Save the Humans

DROUGHT CALIFORNIA CATTLE

A few years ago, I was talking with Al Gore (yes, I’m name dropping). I asked him a very simple and pointed question: “Animal agriculture contributes about 18 percent of the gases that cause climate change. Why didn’t you mention this in your book or movie?”

His answer was disconcertingly honest. I’m paraphrasing, but he said: “For most people, the role of animal agriculture in climate change is too inconvenient of a truth.”

We like our animal products.

Well, you like your animal products. I’ve been a vegan for 28 years, so to be honest I don’t even remember what they taste like.

But collectively, as a species, we seem to like animal products. A lot.

To wit: Each year, the U.S. grows and kills about 10 billion livestock animals. Globally, we’re raising and slaughtering about 56 billion animals animal agriculture each year. If you do the math, that means we’re killing 1,776 animals for food every second of every day. That doesn’t even include fish and other seafood.

But even though I’m a vegan for ethical reasons, I don’t want to write about the animal ethics of animal agriculture. I want to write about the ways in which animal agriculture is killing us and ruining our planet.

I know, that sounds like left wing hyperbole. “It’s killing our planet!” But sometimes hyperbole isn’t hyperbole. Sometimes hyperbole is just the clear-eyed truth. I’ll start with climate change.

The U.N. released a conservative report wherein they stated that animal agriculture causes about 18 percent of current greenhouse gas emissions.

To put it in perspective: animal agriculture is responsible for producing more climate change gases than every car, boat, bus, truck, motorcycle and airplane on the planet. Combined.

But we like our animals — or at least growing and eating them. So we make the trade-off: animal products for climate change.

Climate is complicated. And climate change is complicated. But the role of animal agriculture in climate change is simple.

And how about famine? There are over 7,000,000,000 people on the planet, and many of them are very, very hungry. Article after article and book after book ask the question: “How will we feed a planet of 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 billion people?” The discussions turn to fertilizer and GMOs and arable land.

But here’s a painfully simple idea: stop feeding human food to livestock.

It takes around 15 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef – which can feed a couple people for a few hours. In comparison, 13 pounds of grain fed to humans directly can feed 13 people for most of the day.

“We’re killing 1,776 animals for food every second of every day.”

Globally, we don’t have a famine problem; we have a livestock problem. Feeding food to animals and then eating the animals is kind of like heating your house during the winter by burning wood outside.

Speaking of winters: a few years ago, tired of cold winters in New York, I moved to California. Last year in L.A., we had around 362 beautiful days of sunshine. It was 80 degrees on Christmas, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Which is great, apart from the fact that California and most of the West are now experiencing the worst drought in recorded history.

As Californians, we’ve been asked to take shorter showers and use less water on our lawns. Both are good ideas. But let’s put it in perspective: a long shower uses around 40 gallons of water. Whereas it takes 4,000 to 18,000 gallons of water to create a 1/3 lb hamburger.

More than 90 percent of the water in California goes to agriculture. Some agriculture is very water responsible. It takes about 216 gallons of water to make one pound of soybeans, for example.

But other agriculture is egregiously water intensive – including rice and cotton, but especially animal agriculture. Each pound of chicken requires about 500 gallons of water, and pork requires about 576 gallons of water.

“Personally, I’d like to make a deal with California. I’ll take much shorter showers if you stop subsidizing water use for livestock.”

Personally, I’d like to make a deal with California. I’ll take much shorter showers if you stop subsidizing water use for livestock. If I just jumped in the shower and bathed quickly, I could even get it down to five gallons of water per shower. And after 132 showers, I would’ve used as much water as is needed to create one pound of beef.

So we’ve established that having an estimated 56,000,000,000 livestock animals on the planet uses a lot of water and grain and creates a lot of methane and carbon dioxide.

But these billions of animals also make waste. The really disgusting waste, not just invisible climate warming gases.

Let’s put this in perspective: the good people of Philadelphia create roughly1,000,000 tons of urine and feces per year. And one, only one, large pig farm will produce roughly 1,600,000 tons of urine and feces per year.

