Tag Archives: meat industry

Are meat-eaters selfish?

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Veggies and fruits available at the REC mobile farmers market van! (see schedule below) pic:R.T.

By Michelle Kretzer

We all ponder the question, “Am I selfish?” from time to time. And the answer is simple: Yes, probably. If you claim to care about the environment, animals, world hunger, skyrocketing healthcare costs or pretty much any of the major crises that we face today but are still eating meat, then yes, you are selfish.

Because we could drastically slow down climate change, feed the entire booming population, fix the broken healthcare system and save millions of lives right now if we wanted to. But we don’t. Not enough anyway. I mean, sure, we want to solve those problems. But … bacon.

Researchers from Oxford University’s Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food just published the results of their study on the impact of the meat industry on the environment and our health.

They found that if the human population made a global shift toward the dietary recommendations that we hear at least once a week about eating the minimum suggested amounts of fruit and vegetables, limiting red meat and sugar, and cutting overall calories, we could cut food-related greenhouse-gas emissions by 29 percent. That number jumps to 63 percent for a collective shift toward vegetarian eating. And if everyone on Earth went vegan, we could slash food-related greenhouse-gas emissions by 70 percent.

Simply following health recommendations to eat more plants and less meat could also prevent 5.1 million deaths by 2050. And if everyone chose vegan foods, we could save the lives of 8.1 million people. Healthy plant-based eating could save us $700 billion to $1 trillion every year on health care and lost working days. And the economic savings of significantly cutting our greenhouse-gas emissions could be as much as $570 billion.

Their results mirror the findings of pretty much every food study ever.

According to the filmmakers behind the documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean ‘dead zones,’ and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.”

The meat industry wastes a tremendous amount of water at a time when waging war over fresh water is no longer seen as a movie plot but as a very real threat. Animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the U.S., and if the rest of the world ate America’s meat-heavy diet, the Earth would have run out of fresh water 15 years ago.

Turning animals into meat is also a grossly inefficient use of other limited resources. It takes up to 13 kilograms of grain fed to farmed animals to produce just 1 kilogram of meat for the world’s wealthiest citizens. With 795 million people currently going hungry, the only way to produce enough food, according to Worldwatch Institute, is “to cut back sharply on meat consumption, because conversion of grazing land to food crops will increase the amount of food produced.”

Every day, one vegan saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forest, 20 pounds of greenhouse gases and an animal’s life.

By saving the Earth and animals, we also save ourselves. Numerous health studies have found that vegetarians and vegans enjoy lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes, obesity and Alzheimer’s as well as lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and better overall health.

So, are you selfish? Think about it as you head off to fry some bacon … and the planet.

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Get your good-for-you goodies at REC’s Beaver Brook Park and Main South farmers markets and at the REC mobile farmers market van:

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Are vegetarians more compassionate than meat-eaters?

By Paula Moore

According to a new study by an international team of researchers, your thoughts about marriage equality and racial justice could be linked to your affinity for steaks and sausages. In other words, if the idea of killing another living being for dinner doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, then you’re probably not too bothered by other social injustices, either.

The study, “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4 Ns,” published in the journal Appetite, found that people who justify eating animals by claiming that it is “natural,” “normal,” “necessary” or “nice”—even though it is none of these things—are more tolerant of social inequality in general.

Historically, these same “Ns” have been trotted out to justify everything from slavery to homophobia. For instance, as the study notes, “In defense of male-only voting practices in the U.S. opponents of women’s suffrage often appealed to the necessity of denying women the vote … to the natural superiority of male intelligence, and to the historical normalness of male-only voting as ‘designed by our forefathers.’ … Today, most people find such arguments in support of male-only voting ludicrous at best.”

This confirms what PETA has long maintained: The mindset that condones the oppression of other humans—whether Jews, women, gays or people of color—is the same mindset that permits the exploitation of animals. Prejudices of any stripe arise when we start to believe that “I” am important and “you” are not, that my interests somehow trump those of other living beings.

