In Brief— The human appetite for meat is destroying Earth even as it results in the suffering and deaths of the millions of animals we slaughter every year. The solution is for humans to cut back or eliminate meat from their diets and eat healthful vegetables instead.
Bovine Farts and Deforestation—
Looking at a slice of ham on his plate, our four-year-old son asks suspiciously, “What’s this?” Knowing what’s coming, I say hesitantly, “Uh-h, it’s pork.” Exasperated at my evasiveness, he forcefully says, “No!! What ANIMAL is it?” I say with resignation, ”A pig.” Without a word, he refuses to eat the ham. He’s now 33, still a vegetarian, and healthy.
We were not surprised at his refusal to eat the ham because beef is a dead cow, and that chicken that graces your table on Sunday was once an intelligent live bird confined in a crowded cage with thousands of his fellow creatures. Though our son had never seen a live cow, chicken or pig, Richard Scarry’s books told him all he needed to know: a once-live animal was now meat on his plate.
Ruminants such as milk cows, beef cattle, sheep, goats and buffalos are animals that produce methane in the course of eating. Methane, a global warming gas, is over twenty times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the Earth. These animals are being raised to feed most of the planet’s growing population of soon eight billion humans. Overpopulation, by the way, is the subject of a future piece.
Raising cattle requires lots of range land to produce the grasses that feed the cattle that feed us. McDonald’s sells billions of hamburgers to hurried eaters who then throw their wrappings on the ground adding to the pollution that plagues the world. And McDonald’s is just one of dozens of profitable fast-food corporations that depend on those methane-producing cattle that fart and belch Earth to ever-increasing global warming. Meanwhile, the Amazon rain forest is being burned and destroyed in favor of grassland designed to feed the cattle. And indigenous people are being exterminated to make way for that hamburger you just ate.
Would you believe that as of 2009 there are nearly one and a half BILLION cattle being raised on this planet, and Brazil is the leading producer? This explains why the Amazon rain forest—the world’s lungs—is being decimated at an alarming rate (along with those half-naked indigenous people just mentioned who, after all, don’t count). Feeding gazillions of humans lots of beef and keeping the McDonald’s clones profitable is threatening Earth through deforestation. But, hey, we’ve got to eat.
New Zealand, with a population of 4.5 million, holds the record for sheep at 7.5 sheep for every New Zealander. Whip out your calculator and figure that one out. China has nearly half a billion pigs with America in second place at about seventy million pigs, and good old Brazil boasts third place with about forty million of the oinkers. By the way, your average pig is about as smart as a three-year-old human yet it is too often held in torturous little crates that don’t let it even turn around. Does that bother you when you eat a pork chop?
Chickens? Hold onto your hat…as of 2009 there were nearly twenty billion—that’s 20 BILLION chickens—in the world, many of them in inhumanely crowded cages in huge sheds waiting to die to become those McNuggets McDonald’s serves. And intelligent…but that will never occur to you as you munch away.
And then there are those helpless tortured little calves that are torn from their mothers at an early age to become that veal on display in the butcher shop. Odds are that you won’t bother to read about them as you contemplate how to prepare those veal cutlets you plan to serve your guests tonight.
By now, you have figured out that we are almost totally blind to the monumental suffering we cause. We just don’t want to know some very uncomfortable facts, but we might just want to save the planet and its inhabitants by becoming vegetarians like our son, his sister and both of their cousins. If millions of Hindus can be vegetarians, then we can, too.
“But wait,” you say. “Can I get the protein I need to be healthy?” The simple answer is, “Yes.” If you can’t stand tofu, then whole grains, nuts, beans of all types, dark greens, peas, avocado, broccoli, eggs, yogurt and cheeses of all sorts will provide you with more than enough protein to keep you healthy. The added bonus is that you will be able to shed unwanted extra weight while eating all you want.
I encourage you to find out for yourself how you can help save the planet and eat tasty vegetarian food at the same time. There are several different types of vegetarianism, and one of them will surely fill your needs. Will you miss meat? Probably so at first, but eventually that omnivorous craving will pass. If you don’t believe that, then at least think about those poor animals, shown to experience fear as they are herded to their end, that are being slaughtered to fill your stomach. And think about our suffering planet, the only home we have.
Now, eat your veggies!