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Jan 10

Steak and Chops or Vegetarianism

In Brief—Healthful and tasty vegetarian meals give us energy while they simultaneously preserve the habitability of the planet, save sentient animals and prolong human lives.

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Healthful Eating Can Save Lives…and Earth—

Imagine a chessboard seen from above, the white squares representing ecologically diverse tropical forest and the black squares representing land denuded of trees, and you have an ecological test laboratory that reveals how climate change can affect our survival. Not just our survival but the survival of thousands of species from trees and insects to the mammals living within those laboratories.

Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction draws a sobering picture of how humans are affecting our home planet from the Amazon to the ocean to the Poles. The chessboard I have discussed can be found in Kolbert’s book. Even now, those barren spots are growing grass to fatten the cattle that will wind up on your plate. Nearby, the shrinking tropical forest is leading to the extinction of countless species unable to adapt to the warming world we have wrought. With those extinctions will disappear the cures to many diseases. Will the recently concluded Paris climate meeting that is being ballyhooed as a success save Earth’s bacon? Don’t bet the farm on it.

Animals w:signSeveral decades ago, I decided to switch to a vegetarian diet. I had grown up eating meat, enjoying a rare steak, pork chops, chicken, with nary a thought about the animals I was eating. It was a habit, an enjoyable one, but a habit nonetheless. Almost on impulse—perhaps because of my social environment—I decided to become a vegetarian.

At first, I missed meat, the flavor and texture, but then I began to notice something different. My weight dropped to an ideal level and held yet I was eating the same amount. I never felt hungry after a meal. Stranger still, when I showered I no longer smelled like the meat I had eaten earlier. I smelled…clean.

The dishes I was eating were flavorful: green vegetables, grains, nuts seeds, fruit, tofu. The spices added pleasure to my palate. The amount of salt I had once used diminished, yet I was not deliberately cutting back. The need simply wasn’t there. The energy was there. I can’t say now whether there was more, but I can definitely say it wasn’t less.

Until I did the research for my blog piece “Eat Your Veggies,” the animals that provide the meat in our diets didn’t cross my mind. In the years since my foray into vegetarianism, I have learned that the animals we so thoughtlessly slaughter are aware of their coming demise and are understandably frightened. Wild-eyed cows can sometimes be seen trying to escape as they approach the slaughterhouse. Chickens, pigs, calves and lambs are kept in tiny cages until they are slaughtered to fill our stomachs. We eat that steak, order those McNuggets, fry those pork chops without a thought about how those animals feel, how they lived and died.

Our son and daughter are both vegetarians, have been for years and both are healthy. In turn, they have influenced their cousins who are vegetarians or vegans. When we first moved to Sweden in 1994, ordering a vegetarian meal led to a plate that included shrimp. Today, schools and restaurants throughout the country serve genuine vegetarian foods that are flavorful and nutritious.

As I put it inEat Your Veggies,” a meat-eater always asks, “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 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—and enjoying—all you want.

Will you miss meat? Probably so at first, but eventually that craving will pass. If you don’t believe that, then at least think about those poor animals experiencing raw fear as they are herded to the slaughterhouse to fill your stomach. And think about our suffering planet, the only home we have.

Since starting this piece, a friend sent me a TEDx Talk by Melanie Joy that presents the benefits of eating vegetables instead of animals, but it contains a genuinely disturbing clip of the animals we ignore. Please watch it at  http://youtu.be/o0VrZPBskpg. Think of the animals and what you eat.

I encourage you to help preserve the habitability of the planet and eat delicious vegetarian food at the same time. There are several different types of vegetarianism and one of them will surely fill your needs.

Type into your browser “Vegetarian/Vegan Recipes” and you will find reams of recipes. Not only will you eat delicious food, you will be saving the planet and countless animals in the bargain. Go ahead, Go Vegetarian/Vegan.

2 comments

  1. Dave Meyers

    I’m a wimp when compared to your conversion to vegetarian status, Don.
    I gave up red meat 36 years ago…haven’t missed it once! However, I do eat some chicken, a small bit of pork, but lots of salmon and other fish. Somehow, I can’t envision fish all wild eyed and panicked as the net hauls them in……but then, I’m not a fish.

    But, to address your point about species loss:
    Just to illustrate the degree of biodiversity loss we’re facing, let’s look at one scientific analysis…

    The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.*

    These experts calculate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year.

    If the low estimate of the number of species out there is true – i.e. that there are around 2 million different species on our planet** – then that means between 200 and 2,000 extinctions occur every year.

    But if the upper estimate of species numbers is true – that there are 100 million different species co-existing with us on our planet – then between 10,000 and 100,000 species are becoming extinct each year.

    *Experts actually call this natural extinction rate the background extinction rate. This simply means the rate of species extinctions that would occur if we humans were not around.

    That staggers the imagination….no?

    1. Don Bay

      You say you eat a little pork, some chicken and lots of fish. If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest that you and all readers take a look at the TEDx Talk cited in this piece.

      That pig is as smart as a dog (even as smart as a three-year-old human child), aware of its own demise, yet pigs are slaughtered for our gustatory pleasure after being grossly mistreated by the animal agriculture industry.

      Chickens are not as smart as pigs, but they are nevertheless smart…not a “dumb animal.” They are raised under deplorable conditions by the animal agriculture industry that’s interested only in profits. I suggest reading scientist Carl Safina’s book “Beyond Words.” He writes of animal intelligence. It will change your view of animals forever.

      About those fish: every year thousands of dolphins and whales (mammals, not fish, by the way) become bi-catch as huge purse nets scoop up fish…which are fast disappearing from overfishing, by the way. Dolphins and whales are at least as smart as humans, maybe even smarter and certainly far more peaceable. They are completely sentient, self-aware, have individual names and communicate at levels humans haven’t reached yet. If that sounds excessive, plentiful research verifies my statements.

      The salmon you eat is probably cultivated under deplorable conditions and fed meal and antibiotics that threaten humans. As bad is the fact that wild salmon are rapidly declining from human depredation. I could go on, but only add that this is called the Anthropocene era for good reason.

      Your pointing out the accelerated extinction rate is not only shocking, but warranted. You are to be congratulated for addressing an important issue. My piece focused on the animals humans eat without thought while you put it in a larger context. Good for you. It was needed.

      Though this response is longer than most, I hope that you and all readers will give conscious thought to what you are eating. Vegetarianism is better for health, the animals and the planet.

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