It’s not surprising that meat-eaters find it necessary to defend their behavior, which is increasingly coming under public scrutiny. In this day and age, anyone who’s been paying attention knows that raising and killing animals for food is destroying the planet, jeopardizing our health and causing tremendous suffering to billions of sentient beings. In today’s meat and dairy industries, animals know little else but pain, fear, injury and disease. Piglets have their tails and testicles cut off without being given painkillers, chickens and turkeys have their throats cut while they’re still conscious and calves are taken away from their mothers within hours of birth.

And the United Nations reports that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary if we want to combat the worst effects of climate change.

It’s simpler to make excuses—”I grew up eating meat; it’s normal,” or “A plate of spare ribs is so nice after a hard day”—than it is to change behavior. It’s easy to shake our heads in disbelief at what others before us have done but not so easy to examine honestly the biases and prejudices that we hold today.

But there’s hope. As more consumers begin to question the status quo and reject the inherent violence of eating animals, the world will become a kinder place for all of us.

A previous study found that vegans and vegetarians have more empathy than meat-eaters do—for both animals and their fellow humans. Researchers in Europe placed volunteers in an MRI machine and showed them a series of random pictures during scanning. The scans revealed that when observing animal or human suffering, the “empathy-related” areas of the brain are more active among vegetarians and vegans. The researchers also found that there are certain brain areas that only vegans and vegetarians seem to activate when witnessing suffering.

Compassion begets compassion. Change can happen when we begin to recognize that all oppression, prejudice and cruelty are wrong—and that all are connected. We can start with dinner.

Global conflicts and the end of meat

By Ingrid E. Newkirk

PETA has long said that nonviolence begins with what we eat, and an alarming new study shows that we have no time to waste in ditching chicken kebabs and steak sandwiches and choosing humane veggie burgers and falafel instead. According to a team of University of California–Berkeley researchers, unless we get our act together and take steps to mitigate climate change, violence will increase substantially, along with the increasing temperatures. They predict that between now and 2050, because of higher temperatures and extreme weather patterns, interpersonal violence (murder, rape and domestic abuse) will increase between 8 and 16 percent. War and civil unrest could increase by more than 50 percent.

The most effective way to fight climate change is with diet change — by going vegan.

The United Nations reports that the meat industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” including land degradation, air pollution, water pollution, water use and loss of biodiversity.

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming—and raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the largest source of both methane and nitrous-oxide emissions. And when you add up all the energy-intensive stages of producing enormous amounts of grain to feed to farmed animals, plus killing and processing the animals and transporting and storing their flesh, it’s easy to see why producing one calorie of animal protein requires more than 11 times as much fossil fuel as producing one calorie of plant protein.

The meat industry wastes a tremendous amount of water at a time when wars fought over water are no longer seen as a movie plot but a looming threat. PETA tours the country with a portable outdoor shower to remind everyone who stops to look at it that producing just a single pound of meat requires the same amount of water as six months’ worth of showers. That’s because the crops that are fed to farmed animals have to be irrigated, the animals have to be given water, and filthy factory farms and slaughterhouses have to be hosed down regularly. So indirectly, the average vegan consumes nearly 600 gallons of water less per day than the average meat-eater.

No wonder the United Nations Environment Programme says that we need “a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

The heat waves, intense storms, droughts, rising sea levels, crop damage and other problems caused by climate change are also draining billions of dollars from the world economy. British economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicts that if we do not reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it will take less than 40 years for climate change to cause up to a 20 percent drop in the world’s gross domestic product. He fears that it could be “market failure on the greatest scale the world has seen.”

For those who simply can’t—or, rather, won’t—stop eating flesh foods, we are now one giant step closer to laboratory-grown meat that will end massive animal suffering, make the food supply safer and reverse environmental damage. On August 5, history was made with the first-ever taste test of an in vitro hamburger. Dr. Mark Post, who developed the burger, believes that other “test-tube” meat products could be available commercially in as little as 10 years. PETA predicts that it will be sooner than that, as scientists share their findings and commercial interests fund the work.

But why wait? There are already so many delicious vegan products on the market that taste like chicken, beef, pork, milk and cheese—with more on the way—that many people are making the switch now. To avert environmental disaster and the global conflicts that will accompany it, we should all go vegan today.