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By Ezra Klein
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The debate over climate change has reached a rarefied level of policy abstraction in recent months. Carbon tax or cap-and-trade? Upstream or downstream? Should we auction permits? Head-scratching is, at this point, permitted. But at base, these policies aim to do a simple thing, in a simple way: persuade us to undertake fewer activities that are bad for the atmosphere by making those activities more expensive. Driving an SUV would become pricier. So would heating a giant house with coal and buying electricity from an inefficient power plant. But there's one activity that's not on the list and should be: eating a hamburger.
If it's any consolation, I didn't like writing that sentence any more than you liked reading it. But the evidence is strong. It's not simply that meat is a contributor to global warming; it's that it is a huge contributor. Larger, by a significant margin, than the global transportation sector.
According to a 2006 United Nations report, livestock accounts for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Some of meat's contribution to climate change is intuitive. It's more energy efficient to grow grain and feed it to people than it is to grow grain and turn it into feed that we give to calves until they become adults that we then slaughter to feed to people. Some of the contribution is gross. "Manure lagoons," for instance, is the oddly evocative name for the acres of animal excrement that sit in the sun steaming nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. And some of it would make Bart Simpson chuckle. Cow gas -- interestingly, it's mainly burps, not farts -- is a real player.
But the result isn't funny at all: Two researchers at the University of Chicago estimated that switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading in your gas guzzler for a Prius (PDF). A study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that the average American would do less for the planet by switching to a totally local diet than by going vegetarian one day a week. That prompted Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to recommend that people give up meat one day a week to take pressure off the atmosphere. The response was quick and vicious. "How convenient for him," was the inexplicable reply from a columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "He's a vegetarian."
The visceral reaction against anyone questioning our God-given right to bathe in bacon has been enough to scare many in the environmental movement away from this issue. The National Resources Defense Council has a long page of suggestions for how you, too, can "fight global warming." As you'd expect, "Drive Less" is in bold letters. There's also an endorsement for "high-mileage cars such as hybrids and plug-in hybrids." They advise that you weatherize your home, upgrade to more efficient appliances and even buy carbon offsets. The word "meat" is nowhere to be found.
That's not an oversight. Telling people to give up burgers doesn't poll well. Ben Adler, an urban policy writer, explored that in a December 2008 article for the American Prospect. He called environmental groups and asked them for their policy on meat consumption. "The Sierra Club isn't opposed to eating meat," was the clipped reply from a Sierra Club spokesman. "So that's sort of the long and short of it." And without pressure to address the costs of meat, politicians predictably are whiffing on the issue. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, for instance, does nothing to address the emissions from livestock.
The pity of it is that compared with cars or appliances or heating your house, eating pasta on a night when you'd otherwise have made fajitas is easy. It doesn't require a long commute on the bus or the disposable income to trade up to a Prius. It doesn't mean you have to scrounge for change to buy a carbon offset. In fact, it saves money. It's healthful. And it can be done immediately. A Montanan who drives 40 miles to work might not have the option to take public transportation. But he or she can probably pull off a veggie stew. A cash-strapped family might not be able buy a new dishwasher. But it might be able to replace meatballs with mac-and-cheese. That is the whole point behind the cheery PB&J Campaign, which reminds that "you can fight global warming by having a PB&J for lunch." Given that PB&J is delicious, it's not the world's most onerous commitment.
It's also worth saying that this is not a call for asceticism. It's not a value judgment on anyone's choices. Going vegetarian might not be as effective as going vegan, but it's better than eating meat, and eating meat less is better than eating meat more. It would be a whole lot better for the planet if everyone eliminated one meat meal a week than if a small core of die-hards developed perfectly virtuous diets.
I've not had the willpower to eliminate bacon from my life entirely, and so I eliminated it from breakfast and lunch, and when that grew easier, pulled back further to allow myself five meat-based meals a month. And believe me, I enjoy the hell out of those five meals. But if we're going to take global warming seriously, if we're going to make crude oil more expensive and tank-size cars less practical, there's no reason to ignore the impact of what we put on our plates.
Ezra Klein can be reached at email@example.com or through his blog at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ezraklein.
