Thursday, September 07, 2006

Veganism and the Environment

This doesn't tend to be an issue you hear about every day. Before I tried veganism and started doing research out of sheer curiosity, I wouldn't have tied together these two topics on a conscious level.

But from what I have learned, I am convinced that the human consumption of animal products is one of the bigger contributors to the wholesale, exponential destruction of the environment that is going on today. It is just getting less press. I am not of the opinion that the killing of animals for consumption is inherently wrong for humans to do in theory (this opinion might set me apart from many of my fellow vegetarians). Instead, I think it is unnecessary for most (if not all) people in the modern Western world to consume animal products when we are capable of producing good alternatives in this day and age. I think this is an example of blind excess in our times. Our modern methods of animal husbandry via factory farming are not only horrifying from an compassionate standpoint, but are devastating the environment as well.
The number of animals needed annually to feed every meat eating human is a startling statistic (in the thousands, per year, per person). Just from a perspective of keeping these billions of animals living (albeit temporarily), means polluting the water and the ground from all the manure and and associated runoff concentrated in one place (not to mention the methane!). 50% of the water supply is used (and polluted) in order to raise animals. Oceans are being overfished to the point of extinction of fish species that we once thought must be infinite. Irreplaceable forests such as the Amazon rainforest are being burned down (causing species extinction) to provide grazing room for cows in order to satisfy the world's beef cravings, such as through the McDonalds chain. So many of our natural resources are sacrified in the name of market forces, and most of those "resources" ain't coming back.
Animals that are destined to be meat eat enough grain per year that could otherwise keep many more people alive and fed, if they ate lower on the food chain. We are feeding to billions of cows what many more billions of people could use to stave off malnutrition, and therefore possibly take steps to build a life beyond survival. I have read that it takes 25 times the land space to keep a person on a meat eating diet alive than it takes to keep a person on a plant based diet fed. The inefficiency of it all just astonishes me. I point out this disconnect very gently to meat eating friends whenever they mention starving people in the world. We do have enough resources to feed everyone in the world, even today I believe. But meat is not a smart distribution of those resources. Our planet can sustain us all, distribution to those in need is the problem, and even vegetarianism does not solve all those problems.
It is reasonable to believe that in times of human scarcity, resourcefulness in what we eat is a good trait. One that kept our foraging ancestors alive without 7-11s. It can keep those people in situations where their survival is at stake alive in this day and age as well. In a survivalist situation, I would eat whatever I could get to keep me alive. But does this admirable human trait of resourcefulness automatically become greed once our needs are satified? Why do we need meat so much?


Blogger kleo2 said...

You have good points and i enjoy your viewpoint...

9:30 p.m.  
Blogger Urban Vegan's Evil Twin said...

Great post!

I recently attended a Q & A with Peter Singer. He pointed out that the average person who follows the SAD diet is responsible for generating, on average, 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide each year. Switching to a fuel-efficient car prevents about 1 ton of CO2 emmissions. So switching to a vegan diet is actually better for the environment than switching to a fuel-efficient hybrid car! (Among other benefits)

5:55 a.m.  
Blogger Kareno said...

Sympatico people visiting my blog, Yay!

Your blogs are both beautifully done, and are inspiring to me.

I have been part of a car cooperative for over 6 years (, so my ecological footprint relating to transportation is already way lower than the average North American's. Its funny that I am learning so lately that stepping away from SAD does even more!

1:48 p.m.  
Blogger kleo2 said...

i am enjoying yours as well, kareno!

Best to you...

5:09 p.m.  
Blogger kleo2 said...

I would like to add you to my "lynx" so i can get to you easier...

9:47 p.m.  

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