“One large pig farm annually creates 600,000 tons more urine and feces than the city of Philadelphia.”

Our lakes and rivers are being fouled with algae blooms. Our groundwater is being polluted. And the main culprit is livestock.The 56 billion livestock animals on the planet are making tons and tons of feces and urine every year — three times as much as humans.

And, in addition to fouling our water supplies, it’s also fouling our homes. A University of Arizona study found more residual feces and waste in the average omnivores kitchen than in their toilet bowl. Largely due to meat into the home.

The animals spend their lives in their own feces and urine, and when they’re killed and packaged, they bring their feces and urine with them. Into your home. They also bring pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, cholesterol and saturated fat.

To that end: if we collectively stopped eating animals and animal products tomorrow, studies suggest we’d see a drop in obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

“We don’t have a global health epidemic; we have a global livestock epidemic. “

We don’t have a global health epidemic; we have a global livestock epidemic. Toomuch of the western world health care budgets go to curing people of diseases caused by the consumption of animal products.

And I’m not going to toot the vegan horn too much, but vegans have significantly lower rates of obesity, diabetes and some cancers.

When I talk to people about animal agriculture and meat eating, people often say, “But meat is inexpensive.” And it is. But only because it’s so heavily subsidized by our tax dollars. In the United States, we spend billions of dollars every year in direct and indirect subsidies to the meat and dairy industries. Billions of dollars in our tax dollars, subsidizing a product that ruins our environment and decimates our health.

We subsidize the grain that’s fed to livestock. We subsidize the water that’s used in livestock production. We, the taxpayers, subsidize animal agriculture.

And what do we get? We get climate change gases. And we get trillions of pounds of animal waste that fouls our lakes and rivers and reservoirs. We get an end product that causes cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

And, saving the best for last, we also get zoonotic diseases.

“Zoonotic” is a fun and fancy sounding word. It sort of sounds like a very erudite part of a zoo, where the animals read books and live on boats. But zoonotic diseases are not fun or fancy. Some zoonotic diseases you might be familiar with: E.coli, Salmonella, SARS, Bird Flu, Ebola and even some old standards like smallpox and the common cold.

Zoonotic diseases come from animals, and, in many cases, from animal agriculture.

Luckily, thus far, we’ve been able to treat most zoonotic diseases with antibiotics. But here’s the rub: animals on factory farms are so sick, and in such bad shape, that antibiotics are all that’s keeping them from dying before they’re slaughtered. The animals are fed obscene amounts of antibiotics while they’re alive, and these antibiotics are then found in their milk and their eggs and their meat.

When you’re eating an animal, you’re eating the fat and the muscle but you’re also eating all of the antibiotics the animal has been fed during its life.

The double whammy of zoonotic diseases coming from animal agriculture: animals are the source of the zoonotic diseases but they’re also the source of antibiotic resistance. So the zoonotic diseases can kill us, especially as animal agriculture has created superbugs who don’t respond to conventional antibiotics.

That’s the fun world of animal agriculture.

A simple re-cap:

Animal agriculture:
Uses tons of grain that could be fed directly to people
Uses tons of fresh water that could be used to grow healthy food
Creates tons of urine and feces that ruin our lakes, rivers and drinking water
Creates about 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions
Contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer
Causes epidemic zoonotic diseases
Contributes to the creation of antibiotic resistant “super bugs”
And is heavily subsidized by our tax dollars.

As a species, we are faced with complicated and seemingly intractable problems. And then we’re faced with animal agriculture.

So rather than focus on the hard, intractable problems (like curing baldness) let’s simply focus on something easy with phenomenal benefit: ending animal agriculture.

All we have to do is stop subsidizing it and stop buying animal products. Simple. And climate change gases are reduced by about 18 percent.

Famine could end. Fresh water could become clean and more abundant. Deaths from cancer and heart disease and diabetes and obesity could be reduced. And zoonotic diseases could be largely reduced.

It really is that simple.

We’ve done hard things in the past. We’ve ended slavery. We’ve given everyone the right to vote. We’ve passed legislation prohibiting children from working in factories. We’re even moving towards a time when cigarette smoking will be seen as a foul, distant memory.