The Guardian, Tuesday 24 December 2002 01.01 GMT
Why vegans were right all along
Famine can only be avoided if the rich give up meat, fish and dairy
The Christians stole the winter solstice from the pagans, and capitalism stole it from the Christians. But one feature of the celebrations has remained unchanged: the consumption of vast quantities of meat. The practice used to make sense. Livestock slaughtered in the autumn, before the grass ran out, would be about to decay, and fat-starved people would have to survive a further three months. Today we face the opposite problem: we spend the next three months trying to work it off.
Our seasonal excesses would be perfectly sustainable, if we weren't doing the same thing every other week of the year. But, because of the rich world's disproportionate purchasing power, many of us can feast every day. And this would also be fine, if we did not live in a finite world.
By comparison to most of the animals we eat, turkeys are relatively efficient converters: they produce about three times as much meat per pound of grain as feedlot cattle. But there are still plenty of reasons to feel uncomfortable about eating them. Most are reared in darkness, so tightly packed that they can scarcely move. Their beaks are removed with a hot knife to prevent them from hurting each other. As Christmas approaches, they become so heavy that their hips buckle. When you see the inside of a turkey broilerhouse, you begin to entertain grave doubts about European civilisation.
This is one of the reasons why many people have returned to eating red meat at Christmas. Beef cattle appear to be happier animals. But the improvement in animal welfare is offset by the loss in human welfare. The world produces enough food for its people and its livestock, though (largely because they are so poor) some 800 million are malnourished. But as the population rises, structural global famine will be avoided only if the rich start to eat less meat. The number of farm animals on earth has risen fivefold since 1950: humans are now outnumbered three to one. Livestock already consume half the world's grain, and their numbers are still growing almost exponentially.
This is why biotechnology - whose promoters claim that it will feed the world - has been deployed to produce not food but feed: it allows farmers to switch from grains which keep people alive to the production of more lucrative crops for livestock. Within as little as 10 years, the world will be faced with a choice: arable farming either continues to feed the world's animals or it continues to feed the world's people. It cannot do both.
The impending crisis will be accelerated by the depletion of both phosphate fertiliser and the water used to grow crops. Every kilogram of beef we consume, according to research by the agronomists David Pimental and Robert Goodland, requires around 100,000 litres of water. Aquifers are beginning the run dry all over the world, largely because of abstraction by farmers.
Many of those who have begun to understand the finity of global grain production have responded by becoming vegetarians. But vegetarians who continue to consume milk and eggs scarcely reduce their impact on the ecosystem. The conversion efficiency of dairy and egg production is generally better than meat rearing, but even if everyone who now eats beef were to eat cheese instead, this would merely delay the global famine. As both dairy cattle and poultry are often fed with fishmeal (which means that no one can claim to eat cheese but not fish), it might, in one respect, even accelerate it. The shift would be accompanied too by a massive deterioration in animal welfare: with the possible exception of intensively reared broilers and pigs, battery chickens and dairy cows are the farm animals which appear to suffer most.
We could eat pheasants, many of which are dumped in landfill after they've been shot, and whose price, at this time of the year, falls to around £2 a bird, but most people would feel uncomfortable about subsidising the bloodlust of brandy-soaked hoorays. Eating pheasants, which are also fed on grain, is sustainable only up to the point at which demand meets supply. We can eat fish, but only if we are prepared to contribute to the collapse of marine ecosystems and - as the European fleet plunders the seas off West Africa - the starvation of some of the hungriest people on earth. It's impossible to avoid the conclusion that the only sustainable and socially just option is for the inhabitants of the rich world to become, like most of the earth's people, broadly vegan, eating meat only on special occasions like Christmas.
As a meat-eater, I've long found it convenient to categorise veganism as a response to animal suffering or a health fad. But, faced with these figures, it now seems plain that it's the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue. We stuff ourselves, and the poor get stuffed.
How humans are not physically created to eat meat
Although some historians and anthropologists say that man is historically omnivorous, our anatomical equipment teeth, jaws, and digestive system favors a fleshless diet. The American Dietetic Association notes that "most of mankind for most of human history has lived on vegetarian or near-vegetarian diets."
And much of the world still lives that way. Even on most industrialized countries, the love affair with meat is less than a hundred years old. It started with the refrigerator car and the twentieth-century consumer society. But even with the twentieth century, man's body hasn't adapted to eating meat. The prominent Swedish scientist Karl von Linne states, "Man's structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food." The chart below compares the anatomy of man with that of carnivorous and herbivorous animals.
