Tagged: Vegetarianism

Eating Meat Is Not Natural

Writer Kathy Freston, a frequent contributor to AlterNet on the topic of the human diet, has posted a new article on this great alternative media site about the evolutionary arguments against carnivorous diets. If you don’t believe in evolution you should stop reading here. For the rest of you, please check out the article. A few summary points from the piece are:

  1. We only recently (historically speaking) began eating meat, and that the inclusion of meat in our diet came well after we became who we are today
  2. Early humans had diets very much like other great apes, which is to say a largely plant-based diet, drawing on foods we can pick with our hands
  3. Research suggests that meat-eating probably began by scavenging — eating the leftovers that carnivores had left behind. However, our bodies have never adapted to it. To this day, meat-eaters have a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other problems
  4. In fact, our hands are perfect for grabbing and picking fruits and vegetables. Similarly, like the intestines of other herbivores, ours are very long (carnivores have short intestines so they can quickly get rid of all that rotting flesh they eat)
  5. Most of us are “behavioral omnivores” — that is, we eat meat, so that defines us as omnivorous. But our evolution and physiology are herbivorous, and ample science proves that when we choose to eat meat, that causes problems, from decreased energy and a need for more sleep up to increased risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

The link in the last bullet point will send you to another article by Freston on Huffington Post that speaks to the “protein myth” the meat industry propagates to manipulate people into believe meat is necessary in their diets.

I hope by being continually exposed to the truth on diets and how the human body actually works, people will reduce their consumption of meat. I’m not so naive to think that the world will become vegetarians overnight but a gradual reduction combined with continued education of our youth will make the world a healthier and more sustainable place.

I’ll be having a vegetarian dinner tonight. You should try the same.

The Cost of Meat

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.

Crabby Crabs

Very hard to be inside today. The weather is gorgeous and I really want to be done working. Unfortunately this is not going to happen for a bit so I thought I’d write a quick post before diving back into what I have to finish this afternoon. While perusing the “Internets” a while ago I ran across an article discussing a surprising find – crabs feel pain. The piece begins:

A favored method of preparing fresh crabs is to simply boil them alive. A longstanding related question: Do they feel pain?

Yes, researchers now say. Not only do crabs suffer pain, a new study found, but they retain a memory of it (assuming they aren’t already dead on your dinner plate). The scientists say its time for new laws to consider the suffering of all crustaceans.

Duh. What I fail to comprehend is the lack of compassion in people. If you think animals are part of the food chain, fine, we will just have to agree to disagree. But, if you think animals should turn into meals in the most efficient way possible, regardless of the suffering they experience, we will just have to agree that I can punch you in the throat. Why civil societies don’t do more to humanely murder animals for food completely befuddles me. There’s

Bob Elwood of Queen’s University Belfast in the UK says in the article:

“Millions of crustacean are caught or reared in aquaculture for the food industry,” he said. “There is no protection for these animals (with the possible exception of certain states in Australia) as the presumption is that they cannot experience pain. With vertebrates we are asked to err on the side of caution and I believe this is the approach to take with these crustaceans.”

All kinds of animals experience pain. It was clear before and its more clear with the publication of this study. Please think about this the next time you sit down to eat. Even if you’re a carnivore, supporting the efforts of organizations like PETA can help make humans more responsible carnivores, whether it be in light of the environment or in light of suffering. If a couple people are converted to vegetarianism, all the better for you and the earth.

Red Meat Bad

In shocking news, a recent study proved yet again that all kinds of red meat are bad, and in so many ways. The study gained quite a bit of attention on the Internet and is summarized nicely in one fabulously named article, titled, “Red meat raises risk of all kinds of death – study“. All kinds of death! All kinds! That’s darkly funny, no?

The article starts with three summary points:

  • Heaviest meat-eaters die sooner
  • Effect is independent of smoking, other diet factors
  • Farming animals for meat hurts environment

I’ve written posts of this nature before, but these points require repeating to sink in. Something needs to be read seven times before its remembered, or so they say. Red Meat Bad. Red Meat Bad. Red Meat Bad. Red Meat Bad. Red Meat Bad. Red Meat Bad. Red Meat Bad.

Of course the meat industry called the study flawed, but that was as predictable as the sun coming up tomorrow. Remember when we believed the cigarette companies? Just give it time. Not only does meat have negative health effects (read: cancer) it is also damaging to the environment.

Many studies have shown that people who eat less meat are healthier in many ways, and Sinha’s team noted that meat contains several cancer-causing chemicals, as well as the unhealthiest forms of fat.

The U.S. government now recommends a “plant-based diet” that stresses fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Barry Popkin, an expert in nutrition and economics at the University of North Carolina, said the study was unusually thorough and careful.

