I suppose a person has to hear about something a very large number of times before he is willing to change his habits, especially if these habits (religion, diet, biases, etc . . .) were ingrained in him from birth. Hopefully Jane Brody’s piece, Paying a price for loving red meat, has added fuel to the fire.
Meat, if you eat it at all, should be a small part (read: not the entree) of one (read: not two or three) meal a day. If you don’t believe me, ask the FDA. But, American, and much of the rest of the world that has access to it, eats meat like they should be eating fruits and vegetables. What’s the problem with this? Hmmmmm.
First, the health effects. According to Brody’s piece, a recent decade-long study by the National Institutes of Health and the American Association of Retired Persons concluded that over a decade, “the deaths of 1 million men and perhaps half a million women could be prevented just by eating less red and processed meats”. Why? Because excess ingestion of red meat is directly linked to premature death, usually from either cancer or heart disease. This science behind these conclusions is concrete, as concrete as the research that shows smoking causes cancer. Believe both or neither, but you can’t choose just one.
Second, the environmental effects. Also noted in the article is the fact that, “In the United States, livestock production accounts for 55 percent of the erosion process, 37 percent of pesticides applied, 50 percent of antibiotics consumed, and a third of total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface water.” We’re tearing up the earth so we can make food that kills us faster. Sweet.
The ethical argument is the one that most falls on deaf ears, but while we can agree to disagree that killing animals for for is wrong, animals should still be treated humanely while they’re alive. This point is not debatable. Caged animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the abuse of animals by physical means or through the use of drugs is completely unacceptable, and makes us less compassionate as people.
Finally, the social and political aspects of farming animals for food are nearly immeasurable. Deforestation, erosion, contamination and the like, while terrible from an environmental perspective, all rape the land and makes farming for plants virtually impossible. Small farms are being bought up by conglomerates all over the globe, making sustainability for farmers in developing nations difficult. Dictators take land meant for the people and sell it to global corporations so they can cheaply grow feed for cows and pigs and chickens while people starve as the harvest drives by their towns.
We’re all ignorant to some degree, myself included. But, what’s we’re doing to ourselves and to others for the sake of food is disgusting. The more people who realize this, the better off all of us will be.