When you look at the comparison between herbivores and humans, we compare much more closely to herbivores than meat eating animals. Humans are clearly not designed to digest and ingest meat.
Meat-eaters: have claws
Herbivores: no claws
Humans: no claws
Meat-eaters: have no skin pores and perspire through the tongue
Herbivores: perspire through skin pores
Humans: perspire through skin pores
Meat-eaters: have sharp front teeth for tearing, with no flat molar teeth for grinding
Herbivores: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding
Humans: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding
Meat-eaters: have intestinal tract that is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly
Herbivores: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.
Humans: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.
Meat-eaters: have strong hydrochloric acid in stomach to digest meat
Herbivores: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
Humans: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
Meat-eaters: salivary glands in mouth not needed to pre-digest grains and fruits.
Herbivores: well-developed salivary glands which are necessary to pre-digest grains and fruits
Humans: well-developed salivary glands, which are necessary to pre-digest, grains and fruits
Meat-eaters: have acid saliva with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Herbivores: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Humans: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Based on a chart by A.D. Andrews, Fit Food for Men, (Chicago: American Hygiene Society, 1970)
Clearly if humans were meant to eat meat we wouldn't have so many crucial ingestive/digestive similarities with animals that are herbivores.
Many people ask me, "If we weren't supposed to eat meat than why do we?". It is because we are conditioned to eat meat. Also, the ADA (American Dietetic Association) tells us that "most of mankind for most of human history has lived on a vegetarian or Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.
A popular statement that meat eaters say is; "In the wild, animals kill other animals for food. It's nature." First of all, we are not in the wild. Secondly, we can easily live without eating meat and killing, not to mention we'd be healthier. And finally, as I have already shown, we weren't meant to eat meat. Meat and seafood putrefies within 4 hours after consumption and the remnants cling to the walls of the stomach and intestines for 3-4 days or longer than if a person is constipated. Furthermore, the reaction of saliva in humans is more alkaline, whereas in the case of flesh-eating or preying animals, it is clearly acidic. The alkaline saliva does not act properly on meat.
The final point I would like to make on how we as humans were not meant to eat meat is this. All omnivorous and carnivorous animals eat their meat raw. When a lion kills an herbivore for food, it tears right into the stomach area to eat the organs that are filled with blood (nutrients). While eating the stomach, liver, intestine, etc., the lion laps the blood in the process of eating the dead animals flesh. Even bears that are omnivores eat salmon raw. However, eating raw or bloody meat disgust us as humans. Therefore, we must cook it and season it to buffer the taste of flesh.
If a deer is burned in a forest fire, a carnivorous animal will NOT eat its flesh. Even circus lions have to be feed raw meat so that they will not starve to death. If humans were truly meant to eat meat, then we would eat all of our meat raw and bloody. The thought of eating such meat makes one’s stomach turn. This is my point on how we as humans are conditioned to believe that animal flesh is good for us and that we were meant to consume it for survival and health purposes. If we are true carnivores or omnivores, cooking our meat and seasoning it with salt, ketchup, or tabasco sauce would disguise and we as humans would refuse to eat our meat in this form.
Overall advantages of vegetarianism
You can indeed reap a lot of benefits by being a vegetarian and people have become more aware of the health benefits of being a vegetarian. Animal rights issues is only one of the reasons why people decide to go on a vegetarian diet. People are beginning to care more about the environment. However, the main reason why people go on vegetarian diet is because of health benefits.
Meat is not good for you as it clogs your thinking. This is especially true if you eat red meat; white meat has less fat compared to red meat. Excessive intake of fats into your body can result in having a high level of cholesterol. If you think that not eating meat is going to make you look scrawny or unhealthy please think again. Just imagine that cows, goats, gorillas, elephants, rhinoceroses and so on are all vegetarians (herbivores) but look at how tough these animals are, not to mention their life span which is longer compared to the carnivores (meat eating animals).
If you look at the chicken and vulture (carnivores), these animals eat just about everything and notice how unhealthy these animals look. The Chinese believe that the chi or life force in your body is less when you consume meat and so do the Indians with their ancient yogic principles, their life force was called prana.
