Photo credit: arkntina
According to a 1996 report by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, funded by the World Bank and the United Nations, 72 acres of rainforest are destroyed every minute, mostly by impoverished people who are cutting and burning the forest to create agricultural or pasture lands to grow beef for export to the United States.
This 38 million-acres-per-year loss will wipe out the entire world’s rainforests in our children’s lifetimes if it continues at its current pace. ... The most common reason why people are destroying most of the South and Central American rainforests is poverty: the American meat habit has provided an economic boom to both poor farmers and corporate ranchers, and it is the primary reason behind the destruction of the tropical rainforests of the Americas. Poor farmers and factory farmers alike engage in slash-and-burn agriculture, cutting ancient forests to plant a single crop: grass for cattle.
The United States imports two hundred million pounds of beef every year from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama—while the average citizen in those countries eats less meat each year than the average American house cat. This deforestation of Latin America for burgers is particularly distressing when you consider that this very fragile area contains 58% of the entire planet’s rainforests. (19% are in Africa and 23% in Oceania and Southeast Asia)."
—Thom Hartmann, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It's Too Late (2004, Three Rivers Press)