Friday, January 16, 2009

It's the Meat, Stupid

For those of you who may not remember, former President Bill Clinton made famous the slogan, "It's the Economy, Stupid," during his 1992 presidential campaign, suggesting that he was a better candidate for president because he was willing to address the struggling economy. Well, now I’ve got one for the environmentalists out there who aren’t willing to address the disastrous impact animal-based agriculture has on our planet- It’s the Meat, Stupid!

There appears to be a smoldering divide in the environmental community these days between those who recognize the devastating effects a meat and dairy-based diet has on the planet and those who are obdurate to this knowledge. Environmentalists want to wake people up to the catastrophe of global warming, yet many will not concede the vegan and vegetarian agenda, despite its ubiquitous benefits to the planet in preventing climate change.

Vegan environmentalists and carnivorous environmentalists are fighting for the same thing- a healthy and sustainable planet, however, vegan environmentalists (VE's) realize the impact their food choices have on the Earth. They choose not to partake in what is becoming the greatest threat to our planet- animal agriculture. In this singular, individual and disciplined choice- to adhere to a vegan diet- VE's are doing more for the planet than any meat and dairy-eating environmentalist ever could.

Consider the facts:

Energy
  • Livestock production accounts for 18% of the world's greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions, more than all transportation combined.3
  • Animal food production uses 11 times as much fossil fuel energy than plant protein production.4
  • Twenty percent of all fossil fuels used in the U.S. goes toward food production, including running slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, fertilizer production, water usage, as well as the post-agricultural process of transporting, packaging and storing meat.3
  • Methane, a ghg that is 23 times more powerful at trapping heat than CO2, comes mainly from animal agriculture.2 A cow can burp as much as 130 gallons of methane a day!
Waste
  • A single factory farm housing 5,000 pigs produces the same volume of raw sewage as a town of 20,000 people, however, factory farms are not required to have a sewage treatment plan as towns do despite animal waste being 500 times more concentrated than treated human waste.5
  • Much of the 500 million tons of waste generated by animal agriculture is stored in manure "lagoons" which, unregulated by the EPA, often leaks into groundwater.5
Land
  • Acres of land needed to produce food for a meat eater: 3-1/4
  • Acres of land needed to produce food for a vegan: 1/6
  • The deforestation of more than 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest can be attributed to cattle ranching and the growing of crops to fatten cattle (and other animals) before slaughter.3
  • 72 percent of grains (wheat, corn, rice, oats and others) in the U.S. are strictly grown for livestock consumption to produce meat, milk and eggs, compared to 11 percent to feed humans.
Water
  • Gallons of water needed daily to supply food for a meat-eater: 4,200
  • Gallons of water needed daily to supply food for a vegan: 300
  • It takes 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat compared to 5,ooo gallons to produce a pound of beef and 990 gallons to produce one gallon of milk.4
  • Only one percent of the world's fresh water is drinkable. Of this water, nearly 3/4 of it is used for irrigation-intensive industrial agriculture; 80 percent of U.S. water is used mostly for feeding crops for livestock consumption.1

Even the head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Rajendra Pachauri has asked people to eat less meat. "This is something that IPCC was afraid to say earlier, but now we have said it." He went on to say that having a meat-free day every week was the biggest single contribution people could make to curbing climate change in their personal lives.

Which leads me to ask; what is the mainstream environmental community so afraid of? Al Gore still refuses to publicly acknowledge the huge problem factory farming has on the environment and the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), of which I am a long standing member, will not promote a vegan or vegetarian diet. When asked why not, an organizational spokesperson said "NRDC does not endorse any particular dietary lifestyle as a solution to global warming." When animal agriculture produces more ghg's than all other sectors of the economy and contributes to the destruction of resources, why wouldn't NRDC and others promote a diet that would help everything environmentalists work so hard to protect?

A vegan diet seems to be a very big and very impactful solution to climate change, yet environmentalists are obstinately resistant to give "food" as much- if any- attention as other areas of climate change prevention.

According to Tara Garnett of London's Food Climate Research Network, "If we want to fight global warming through the food we buy, then one things' clear: We have to drastically reduce the meat we consume." In fact, regardless of whether your meat is local, organic or free-range, there is just no way to justify it; methane and manure is continually produced while water, energy and land is tirelessly expended. In fact, according to data released by Adrian Williams of Cranfield University in England, "organic, free-range chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming than conventionally raised broiler birds...because "sustainable" chickens take longer to raise, and eat more feed."2

Time is running out on our planet. It is my hope that the environmental community will wake up and smell the manure. Vegan environmentalists can read the writing on the wall and see the hypocrisy others exhibit when shouting about climate change while dining on steak. VE's choose not to partake in the destruction of our planet and the needless abuse and extermination of 10 billion animals a year.

I do not see how the environmental movement can make critical strides in stopping global warming- or at the very least, slow it down- without addressing the catastrophic impact of factory farming and animal agriculture. The elephant is in the room, and he cannot be ignored!

Endnotes:
1
Hawthorne, Mark. "Dried Up: Animal agriculture, humans' wasteful habits, and energy production are opening the floodgates for the world's water shortage. Is it too late, or can we turn back the tide on the impending crisis?" VegNews, Jan-Feb 2009.

2Tidwell, Michael. "The Low-Carbon Diet: Change your lightbulbs" Or your car? If you want to fight global warming, it's time to consider a different diet." The Audubon Magazine, Jan-Feb 2009.

3
"Climate Change: It's What's for Dinner." Food & Water Watch, Nov. 2007.

4
"Know Any Meat-Eating 'Environmentalists'?" PETA Animal Times, 2008.

5
"Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America." The Pew Charitable Trust, 2008.

1 comment:

Amy Bigge said...

Yes, its amazing that the environmental community does not want to acknowledge the impact of factory farming, and "smell the manure"! I can only assume that the Dairy Council, Beef/Pork/Poultry Farmers etc. have some type of leverage when it comes to keeping this type of information quiet. Similar to tobacco companies knowingly killing people with their products but being allowed to get away with it due to the big $$ they give to government.