The great Tai Chi masters of China were adept at preserving their chi, even if some of the masters were not vegetarians, they still had a balanced diet. It has now been scientifically proven that a balanced vegetarian diet is better compared to a diet that is taken with meat.
There are a lot of misconceptions about being a vegetarian; protein is one of the main topics of debate as a lot of people think that you can only get protein from meat. Vegetarians get a lot of protein, if they eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. What vegetarians don't get is the excess protein of traditional American diet, excess that leads to kidney overload and mineral deficiency diseases.
A lot of people also think that a vegetarian diet is not a balanced diet. Vegetarian diets have a proportion of three macronutrients, which are complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Vegetarian food sources (plants) tend to be higher sources of most micronutrients. Another myth that needs to be clarified is the so-called lack of calcium among vegetarians. Many vegetables, especially green, leafy ones, have a good supply of calcium. The truth is that vegetarians suffer less from osteoporosis (a deficiency of calcium that leads to weak bones).
It is not my intention to force people to become vegetarians. However, vegetarianism is my answer to complete health and wholeness. The three issues to consider in regard to vegetarianism are: spiritual, mental, and physical (nutritional).
The spiritually aspiring person attempts to work on his/her self. The purpose of spiritual growth is to move away from the animal nature into the more human nature that God intended for us to have. Meat eating inhibits this. Again, the same science that sometimes attempts to ignore the existence of a force higher than man also has proved, in the laboratory, that aggression levels are much higher in meat eaters than non-meat eaters! The animal instincts become more powerful every time you eat meat. Another spiritual aspect of being a meat eater is when one must question the necessity and the method as well as the karma of killing animals. However, everyone has their own mores which they must determine for themselves. It is not the purpose of my dissertation to force a specific moral behavior on anyone. Most spiritual people believe auras. Kirilian photography shows us that a force field remains around dead or amputated tissue. You adopt that animal aura when you eat a dead animal. Fruits and vegetables have a higher vibrational aura than animal products. Is it not personal evolution that the spiritual candidate is interested in? If so, meat eating is urgently prohibited.
“You are what you eat”, is a slogan that I love to use to show the mental aspect of vegetarianism. When animals are slaughtered, fear and aggression enzymes are shot into their cells from their glands and other organs, just as in humans, and are part of the dead carcass that goes on to the food store. They remain in the meat until the consumer ingests those same enzymes, which are molecularly very similar to those found in humans. Fruits and vegetables do not have emotions; therefore, when they are picked they do not release any emotions cells prior to digestion. The enzymes within fruits and vegetables supply the body with sufficient nutrients that will always uphold a healthy state of mind.
Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients; the very thing the body needs to live a long disease and pain free life. The same cannot be said for meat. Nutritionally, the alkaline-based digestive system of humans will not properly break down substantial acid substances, the greatest of which is meat.
Colon cancer is rampant! This is caused by the slow evacuation and the putrefaction in the colon of the remains of meat. Lifelong vegetarians never suffer from such an illness. Many meat eaters believe that meat is the sole source of protein. However, the quality of this protein is so poor that little of it can ever be utilized by humans because it is incomplete and lacks the correct combination of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Studies show that the average American gets five times the amount of protein needed. It is a common medical fact that excess protein is dangerous, the prime danger being that uric acid (the waste product produced in the process of digesting protein) attacks the kidneys, breaking down the kidney cells called nephrons. This condition is called nephritis; the prime cause of it is overburdening the kidneys. More usable protein is found in one tablespoon of tofu or soybeans than the average serving of meat!
Have you ever seen what happens to a piece of meat that stays in the sun for three days? Meat can stay in the warmth of the intestine for at least four days until it is digested. It does nothing but wait for passage. Often, it usually stays there for much longer, traces remaining for up to several months. Colonic therapists always see meat passing through in people who have been vegetarians for several years, thus indicating that meat remains undigested there for a long time. Occasionally this has been documented in twenty-year vegetarians!
Some vegetarians claim they are more satisfied after they eat. The reason for this is that there are fewer ketones (protein-digestive substances) formed when vegetable protein is digested. For many, ketones cause a trace amount of nausea which one normally interprets as a decreased desire for food due to this uncomfortable and slight degree of queasiness. Although the body calls for more food, the taste buds tolerate less. This is the danger of the popular high-protein diet substances on the market. This abnormally high level of ketones is called ketosis and refers to the state of starvation that the body incurs due to the inability of the appetite to call for nutrition. Most Americans who eat the wrong type of carbohydrates never recognize the high amount of complex carbohydrates required to overthrow this condition. Also, when the blood ketone level is too high, it results in abnormally acidic blood, called acidosis.
