time, New York Times, to, at the very least, run another McWilliams piece.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


By Leslie Goldberg

Wouldn’t you know it? It’s the health food freaks, the almond milk guzzlers who are fueling California’s water shortage. Did you know that it takes a whole gallon of water to raise one almond?

A whole gallon.

Those self-righteous vegans who think they know something!

Since I happened to have a pound of almonds in the refrigerator I decided to count up those little water suckers and see how much water it takes to produce a pound of almonds. It was bad. Four hundred and thirty-three gallons of water.

Four hundred and thirty-three? Wait a minute. How about a pound of beef? (I dare say it’s a lot easier to eat a pound of beef than it is to eat a pound of almonds.) According to the folks at it takes between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

“More than half the entire US water supply goes to livestock,” says the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“It takes a lot of water to grow grain, forage, and roughage to feed a cow, as well as water to drink and to service the cow,” says the US Geological Survey Water Science School.

“Meat processing, especially chicken, also uses large amounts of water,” says the Environmental Working Group.

“The more plant-based foods we eat versus animal-based foods….the less water, energy, and other natural resources we use,” says the San Francisco Water Sewer.


If animal foods are such a big deal in terms of water usage, why, why, why did the New York Times, in their recent mega two-part series on California’s drought, not mention animal foods? Why did they instead focus on the water required to grow almonds?

I have four suspicions.

1) The reporters, like practically everyone on the planet, consider animal food eating “normal, natural and necessary.” (Thank you author of “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows,” Melanie Joy.)

2) They consider almonds to be maybe normal and natural, but definitely not necessary.

3) It’s kind of a sexy angle to zero in on almonds – almonds seem so innocent, but now we find they’re evil. (“Hey! Did you read this? It’s almonds that are using up all our water.”)

4) Pressure from the animal food industry, particularly the dairy farms which have been facing a serious challenge from the almond milk industry.

One of the big things The New York Times drought stories didn’t mention was water pollution, which by the way, is a rather large water suck. Turns out, according to the EPA, the animal foods industry is THE biggest cause of water pollution in the United States.

California’s Central Valley, which is dominated by huge dairy farms, has suffered serious ground water pollution caused primarily by cow waste. A study by the central valley water board found that 40 percent of the dairies in that area – more than 550 facilities – reported that they had nitrate levels in their own wells of at least twice the drinking water standard and it’s become a health threat to those who have the misfortune of living nearby, especially babies and pregnant women.

No, the Brita won’t take out nitrates.

Also I have to say, that’s an interesting concept: “their own wells.”

When it comes to water pollution, nobody’s talking about almonds as far as I can tell. Still, California is producing a lot of almonds, most of which are exported abroad. I’ve read that 10 percent of California’s water supply is going to raise almonds. And 47 percent of California’s water is going to livestock, according to a December 2012 report by the Pacific Institute, titled “California’s Water Footprint.”

I won’t say whether anybody should drink almond milk or not. I will say, though, people should eat (one of my favorites) lentils instead of meat.

“By making one meal a week with lentils instead of beef, a family of four can save the equivalent of 17 bathtubs of water,” says Oxfam International.

Seventeen bathtubs. One meal.

PS: Despite the holes in their story, the New York Times reporters do deserve some credit though for finding possibly the most intellectually challenged man in the entire state to give his reaction on the water crisis: “I’m not going to stop watering,” said Matthew Post, 45, referring to the gardens around his Benedict Canyon home. “The state does not know how to arrange the resources they have, and so we have to pay for it,” he said. “They say that they will raise the prices because there is a drought, but when the drought ends, will they reduce the prices?”

Ok, fine, Mat, but how about cutting down on the burgers?

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –