I did some (hasty) research and here are a few referenced stats and quotes:
On health of beef consumption:
"Humans beings are not naural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings, who are natural herbivores." (William Roberts, Editor-in-chief, The American Journal of Cardiology 1-10-90)
"Usually the first thing a country does in the course of economic development is to introduce a lot of livestock. Our data are showing that this is not a smart move and the Chinese are listening. They realize tha animal-based agriculture is not the way to go...We are basically a vegetarian species and should be eating a wide variety of plant foods and minimizing our intake of animal foods." (Dr Colin Campbell of Cornell U. quoted in New York Times, May 8 1990)
That quote is in reference to an American-Chinese joint study of 8,000 Chinese people, which revealed the following:
Chinese consume 20% more calories while Americans are 25% fatter
37% of calories in American diet come from fat
15% of calories in Chinese diet come from fat
Protein ratios in American diet: 70% from animal sources, 30% from plant sources; Chinese: 11% animal sources, 89% plant sources
The study found that the lower the intake of animal products, the lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. (Study discussed in Rifkin, _Beyond_Beef_, 1992, p. 173)
On how american diet has changed recently:
From 1915-1980, while total protein consumption remained fairly steady, but the distribution had changed from 50% animal products to 67% animal products. (Frances Moore Lappe, in _Earth_Ethics_, 1995, p.273)
On where I came up with that "10 people go without while you dine on steak" stat:
To fatten a cow (a process performed in the last 4 months of its life) (average weight, of which only a portion is edible, 1050 lbs.) it requires approximately 2700 pounds of grain. Each year (1992) 157 million tons of plant matter edible to humans is fed to produce 28 million tons of animal protein.In 1979, similar figures: 145 million tons of plants to produce 21 million tons of animal protein. My estimate was slightly high, sorry. More like 5 people went without to feed you that steak. (Rifkin, 1992, p.161.His sources: F.M. Lappe, _Diet for a Small Planet_, 1982; M.E. Ensminger, _Animal Science_, 1991; USDA, Economic Research Service, "Energy and Land Constraints in Food Protein Production" in _Scienc_, 1975)
On loss of habitat, species extinction, etc...
The Global 2000 Report of 1980-81 predicted a total species loss of 20% within a few decades. (H. Rolston in _Earth Ethics_, 1995, p.317)
The mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs occured at a rate of about one species every 1000 years. The rate of extinction of mammals and birds alone from 1600-1900 was about 1 every 4 years. From 1900-1980 was about 1 per year. The estimate for the 1980s (all phyla included) is about 1 per day, while for the 1990s it was about 1 per hour. (John A Livingston _Rogue Primate, 1994, p. 51.)
Species extinction is a result primarily of habitat loss and introduced species (ie. species artificially transplanted to other regions where they wipe out native species because of no population checks) The primary cause of the latter are domesticates such as cattle (and the seeds they carried in their systems when they were moved) (Livingston, 1994, p44-50)
The primary cause of loss of habitat is the destruction of tropical rain forests (where perhaps 50% of all the world's species live)to make room for cattle grazing. The soil is ill-suited for crop production because of its low nutrient levels, which only a high energy ecosystem, with rapid nutrient turnover can survive on. (Curtis and Barnes, _Biology_, 1989, pp.1174-1177)
It was estimated in 1987 that by the year 2000, the destruction of south american rain forests would result in a loss of 15% of the planet's plant species (UN report "Our Common Future" cited in Rifkin, p.198.)
"What human beings have visited upon this planet may legitimately be seen as an ecospheric holocaust." John A. Livingston, _Rogue_Primate_, 1994, p.1.)
The above are my so-called unfounded beliefs and blanket assertions. (I chose not to document the biblical debate because I'm sleepy.) As I said, the library was closed, so I relied on the sources I had access to. This by no means exhausts the body of literature that discusses this topic. I merely wanted to show you that one can learn a lot from doing a little research. Please stop thinking this destruction and its causes are fabricated tales. Please recognize that we as a species are responsible for these events. Please don't think there's nothing to be done about it. Please open your mind to the possibility that how you choose to live impacts on the rest of the inhabitants (human and otherwise) of this planet.
McSpotlight: You might also be interested in the studies done by Professor Michael Crawford and others, who studied the fat levels of farm animals and compared them to wild animals. They found that intensive rearing for fast weight gain in farm animals has meant they have unnaturally high levels of fat. For example meat from modern domestic cattle was in excess of 25% carcass fat, compared to 2-5% in wild animals. There's more detail of his evidence here.