Tigers or lions who eat meat and grow strong on it have acid-based digestive systems. Our Hydrochloric Acid isn’t strong enough to fully digest meat. Also, their intestines are in a straight run of about five feet long, not twisted and turned, layer over layer, compacted into a small area like the human intestine, which is twenty feet long.
Meats are frozen for a long period of times. Some meat (especially poultry) is frozen up to two years. Cold temperatures do not kill all species of bacteria. Worse than this, as it is shipped and stored, most frozen meat is thawed and refrozen many times. This is almost unavoidable.
Meat eaters suffer more frequently from various types of food poisoning than vegetarian eaters, so much so that statistics show that every American has had food poisoning on at least one occasion. When you've felt ill, out-of-sorts, had diarrhea, or were just a little sick to your stomach, no doubt you had not the slightest idea that you had been poisoned by scavengers living off the dead carcass you just ate.
Meat is costly and it is the most wasteful source of resources. When one removes meat from his or her diet, a whole new world of eating opens up. Cooking and preparing vegetarian style is no more time consuming than cooking meat. It costs less than half as much to eat vegetarian as it does to eat meat. There are excellent, nutritious, and easy to prepare vegetarian dishes that are Italian, Chinese, Indian, Mid-Eastern, French, Spanish, etc.
Additionally, one can enjoy many other foods that he has never tasted because of the meat craze. Most consumers have eaten no more than five or six varieties of beans and legumes — less than 10% of what is available and grains, including different appetizing types of wheat, nuts, and seeds. And they can be prepared very creatively!
In my opinion, there are far more benefits to becoming a vegetarian then there are becoming or staying a meat eater. Due to the fact that I was raised on meat, I have the wonderful experiences from both worlds. As a meat eater, I was constantly sick, tired, and overweight. As a vegetarian, I am healthy, full of energy, and maintaining a perfect weight. I love being a vegetarian and it shows. Because I wish the best for myself, it’s just second nature to want the best for others. From my past experience and research, going vegetarian is the best thing anyone can do for their mind, body and spirit.
By The Associated Press
DENVER - One Colorado woman's love for tofu has been judged X-rated by state officials.
Kelly Coffman-Lee wanted to tell the world about her fondness for bean curd by picking certain letters for her SUV's licence plate. Her suggestion for the plate: "ILVTOFU."
But the Division of Motor Vehicles blocked her plan because they thought the combination of letters could be interpreted as profane.
Says Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch: "We don't allow 'FU' because some people could read that as street language for sex."
Officials meet periodically to ensure state plates stay free of letters that abbreviate gang slang, drug terms or obscene phrases.
The 38-year-old Coffman-Lee says tofu is a staple of her family's diet because they are vegan and that the DMV misinterpreted her message.
An undercover video shot at an Iowa pig farm shows workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods up into sows' hindquarters.
On the video, obtained by The Associated Press, a supervisor tells an undercover investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that when he gets angry or a sow won't move, "I grab one of these rods and jam it in her (anus)."
The farm, located outside of Bayard, Iowa, about 60 miles west of Des Moines, is a supplier to Hormel Foods of Austin, Minn. PETA wants to use the results of the investigation to pressure Hormel, the maker of Spam and other food products, to demand that its suppliers ensure humane treatment of pigs.
Hormel spokeswoman Julie Henderson Craven on Tuesday called the abuses "completely unacceptable."
The animal rights group also planned to send the video to the sheriff in Greene County, Iowa, seeking prosecution of 18 people on animal cruelty violations. According to PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich, the video shows eight people directly abusing animals.
"Abuse on factory farms is the absolute norm, not the exception, and anyone eating factory-farmed meat is paying to support it," Friedrich said.
After getting a whistleblower complaint from someone inside the farm, PETA sent two undercover investigators to get hired at the farm and document its practices — one from June 10 to Sept. 8, and the other from July 23 to Sept. 11.
At one point on the video, an employee shouts to an investigator, "Hurt 'em! There's nobody works for PETA out here. You know who PETA is?"