We can do this. We have to. Our reliance on animal agriculture is literally killing us and ruining our climate and our planet.

I’ll end by quoting Albert Einstein:

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” -Albert Einstein

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/moby/moby-meat_b_5889850.html?1412009893

Ironically, Climate Change Marchers Line Up to Buy Meat, Fish & Dairy at Parade

News & Opinion

Wearing t-shirts with slogans like “Climate Justice Starts Here,” hundreds, if not thousands, of Climate March participants in NYC lined up at food trucks at the street fair after the parade to buy meat, fish and dairy products, demonstrating either a lack of awareness or disregard for what the United Nations says is, by far, the number one contributor of climate change and the planet’s biggest polluter, animal agriculture.

How can the nation’s leading enviromental groups expect the general public to make eco-friendly choices if their own members engage in the most environmentally destructive activity — and if they themselves don’t promote a plant-based diet? Can we really expect world leaders at this week’s United Nations’ Climate Summit to take drastic measures to reverse climate change if “environmentalists” can’t take the most basic one?

At Climate Change marches around the world, plant-based/vegan participants displayed compelling posters and distributed information about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and their efforts will assuredly effect some change. However, as evidenced in the groundbreaking documentary film Cowspiracy, animal agriculture must be eliminated altogether in order to reverse climate change and save the planet.

Leading Causes of Death

Social Situations

Once you decide to live vegan you’ll find new favorite foods.  You’ll find out what you like and don’t like to eat.  You’ll find great new food options on menus and in your grocery store.  The food part gets easier and easier.  And you’ll find that navigating health concerns wasn’t such a big deal after all.  That’s easy too. 

But then there may be the sideways glances, rolling eyes, and the questions-questions-questions asked by family, friends, and coworkers.  Some people ask with excitement, wonder, or genuine concern.  Others ask to challenge your commitment to compassion and justice.  It’s not always easy. 

Let’s make it easier.  Social Settings offers some interesting insights we’ve discovered along the way, a few easy tips for your social tool belt, and a helpful reminder to stay true to yourself and kind to others. 

If you’re the only one in your family or group of friends who is vegan, you may feel social pressures to conform (see Social Pressures). 

These pressures are especially strong in small groups like family and friends where the group, consciously or unconsciously, attempts to protect the intimate social fabric of the group.  New ideas and new behaviors can feel threatening to a small group because there is a fear that the group will dismantle.  The unspoken fear is that the culture of the group will change or end, traditions may change or end, belief systems will be challenged, and even social structures might change.  None of these things need interrupt happy families or end friendships.

 

social-dining-out

If you’re out on the town discovering vegan food on your own or with your vegan friends, there’s no need to over-prepare.  But if you’re going out with friends or family who are not vegan or you’re having a planned business lunch, it makes sense to explore your vegan options before you go out to eat.  There are several websites offering reviews of thousands of restaurants — even fast-food chains. Explore Helpful Resources for more links or get started at HappyCow.net and National Chain Vegan Guide.

Here are some tips to make dining out enjoyable for everyone involved:

social-school

Talk about pressure to conform! School can be one long social challenge. From kindergarten to graduate studies, school is fraught with demands to perform in certain ways at certain times with certain people. As much as school is a place for learning, it’s also a place for socialization – that is, school plays a large role in teaching us how to be part of society.

Living vegan is not (yet) the norm. It is counter-culture. That is, it runs counter to current agreed-upon norms of society — specifically that using and eating animals and animal products is socially acceptable. Going against current norms can be seen as a rebellious act. And rebellion is frowned upon in most schools where conformity is not only easier, it is taught.

It’s interesting that some people see living vegan as a rebellious act — as if being vegan is against society. The truth is that living vegan goes against convention, but it serves to better our world community. It works FOR society, not against it. Vegan living invites society to explore a more just, compassionate, and sustainable way of being. It creates a world where everyone cares about animals, about other people, and about the planet we all share.

