In 1969, Frances Moore Lappe discovered that half of the U. S. harvested acreage went to livestock feed. She also learned that it takes 16 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of meat. Concerned about the earth’s capacity to produce sufficient food for all its inhabitant, this discovery, and the inefficient use of resources it implied, rocked her world. She went on to write the bestselling Diet for a Small Planet that advocated a plant based diet. In 1987, John Robbins wrote his alarming exposé of animal factory farming called Diet for a New America.
Fast forward forty years plus and we find ourselves in the grips of global warming against the backdrop of extremely popular high protein diets for weight loss. Many Americans continue to eat more than twice the amount of protein required in a healthy diet.
All the evidence continues to point to the fact that meat based diets are not sustainable in the long-term and are actually harmful for the planet. Consider these points:
- The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production produces 18% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
- The production of a single hamburger uses enough fossil fuel to drive a small car for 20 miles.
- Producing 2.2 pounds of beef requires almost the same amount of energy it takes to light a 100-watt light bulb for almost 20 days.
- Run-off from animal feed croplands and animal factory farms including all the animal wastes releases more pollution into our waterways than all other human activities combined.
- Animal agriculture turns forests and prairies into barren deserts.
The simple truth is this: reducing your intake of meat or becoming vegan will help to address global warming, air and water pollution, and land degradation. By taking this step, you will be part of ensuring that there is adequate food supplies for all people on the planet and fewer animals will be harmed. You will be setting a positive role model of conscious living for your children and their children.
I understand that making a diet change is not necessarily easy, but I hope you will consider the idea if you haven’t already. Generally, it’s recommended to make diet changes gradually to give your body time to acclimatize. A handy approach is reducing your intake of the item in question by 1/3rd for a few weeks or a month, then by another 1/3rd for a few weeks or a month, and finally by the last 1/3rd. If it’s difficult for you to switch entirely to a vegetarian or vegan diet, even cutting your meat intake by 50-75% is a move in a positive direction.
I am currently not a vegetarian myself due to medical reasons. However, I have cut my intake of animal flesh down to a minimum and never buy it at a supermarket.
As always, the power to make a difference is in our hands. The cows will thank you.
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