The undercover PETA investigator replies that he's heard of the group.
"I hate them. These (expletives) deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!," the employee yells as he hits a sow with a metal rod. "Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! ... Take out your frustrations on 'em." He encourages the investigator to pretend that one of the pigs scared off a voluptuous and willing 17- or 18-year-old girl, and then beat the pig for it.
Records at the Greene County Assessor's Office show the property was owned by Natural Pork Production II LLP of Iowa until Aug. 18, and then was transferred to MowMar LLP of Fairmont, Minn.
Lynn Becker, an owner of MowMar, called the abuses on the video "completely intolerable, reprehensible. We condemn these types of acts. If any animals were abused in the brief time we've owned the farm, if we still employ these people, any attempt will made to investigate and initiate corrective action immediately."
Becker said his company provided animal welfare training to the staff when it took over the farm.
Natural Pork Production II referred questions to AMVC Management Services, which managed the farm under its ownership. Mark Jones, AMVC's network manager, said the video showed "unacceptable practices" and that his company is working with the new ownership to investigate.
Craven, the Hormel spokeswoman, said the farm became a Hormel supplier only after the change in ownership, and that MowMar "shares our commitment to animal welfare and humane handling."
Craven said it was her understanding that the abuses took place before the change in ownership. But PETA's Friedrich said the abuses continued, and that the new manager abused animals by shocking and kicking pigs.
Dr. Jennifer Greiner, a veterinarian and director of science and technology at the National Pork Producers Council, said the industry condemns "willful abuse" of pigs and that the video depicts acts that are not acceptable.
"Our industry is committed to handling pigs humanely," she said. "My industry is full of good people."
At one point in the video, workers are shown slamming piglets on the ground, a practice designed to instantly kill those baby pigs that aren't healthy enough. But on the video, the piglets are not killed instantly, and in a bloodied pile, some piglets can be seen wiggling vainly. The video also shows piglets being castrated, and having their tails cut off, without anesthesia.
Temple Grandin, a leading animal welfare expert who serves as a consultant to the livestock industry, said that while those are standard industry practices, the treatment of the sows on the video was far from it.
"This is atrocious animal abuse," Grandin said after PETA sent her the video. But she disagreed with PETA's contention that it was widespread in the industry.
"I've been on many good farms, and the pigs are handled gently," she said. "This was blatant, deliberate animal cruelty. These people are sick. They need to be prosecuted. There are certain people that enjoy hurting animals and they should not be working with them — period."
One of the PETA investigators, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his ability to do further undercover operations, said there was a culture of violence on the farm, and working there was an emotionally and physically exhausting experience that typically involved working 12-hour shifts and walking 15 miles a day.
"So many times, it took all of my willpower not to step up and do something," he said, adding that he also saw the supervisor shove a cane into a sow's vagina. "I was just shocked. What do you say to that?"
From world hunger to climate change, species extinction to escalating violence, the catastrophic problems we face are clear indicators that we are in need of transformation on a radical scale. Gone are the days when we could procrastinate about necessary changes or take baby steps toward sustainability in the hope that enough small actions would collectively add up to create meaningful impact. Drastic, sweeping changes are needed, and this fundamental shift in society's values must begin with each one of us.
'Veganism' as a philosophy which embodies non-violence and compassion toward the helpless, until now, has been marginalized by our society. Those who embrace this deep and powerful set of values have often been ostracized and the wisdom of their choices ignored or trivialized. But those who recognize the far-reaching effects of this lifestyle choice know how powerful the rewards can be. Ironically, it may well be that the survival of our species, and perhaps even the planet, is dependent upon learning the very lessons of empathy, responsibility and self-control that the vegan ideal embodies, and that our society seems so reluctant to embrace.
No matter how strong the current opposition is to adopting this radically different world view, it will soon have to be accepted that vegan is the way of the future. Only by living the vegan ideal can we address all at once the many, seemingly different issues that are crippling our civilization and threaten not only our survival, but the survival of the many other species that populate the planet. We currently run the risk of driving into collapse the essential life-preserving systems of the planet itself. Much of the destruction stems from the deep-rooted problem of our mistaken belief that we, like the shark or the tiger, are natural predators.
