You Are What You Eat

Kelly Freston published a phenomenal piece on HuffingtonPost.com a few weeks back but I just got a hold of it the other day from my friends over at Alternet.org. The article is called, Vegetarian is the New Prius, and makes the environmental case for vegetarianism.

Some people just don’t get a damn if animals are killed to make food or the seats in their car. I know some very liberal, pro-environment, well-informed people who refuse to acknowledge that eating meat is ethically horrible. And people will debate for decades whether eating meat is morally wrong. It’s like debating the existence of god. Some people know s/he exists and other know s/he doesn’t. You’re really not going to convert anyone using arguments about salvation or faith, just like you’re not going to convince anyone that eating meat is bad when they don’t care if animals suffer. BUT, if they care about the environment and are sensible people some of the facts from Freston’s article have to resonate:

  • Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming. 
  • The U.N. report says almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock (i.e., those chickens Hoover was talking about, plus pigs, cattle, and others)–that’s more emissions than from all of the world’s transportation combined.
  • Last year researchers at the University of Chicago took the Prius down a peg when they turned their attention to another gas guzzling consumer purchase. They noted that feeding animals for meat, dairy, and egg production requires growing some ten times as much crops as we’d need if we just ate pasta primavera, faux chicken nuggets, and other plant foods.
  • On top of that, we have to transport the animals to slaughterhouses, slaughter them, refrigerate their carcasses, and distribute their flesh all across the country. Producing a calorie of meat protein means burning more than ten times as much fossil fuels–and spewing more than ten times as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide–as does a calorie of plant protein.
  • The researchers found that, when it’s all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.

Preston continues spewing out fact after fact:

  • According to the UN report, it gets even worse when we include the vast quantities of land needed to give us our steak and pork chops. Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world’s forests.
  • Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder. These forests serve as “sinks,” absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, and burning these forests releases all the stored carbon dioxide, quantities that exceed by far the fossil fuel emission of animal agriculture.

Ahhhhhhhhh, unbelievable! Our ignorance as a people is indescribable. I understand things can’t change over night but things must change more quickly. We are committing slow, deliberate suicide. The rich (that includes everyone with the ability to read this post) have enough medicine to make the pain go away. The poor continue to suffer.

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