Monday, March 16, 2009


Apparently, diet is an issue of social justice.

I may have mentioned that one of the friends that I hope to live with next year has recently become a vegan. I still have to do some research into these things, but from what he's sent me, it seems like I may be at least significantly reducing my intake of meat. My typical affluent diet includes some meat intake each day. I'm a meat-eater. And as such, I may be contributing to global warming and world hunger. Check out these facts:

A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined.

It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh.

Producing the grain that is used to feed farmed animals requires vast amounts of water. It takes about 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan, and more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater. You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.

It should be no surprise, then, that food for a vegan can be produced on only 1/6 of an acre of land, while it takes 3 1/4 acres of land to produce food for a meat-eater.11 If we added up all the arable land on the planet and divided it equally, every human would get 2/3 of an acre—more than enough to sustain a vegetarian diet, but not nearly enough to sustain a meat-eater.

Check out the following articles for more:
Fight Climate Change with Diet Change
Meat Means Misery for the World's Hungry
Why Animal Agriculture Doesn't Add Up

I have no idea how reliable the sources are.


Joshua said...

I'm not sure about the sources either, but I have heard again and again about the damage that meat farming does to our world.

We (Heather and I) have cut back our meat consumption to 1 meat per day (over 3 meals, and often less often than that).

It's generally healthier in many ways to eat more vegetables/fruits and to focus on raw food (raw vegetables vs grilled/boiled).

The health reasons were the primary purpose for lowering our meat consumption, but what I've been reading makes me think that it's a good move from a social justice standpoint. At the same time, the biologist in me wants to point out that meat consumption, even in small, infrequent portions, is fairly critical for the human body. But cutting it back significantly is a great move!

Matt Marsh said...

while there are some interesting points, i would venture to say that there are legitimate explanations or counterpoints for all of the points made. for example...
- the first statement is worded to include the entire industry (including the animals themselves, and cows are famous for their methane...) whereas the suvs etc refers just to the vehicles. i am sure that the production, treatment, and distribution of vegan foods has a considerable effect as well
- the second statement uses the phrasing "up to". that is an upper limit, and probably only for certain species. i would bet that average figures are lower. furthermore, i know that alot of animal feed is made with content far different than what humans would eat.

though there are some costs, i think in many ways the meat industry deserves recognition for an increase in its efficiency, allowing meat to become readily available at a reasonable price for the common person. i think that tighter standards and increased efficiency are a better solution than elimination.

furthermore, what then to say about the uses of crops for other purposes, such as biofuels or even alcohol? they don't fill bellies, so should we refuse fueling our vehicles and stand against alcohol as well?

i think that animal rights or health reasons are far more viable reasons for me to even begin to consider a switch to veganism than those of global warming or world hunger.

skipperxc said...

I have to concur with Marsh. The amount of food a single person consumes is so minuscule when compared to the scale of the industry, to think any one person's habits can affect it smacks of...elitism, I guess? Probably the wrong word, but I can't think of another at the moment.

A moral obligation (if you feel that sort of thing towards animals) or, as Josh mentioned, the health benefits make far more sense as a justification. I prefer the taste of dead animal, myself.

Joshua said...

Yes, the "vegan industry" has its costs. But it's far lower than the meat industry. I think that a few thousand people choosing to eat local vegan products (eliminating much of the transportation and packaging costs Marsh has mentioned) would have a huge effect on the environment.