Eating less meat has other benefits, he said, and governments should start promoting this. For instance, farming animals for meat causes greenhouse gas emissions that warm the atmosphere and uses fresh water in excess, he said.

“I was pretty surprised when I checked back and went through the data on emissions from animal food and livestock,” Popkin said in a telephone interview.

“I didn’t expect it to be more than cars.”

More than cars people, more than cars. Another article quoted a man who said he wasn’t necessarily advocating vegetarianism, which of course I do, but that meat should be taking a back seat to fruits and vegetables. The only way to move toward a meat-free society, and thus one with healthier people and a healthier environment, is to take baby steps. Make meat only part of one meal a day and make sure it’s not the biggest thing on the plate.

Changing Habits

I received an email from Sierra Club today with a link to a website called 50 Ways to Help the Planet.

The crazy thing is, on the site, “they” give you 50 actual ways to help the planet. Unbelievable!

This isn’t the first published set of green action items, and it won’t be the last, but the lesson to take away from these lists is that they all ask people not to do things differently every now and then. but to change our habits. Only if fundamentally alter our behavior will we change the course we’re on.

The devastating climate change we’re experiencing currently took millions of people and decades to create. Changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs, while helpful, is only a small piece o the puzzle. The 49 others ways to help the planet presented on the list I’ve linked to should also be done by everyone; they must become habits.

Number 8 on the list – Go Vegetarian Once A Week – is the change in lifestyle that can go the furthest, yet is most often ignored by people. The site says, “One less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. For example: It requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. You will also also save some trees. For each hamburger that originated from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed.”

Bill Maher talks about vegetarianism on his show frequently, but no one else in the popular media – if HBO can be considered that – ever mentions it. I’ve talked about it time and time again, most recently in reference to an article written in The New York Times by a freakin’ carnivore of all people. And like Mark Bittman, the author of the NYT piece, a realistic real goal for environmentalists should be to get people to eat meat only once a day, not just be vegetarian once a week.

So go check out the site; it has bitchin’ free wallpapers for download and some great t-shirts for purchase.

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

Mark Bittman does a yeoman’s job of summarizing the meat industry’s impact on the globe in this article. The facts are astonishing, mind-blowing, and will create real shock and awe in your mind if you synthesize them. And in light of the current global food crisis, the idea of reducing our collective meat intake makes even more sense. Please read the article in its entirety – I promiseyou won’t regret it, unless you like to be ignorant that is. Further, Bittman is not a vegetarian, so don’t think he’s predisposed to one side of the argument. His point is that those who choose to eat meat should eat much less to help both the environment and their health. Here are a few teasers from the piece:

  • . . . an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.
  • . . . a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
  • Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.
  • We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources.

I don’t want to repeat the entire article so that’s all I’ll give you. Seriously, go read it. It takes only a few minutes. I’m not telling you to become a vegetarian, though the change would be good for both you and your neighbors. I’m telling you to audit your meat intake and reduce the amount you eat while increasing the quality of it. That change alone, among all of us, will help redirect food sources to the people who need it most while significantly reducing pollution caused by the meat industry. You have to be a real jerk to order a double cheeseburger meal while people all around the globe struggle to find food daily. Throwing money at the problem is a bandage, not a long-term solution.

The Debate Heats Up: Vegetarianism & Climate Change

Let it be known, I’m on PETA’s side in regards to the statement “you just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist.” Well, I guess you could be a meat-eating environmentalist, but you’d be a less effective one. Further, while PETA is known to sensationalize instances of animal abuse to make a point, a dramatic touch is often needed to appeal to people who habitually practice a behavior in direct contradiction to an organization’s beliefs. So, I was interested to read a response to the “afore-linked” article published on Grist.org called, “PETA’s dogma is all bark and no bite.”

The author, Alex Roth, reminds us of some valid points in his article. For instance, that the same report PETA uses to defend its position also states many of the environmental harms caused by livestock production can be mitigated through better agricultural practices. But, I haven’t read the report, and I don’t know if “many” refers to a lot of the little harms or actually includes removing substantial harms to the environment. Also, I agree that PETA jumped on the climate change bandwagon a little late, at least publicly. Apparently the ethics argument falls on deaf ears. Who knew?! But, I’m sure the good folks at PETA did know of the horrible environmental effects of raising animals for food long before they started advertising these facts.

That being said, hasn’t everyone jumped on the green bandwagon? This very blog wouldn’t exist without renewed interest in the environment. And fluorescent light bulb makers would only casually mention the energy-related benefits to their products in the past, choosing instead to mention the bulbs’ light was more natural or that the bulbs lasted longer. And most energy-efficient vehicles were long advertised as being affordable, because of little engines, not green.