Staying emotionally strong in school can sometimes take courage and dedication to one’s principles. Read more in this section for insights into social pressures, transforming anger, and more.

social-work

If you’re vegan, you know how tempting it can be to fill people in on the joys of living vegan whenever you get the chance.  Having your little brother refuse to talk to you for a month because you told him what actually goes into a hotdog is painful, but he’ll get over it.  Having the same discomfort at work, in close-quartered cubicles can make work start to feel even more long and oppressive than it already is. 

So what’s a consistent and dedicated vegan to do?  We highly suggest living by example.  If someone asks you a question, by all means share your answer.  But when in doubt, offer up vegan cupcakes instead of opinions.  Coworkers might get annoyed being offered the latest graphic YouTube video documenting the truth about animal agribusiness — but nobody gets perturbed by being offered a yummy vegan treat. 

If somebody is stinking up the joint warming up a fish fillet in the microwave, you could have a word, but chances are you’ll get further by warming up your delicious lunch, fanning it down the hallways, and waiting for the inquiries.  For many of your coworkers, your vegan food might be their only regular exposure to the vegan message.  Overcoming the question “what do vegans eat?” is a major success.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, great vegan food is worth ten thousand.

Of course, this is a kind of “outreach” and you’ll have to be comfortable sharing recipes or answering questions like “where’d you get that?” and, “can I read the ingredients label?”  If you get stuck on bigger questions, send them on over to LiveVegan.org and we’d be happy to take it from there!

If you’re looking to just keep your head down and survive work, remember to pack a great lunch and some tasty vegan snacks.  For those expected and unexpected work lunches or after work parties, check out Dining Out for specific ideas.

Read more here:

Source: http://www.livevegan.org/social-situations

Fast Food Companies Outsource $7 Billion In Annual Labor Costs To Taxpayers

Two new reports released this week have shed light on how America’s fast food companies have quietly outsourced a significant chunk of their labor costs to the taxpayer, with more than half of the industry’s 3.65 million low-wage workers on public assistance at a cost of $7 billion each year.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley released a study on Tuesday showing that front-line fast food workers earning a median wage of $8.69 an hour are more than twice as likely to rely on public benefits programs as the rest of the workforce — 52% compared to 25%.

Of that $7 billion, well over half — $3.9 billion — is spent on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for fast food workers and their families. UC Berkeley’s researchers found that 68% of these low-wage earners are the main breadwinners in their households, with over a quarter raising children.

A companion report released by the National Employment LawProject found that the 10 biggest fast food corporations in the country are responsible for nearly 60%, or $3.8 billion, of the annual $7 billion outlaid by the taxpayer for low-wage workers. These same 10 companies made a cumulative $7.4 billion in profits in 2012, paying out an additional $7.7 billion in dividends and buybacks to shareholders.

The NELP compared just how much the public purse subsidizes labor costs at each of these ten restaurant chains. McDonald’s MCD +0.17% topped the list, costing the taxpayer $1.2 billion annually in public assistance programs for their low-paid workers. Yum Brands comes in at a distant number two, with its Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC subsidiaries costing $648 million in benefits programs for workers each year.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) reacted to the two reports in a statement to the press, describing the figures as “stark.”

“Anyone concerned about the federal deficit only needs to look at this report to understand a major source of the problem: multi-billion dollar companies that pay poverty wages and then rely on taxpayers to pick up the slack, to the tune of a quarter of a trillion dollars every year in the form of public assistance to working families,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). “Seven billion of this is just for fast food workers, more than half of whom, even working full time, still must rely on programs like food stamps and Medicaid just to make ends meet.”

“In a nation as wealthy as the United States, no one who works hard for a living should live in poverty,” Harkin added. “Underpaying workers affects us all. These highly-profitable companies paying poverty wages should raise wages and listen to their workers’ demands to form a union. We should also increase the minimum wage, as I have proposed. These steps are not only the right thing to do for low-wage workers, but also the smart thing to do for the economy and for taxpayers.”

 

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/10/16/reports-fast-food-companies-outsource-7-billion-in-annual-labor-costs-to-taxpayers/