People choose vegetarianism for different reasons – religious, ethical, health, economic. Now add the rise of environmental vegetarianism. Not sure about the environmental arguments for eating more vegetables and less meat? How exactly does what you eat change the world’s climate? Read on.
The Pound of Meat = 16 Pounds of Grain Argument
Basically to produce a pound of meat, an animal must consume 16 times that weight in grain. So 16 pounds of grain go into making one pound of meat. And 16 pounds of grain can feed a whole lot more people than one pound of meat, for sure. Also, the land on which the grain is grown, the water to grow it, its shipping and storage all add up to become a huge input for a small meaty output.
It is shockingly inefficient to feed plant food to farmed animals and consume their flesh rather than eating grains, vegetables, legumes, seeds and fruits directly. A meat-eater basically needs 16 times more land to provide adequate food compared to a vegetarian.
The Deforestation Argument
Rainforests have to be slashed and cut to grow the grain to feed the animals. Greenpeace points it finger at KFC and McDonalds for much of the deforestation in the Amazon.
This widespread clearing not only destroys trees and wildlife, but also removes the top-soil leading to erosion and flooding and other forms of environmental degradation.
Wikipedia writes: According to a 2006 United Nations initiative, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern practices of raising animals for food contributes on a “massive scale” to deforestation, air and water pollution, land degradation. loss of topsoil, and loss of biodiversity. The initiative concluded “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
The Poop and Fart Argument
Chickens, cows and pigs in factory farms produce thousand of pounds of excrement, which is contaminated with the antibiotics and hormones that are pumped into these animals. The runoff from these farms pollutes waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.
And cows “emissions”, their farts and burps, contain methane gas – a substance which heats the atmosphere twenty times more than carbon dioxide. Cows are believed to account for one third of all the world’s methane emissions, and you will be surprised if you Google the number of serious studies that are out there studying this phenomenon around the world.
The “…and its cheaper” Argument
Everyone knows that vegetarian food is easier on the wallet, party because of the arguments above. Although a piece of tofu provides nearly the same protein as an identical size of beef, it is 20 times cheaper.
The Health Argument
Doctors will tell you that vegetarian food is the healthier alternative for the heart, for cancer and stroke prevention, for diabetes … the list goes on. Let’s be honest, how many of you have been told after a medical check-up, “You really have to eat more meat.”
The Ethical Argument
Of course, reducing your ecological footprint should also be about extending kindness to animals. By switching to a vegetarian diet you can save over 100 animals from a cruel, heartless death. Read the award-winning wise little book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer to understand the horrific lives of factory-farmed animals.
So if you do decide to go vegetarian, or just become more vegetarian than you currently are, or even just observe “Meat-Free Mondays” a la Paul McCartney, you can expound all the virtues of eating more green and less brown to the carnivore next to you.