The article weakens considerably after these few points. Roth claims that PETA is using what he calls “the paper napkin defense” in making their claim. His description of the defense goes like this:

“An environmentalist says something like, “We have to stop dumping toxic chemicals in our water, because it’s poisoning children.” Then someone who thinks he’s very smart counters that you have no right to speak up, because he saw you use a paper napkin, which is made out of trees and will be thrown in the garbage. As illogical and irrelevant as such a response is, haven’t you heard it a thousand times?”

While I’ve heard people use that type of logic before, and I do agree it’s frustrating to hear, I don’t think it’s what’s PETA’s doing. What Roth ignores, and what is of utmost importance here, is that people should do all they can to reduce their detrimental behavior. While PETA may be making absolute statements, I don’t think they’re asking you to become a vegetarian over night, though I’d surely prefer it. What they are saying is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too; eating meat and tooting your green horn is fundamentally hypocritical. The two acts are incongruous, plain and simple. Surely you can be greener than your neighbor if you have a hybrid vehicle or compact fluorescent light bulbs, but at the same time you’re not doing all you can do to lessen your impact on this planet.

Also, Roth uses the same “all or nothing” argument he claims PETA uses. He says, “To me, being an environmentalist simply means supporting policies and practices that promote a healthy environment.” To me, that means living a less wasteful life, and what’s more wasteful than creating something just to destroy it? You don’t build houses just to tear them down and you don’t build relationships just to end them. Why then, would you raise an animal just to kill it? For food? There’s plenty of food to go around in this country. Hell, farmer’s are paid not to grow food. Advocating a policy for policy’s sake, and then ignoring that policy seems to me to be like Republican politics, not environmentalism. Make a concerted effort to do less harm. Not eating meat is a good way to do that. Otherwise you’ll be nothing more than a guy who loves gay sex but tells people on TV that it’s wrong and you’ll burn for it!

Attention, Planet-Destroying Carnivores

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out on this site, raising and killing animals for food does more harm to the environment than automobiles, yet society continues to attack other major, but not leading causes of climate change.  Now, PETA, with the help of a few major studies released in the last few months, is actively trying to change the minds of meat-eating people. In summary, the two studies, as reported in this New York Times article, concluded the following:

  • In late November, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
  • On its Web page and in its literature, the Humane Society has also been highlighting other scientific studies — notably, one that recently came out of the University of Chicago — that, in essence, show that “switching to a plant-based diet does more to curb global warming than switching from an S.U.V. to a Camry,” said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the factory farming campaign for the Humane Society.

One critic in the same article says:

“Using global warming as a tactic for advancing the cause of vegetarianism feels a bit opportunistic,” said Hank Stewart, senior copywriter at Green Team Advertising, which specializes in environmentally themed ads.

He also questions the logistics. “You want to get the message as close to the meat-purchasing moment as possible,” he said, “but can you imagine a supermarket allowing ‘Attention, Planet-Destroying Carnivores’ on the in-store radio?”

Ol’ Hank is marketer, so his logic of getting the message as close to the meat-purchasing moment as possible is understandable, but I disagree, especially with his claim that using global warming as a tactic for advancing the cause of vegetarianism as opportunistic. Opportunity is vital to success. His company, which specializes in environmentally themed ads, is the epitome of an opportunistic venture. Either he condones opportunistic behavior or is a hypocrite. Take your pick.

Changing the diets of millions of American, and billions of people worldwide, will only occur through raising awareness. This takes time, and exposing people to the facts associated with factory farming and raising livestock for slaughter is the right way to approach promoting vegetarianism. Scare tactics will not work in the long-term, though they are fun to try! The ethics aspect of the vegetarianism argument falls on deaf ears, especially when various religions tell people that animals are mankind’s to use as it sees fit, and make arbitrary claims like pork is bad but beef is good, or that chicken is meat and fish is not. Executing a well-planned campaign to disseminate the negative environmental effects of a carnivorous lifestyle is the only way to make vegetarianism mainstream.

I’m going to do my part, hopefully you’ll do yours.

Ethical Man’s Top Ten Tips for Ethical Living

Our friends across the Atlantic bring us this very interesting and action-oriented article about reducing one’s carbon footprint. The author, Justin Rowlatt, and his family went “green” for an entire year and the results are going to be discussed on BBC’s One’s Panorama. The ten tips are:

1. Give Up Your Car
2. Insulate Your Home
3. Move the Electricity Meter from Under the Stairs
4. Start Composting
5. Eat More Veggies
6. Eat Less Meat
7. Use Washable Nappies (diapers)
8. Buy Energy-Saving Light Bulbs
9. Try to Fly Less
10. Turn Off the Taps

The article contains more information on each of the option but being vegetarian, I always like to point out the astonishing amount of energy farming animals use. According to the article, in England, cars produce 11% of country’s carbon emissions. Globally, farming animals produce 18% of the world’s carbon emissions.

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.