Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vegan or not here I come

In 1950 world meat production was 44 million pounds annually today it is 253 million TONS per year.

It's been decades since the no red meat consciousness has been a topic of my dinner table and life. Back in the early 1970's I had the opportunity to actually know and dine with someone who slaughtered live cows by hand on a rural farm outside of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. This man was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, and in the governments infinite wisdom for his alternative service they sent him out to a farm to hand slaughter cows. Needless to say this person was not a meat eater and had a very real experience of looking his fellow creatures in the eye right before striking the fatal blow. His stories of the cow and fellow barn mates "knowing" when the door swung open and he walked in have stayed with me to this day. How could they not?

I never went strictly vegan and over the decades relish a good burger as memories fade and consciousness wanes. Its the ebb and flow of life and we are all caught up in it. Prime rib, a good fillet, and a fantastic barbecue chicken sandwich with slaw - all are heavenly. But my lust for meat is fading again. Well it was never really a lust. Food has never really dominated my consciousness. Some eat to live others live to eat. I have vacillated between the two from time to time.

So I'm your typical average, lucky american where food is not an issue. The poor and starving on this planet have not escaped my consciousness and neither has my more than fortunate lifestyle. I am and have always been grateful in more ways than one. Over the years I have ratched down my consumption of meat slowly until now a prime rib or filet is a once a month or even quarterly rare occurence. Forget the fast food establishments they are a nightmare health wise and to the planet.
  • Fast food packaging makes up 20 percent of all litter
  • Food packaging takes up 15 percent of landfills
  • 3/4 of all food and drink packages come from forests
  • Over half of landfill waste is paper and wood products
McDonalds is still clear cutting old growth forests for packaging. If that is something you would like to speak out against take action here.

All this leads me to the point that the livestock industry is another nightmare when it comes to the environment and our health. It causes more harm to the environment in the way of green house gases than transportation.

It's a shocker but when you think about the actual size and scope of the industry world wide and the conditions of the penned animals and you actually visualize it the impact becomes obvious. Twenty six percent of the planet is used for grazing. All that waste seeps into the ground water, rivers and streams. Diesel fuel is burned to operate the farm machinery, fossil fuels are burned to keep the barns warm during winter and the meat industry produces more than 60 million tons of waste annually. One midsized feedlot churns out half a million pounds of manure each day. The methane that cattle and their manure produce has a global warming effect equal to 33 million automobiles.

We are eating at the wrong end of the food chain. Producing a world wide meat supply also consumes a large share of natural resources consuming eight percent of the worlds water, causing 55 percent of land erosion, and using 37 percent of all pesticides, 50 percent of all antibiotic use, and it dumps a third of all the nitrogen and phosphorous into our fresh water supplies.

Livestock has a huge impact on our environment and I have cut my meat intake down drastically in lieu of those facts. There are health considerations as well. We need to ratchet back our routine habits and really think and learn to see on a global scale. Eating less meat is one way we can directly affect positive change for our planet, and our health care system and our own bloodstream, hearts and colons. A long time ago a wise man said to me moderation is the key. He was more than right. Being a strict vegan is commendable on so many levels including spiritually. But if you can't get all the way to that frame of mind you can still have a tremendous impact by cutting back on your meat consumption. Start with half and go from there you are making the world a better place.

The link above in the title will take you to the source documents and a great article written by Jim Motavalli with some mind blowing statistics. In 1950 world meat production was 44 million POUNDS annually today it is 253 million TONS per year. The pendulum has to swing back the other way and in a hurry.

Source links:
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Diet Energy and Global Warming
Livestocks Long Shadow
The Meat of the Matter - Jim Motavalli
The Dogwood Alliance

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