Vegetarians Diet Considering The Earth

April 20, 2012 2:43 AM EDT
vegetables (Photo: Flickr)

Vegetarian or vegan diet is becoming popular in these days. About 5 percent of the U.S. population was vegetarian or vegan in 2011. The reasons they decide to become vegetarians or vegans are various. Some of them choose it because they protest inhumane treatment of animal in farm industry. Others choose it because they think eating vegetable and avoiding carnivorous diet make them healthy.

Some weeks ago, New York Times held an online contest “Tell Us Why It’s Ethical to eat Meat.” In its announcement, Ariel Kaminer, New York Times reporter wrote, “Ethically speaking, vegetarians get all the glory.” In other words, eating vegetables without meat implies ethical meaning.

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Peter Singer, a philosopher and the author of Animal Liberation, wrote in Practical Ethics, “As far as food is concerned, the great extravagance is not caviar or truffles, but beef, pork and poultry. Some 38 percent of the world's grain crop is now fed to animals, as well as large quantities of soybeans. There are three times as many domestic animals.”

In Animal Liberation, Singer protested speciesism, which means discrimination on the grounds that a being belongs to a certain species, arguing that animals should have rights based on their ability to feel pain more than their intelligence.

Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of well- known novel extremely loud and incredibly close, also wrote a book concerning eating animal. He came to write this book, because he wanted to know how our foods including meat are produced and provided, and what eating meat means. In this book, he explained many of the familiar ethical arguments about eating animal (for example, “why do not people eat dog?”) and he gave vivid descriptions of commercial fishing, factory farming, and environmental consequences of the factory farm system.

“Needless to say, jamming deformed, drugged, overstressed birds together in a filthy, waste-coated room is not very healthy. Beyond deformities, eye damage, blindness, bacterial infections of bones, slipped vertebrae, paralysis, internal bleeding, anemia, slipped tendons, twisted lower legs and necks, respiratory diseases, and weakened immune systems are frequent and long-standing problems on factory farms,” Jonathan Safran Foer said in Eating Animals.

In this book, he also mentions, “What the meat industry figured out is that you don't need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable...Factory farms calculate how close to death they can keep animals without killing them. That's the business model. How quickly they can be made to grow, how tightly they can be packed, how much or how little they can eat, how sick they can get without dying...We live in a world in which it's conventional to treat an animal like a block of wood.”

Like what both Singer and Foer argued, the topic of “eating meats” and “inhumane treatment of animals in farm factory” arouse ethical emotion and question. Not only the ethical point, but also the environmental point is important factor that makes people decide to become vegetarians. And there is an arguments that “go vegan” is an effective way to save both our environment and our health. The reasons are the followings.

Vegetarians insist eating vegetables instead of meat and reducing water consumption. 2,500 gallons of water is used to produce 1 pound of beef, compared to a mere 25 gallons to produce one serving of rice or grain, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. If you choose not to eat meat once each week, it results to save 84,000 gallons of water per year.

They say that vegetarian diet can also reduce the use of fossil fuels. It takes about 54 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef, compared to 2 calories of fossil fuel for 1 calorie of protein from soy. So if you choose to cut meat for once a week, you will save more than 15 gallons of gasoline per year.
The third reason is because it can help protect soil. Livestock farming inevitably causes soil erosion. After farms are overstocked, soil becomes desertified and sterile. You can prevent 87-square feet of soil from being sterile by choosing a plant-based food once a weak per year.

According to the study of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006, emissions from animal agriculture are larger factor of greenhouse effect than all the trucks and cars on the Earth.

By reducing our intake of meats, we can reduce agricultural waste. Farmed animals produce enormous amounts of waste. It can pollute soil and rivers, streams and other waterways. In their wastes contain many chemicals and drugs, including antibiotics, pesticides, nitrogen, and phosphorus. They can affect human body as well as environment.


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