Our collective hunger for flesh and for the products that come from the bodies of animals has driven us to create systems of animal farming that are not only completely unsustainable in the long-term, but are also immediately damaging to natural eco-systems, populations of wild animals and the human population of developing nations. In order to provide affluent countries with meat, dairy and eggs, we have destroyed major portions of the world's wild lands, altered the levels of gases in the atmosphere beyond recognition, decimated many wild animal populations beyond recovery, and pushed people living in poor countries further and further into cycles of starvation. The UK alone imports £46,000,000 worth of grain from third world countries to feed their livestock. In the US, if we all became vegetarian, it would free enough grain to feed 600,000,000 people. How much good can we really be doing with 'foreign aid', when we are taking food right out of the very mouths of those we ought to be feeding?
In addition, our society is desperate for a solution to our social problems. Violence is becoming a bigger and bigger problem in all areas of society, from school shootings to sexual abuse and assault. But the cause of this widespread aggression becomes clear, when we remember that we habitually feed ourselves and fuel our bodies with the products of violence and death. We may think that we can avoid the truth of this, by buying flesh in neatly wrapped packages at the supermarket, but we can not help but be aware of it in our deeper selves, and the violence that is implicit in our meals permeates our society on all levels from global to personal.
In a world that makes little of preying upon the meek, showing callous disregard for the pain and suffering of helpless creatures is not just accepted, but is frequently promoted in different forms by our society. Despite the fact that cruelty to animals is common in the violent histories of most of our nation's serial killers and school shooters, certain states still allow children younger than 12 to go hunting with a parent or guardian. There is well-known evidence linking violence toward animals in childhood with violence toward people in adulthood. This should make us all stop and think about the values we are teaching our young people. The ethic of compassion toward animals is something that ought to be taught to our children in schools, but this can not happen in any meaningful way until we acknowledge that basic compassion includes not depriving them of their life or freedom, whether they are animals we consider pets, or animals whom we have traditionally considered food.
It sometimes appears that the light of the vegan ideal is so bright that people are afraid to open their eyes to it, even individuals who are deeply involved in other social or environmental movements. Despite a significant number of people being very outspoken about the different tragedies that actually stem from this same root cause, the dialogue of our society continues to revolve around just about anything other than the need to change our eating habits. What is it that makes us cling so stubbornly to a practice that is cruel, unnecessary and may well end up destroying us?
Making the transition toward a vegan diet and lifestyle is the single-most effective step an individual can take toward living sustainably on the planet. For further evidence of this fact, please read about the 2006 report from the United Nations: 'Livestock's Long Shadow'. By making vegan choices, people can lessen their ecological footprint more than with any other lifestyle change, as well as gain control over their health, take part in eliminating world hunger, rediscover their connection with the many different animals who share our world, and make a powerful personal contribution toward the beginning of peace on earth.
* Global warming – Animal agriculture generates 40% more greenhouse gas than all cars, trucks and planes combined.
* Water – It takes far less water to generate vegan food. A vegan could leave their shower running year-round, and still not waste as much water as a non-vegan.
* World hunger – Most of the world’s grain is fed to food animals. On a plant-based diet, we could feed the entire human population. Millions of people who are starving (including 40,000 children who die every day) as a result of the unfair distribution of food could be fed by the many tons of grain that are currently cycled through animals.
* Pollution – Animal agriculture is the single biggest polluter of the planet.
* Human health crises such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, asthma, osteoporosis, and many more would be greatly reduced. Diseases created by intensive animal agriculture would disappear.
* Environment – Animal-based food is the primary cause of issues such as rainforest destruction, topsoil erosion, desertification of grassland, degradation of underwater ecosystems, and the declining population of endangered species.
* Global violence – A non-violent lifestyle would create a more compassionate, gentle population.
When examining issues of such catastrophic potential as global warming, species extinction and mass starvation, it is understandable that individuals who care can feel helpless. It is easy to fall victim to the debilitating belief that we might really have no future. The vegan solution contains within it the power to solve the biggest problems we are facing, on every level from personal to planetary. The vegan ideal is nothing less than the next evolutionary step for humankind. We must embrace the ethic of non-violence if we are to evolve; and we must evolve, if we are to survive.
Read more: poverty, ecology, vegan, diet, vegetarian, conservation, nutrition, animal welfare, global warming, endangered species, animal rights, environment & wildlife, world hunger
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