Yes, I know that doesnt fit in with you 'I'm a vegetarian, so *I* am saving the planet!' worldview, but suck it up - its the simple facts of farming.
Err...as a "meat-eater", you do realize that you're just as biased? Perhaps this is an opportunity to learn from a differing opinion. I grew up as a regular meat-eater, and as I learned more about what's going on, I changed my habits in response. I have a very strong feeling that, as someone who's spent a *lot* of time reading and researching this area, I've possibly learned a bit more about food systems than you have. However, I'm happy to have you inform me. Please find some US maps illustrating the land use of human crops vs livestock feed - I've already posted some, but go ahead and surprise me. Show me the studies from the US showing how livestock is lower impact (and I'm talking water, land-use, and other resources like oil and electricity) than crops. (Yes, there are a few exceptions, but these areas are in the vast minority compared to where most agriculture takes place, so please don't cherry pick an uncommon incident.) As for them 'drinking water', you do realize most livestock in the US are kept on factory farms, and they have immense pools collecting their waste...and it's not 'watering' anything - it's typically polluting nearby water systems. And yes, I've spent a fair bit of time on farms, although that's not necessary to learn about them. Most animal products don't come from the idyllic farm you've got in mind -- and if it began to, we'd run out of space to keep them in the US pretty quick. I don't think you appreciate how much space 10+ billion animals (the number in the US) take up. (And how much they eat, and shit and piss.)
I welcome your research.
which resulted in the huge outbreaks
Well, not in the US. *wink* *wink* But I think that was because they were never really looking for it - I figured out how many cows they tested, and it was a pretty tiny fraction of a percent.
Low fiber intake has also shown to be correlated with higher obesity, and that tends to be correlated with meat consumption. What if we did a study of people in the same socioeconomic status who shopped at similar supermarkets (often the pricier nicer ones with better quality stuff for the vegans) and controlled for the level of "processed food" (which itself isn't really the problem as much as additives like excess added sugar), level of fiber consumption, etc., etc.
Given that meat has zero fiber, this 'correlation' is simply the outcome of the scenario. I just can't picture someone who eats a high amount of meat AND high amount of fiber - this type of diet is unheard of. It's like saying fitness is correlated with physical activity...err, yeah. There aren't many (any?) people who are morbidly obese and exceptional endurance athletes (although a better analogy is inactive person who's an exceptional endurance athlete). The two don't mix. The studies are pretty consistent: as animal protein consumption decreases, so do rates of degenerative diseases. I'm not gonna say 'you have to eat zero meat to be healthy', if someone ate as a whole-food vegan all year and had one egg, it's not going to have a negative impact on their health...but scale it up to a daily basis, where it substitutes more nutritious foods with fiber, and pretty consistently health issues begin to creep in.
Ever notice that even the busiest people are never too busy to tell you just how busy they are?