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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.
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.
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:
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
photo credit: Via Tsuji, “DODO (Raphus cucullatus)”
Life on earth is remarkably diverse. Globally, it is estimated that there are 8.7 million species living on our planet, excluding bacteria. Unfortunately, human activities are wiping out many species and it’s been known for some time that we are increasing the rate of species extinction. But just how dire is the situation? According to a new study, it’s 10 times worse than scientists previously thought with current extinction rates 1,000 times higher than natural background rates. The work has been published in Conservation Biology.
In order to determine how humanity is affecting the rate of species loss, we must first establish a background, or pre-human, extinction rate. It’s relatively straightforward to calculate recent rates of species extinction even though there is some uncertainty given there is a chance that a species is still alive despite not having been observed for a period of time. However, establishing background levels for comparison is a little trickier.
Previous estimates that relied on fossil data came up with a ballpark figure of 1 extinction per million species per year. While fossil data provides us with direct estimates of extinction rates, it is largely limited to hard-bodied organisms. Furthermore, it can sometimes be difficult to identify a fossil’s species, meaning they can only be assigned to a specific genus. However, the fossil record has been useful in demonstrating clearly that biodiversity has slowly increased over time.
In order to produce a more reliable estimate of the pre-human extinction rate, researchers based at Brown and Duke Universities went one step further than the fossil record and carried out phylogenetic analyses of numerous plant and animal species. Phylogenetics involves examining evolutionary relationships by comparing DNA sequences of different organisms.
After estimating average extinction estimates, the researchers also estimated the rates of speciation, or the formation of new species. This allowed the researchers to estimate rates of species diversification, which is the difference between speciation and extinction rates.
The researchers couldn’t find any evidence for recent or pre-human declines in diversity. In fact, the total number of species on Earth has either been steady or slightly increasing. This implies that average diversification rates are similar to or higher than average extinction rates.
Based on their results, the team concluded that the average pre-human extinction rate was0.1 extinction per million species per year. The current extinction rate is approximately 100 extinctions per million species per year, or 1,000 times higher than natural background rates. They also predict that future rates may be as much as 10,000 times higher.
“This reinforces the urgency to conserve what is left and try to reduce our impacts. It was very, very different before humans entered the scene,” lead author Jurriaan de Vos said in a news-release.
It is generally agreed that human activities, such as the destruction of habitats in order to accommodate our ever growing population, are largely responsible for this increase in species extinction rate. However, it’s also evident that conservation projects have been effective for some species. We need to continue with these efforts if we want to stand a chance in preventing this current crisis from worsening.
Every 60 Seconds A Species Dies Out. Each Minute Counts
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Humans have always believed that they are superior to all other beings and still continue to have this ideology to this day. They think they are superior to other species, genders, religions, races, etc. We’ve seen this behavior of superiority within spousal abuse, women fighting for equality, the Holocaust, lynching’s of African American’s in the western south, and even today with homosexuals. Why is it that we as humans are always mistreating the other beings that inhabit this earth along with us? Why does man think he has the power to control everything and everyone around him?
Humans believe that just because we have always been “hunters and gatherers” that it is the way we are supposed to live. People think that humans cannot survive without meat, and that we are designed to be carnivores. That is a very false statement.
Not only do humans think they need to consume another creature to survive, they also find joyin eating them, hunting them, killing them, caging them, testing on them, torturing them, and many more. What makes an animal inferior to human? We consider cannibalism sick and horrendous, yet we justify eating other beings of this earth as normal? If a man was to go out into the city, the home of thousands of humans, and shoot one in the head, bring him home, cook him and eat him, the man responsible would be sent to a prison and most likely a psychiatric hospital. Yet man does this every single day to animals. When you put it in that perspective, it really isn’t that different, is it?
People ask, “Well if we aren’t supposed to eat animals, why did God make them taste so good?” I’d just like to point out that humans that eat other humans are probably thinking that same thing. Second of all, animal meat does not naturally taste good. If you were to murder a cow in cold blood and eat him right then and there, I highly doubt you think it would be “tasty” and “enjoyable”. In fact, you would most likely die from consuming raw meat. Doesn’t that right there say something about what we were truly designed to eat? We are not meant to thrive off of something that NEEDS to be cooked properly and have spices and herbs added to it just so we are able to consume it. Unfortunately, the animals that humans consume go through a brutal process from the minute they are slaughtered, to the minute they hit your plate.
It’s disgusting actually how humans do this. When you see a chicken or a lamb or pig or a cow on a farm, you see an animal. You see them eating grass, and interacting with each other. They were born, they have families, and they have feelings too. So when we look at these animals the way we do on a farm, why don’t we see them as food? We don’t go to restaurants and order ‘one pig’ or ‘one cow’. No – we have created these terms to help us cope with the fact that we are eating another being, so we call them things like steak, pork and bacon to make us feel better, and guess what? It does. When you call a cow a steak while eating it, you feel less guilty. You can justify what you are eating because now that it is on your plate, it is food, not an animal. Well you’re wrong – it’s still an animal, just as a human would still be a human no matter whose plate it is on. But we beautify the idea of eating dead animals, and slice them up into such thin, foreign shapes that we completely forget and become so disconnected from the fact that it was once a living breathing creature. We have expensive restaurants that sell expensive food like caviar and veal. We glorify the idea that eating a dead bird on thanksgiving is a delicacy. We consider it a treat to go out and dine at these fancy restaurants as we indulge in the meat of a dead animal; but no one thinks like that when they’re eating it now do they?
Yet when there are animal attacks – sharks, bears, lions, etc – that harm and kill humans, these animals must be taken away or killed by us because what they did was so horrifying. Yet it is 100% okay for humans to do it for them in clusters, make money off it, and enjoy it because they think it’s “human nature” and “the cycle of life”.
Why do humans get sent to prison and sentenced to be executed for killing another human being, yet millions of animals are slaughtered and nothing gets done about it. How is this legal? And yes, humans torture and kill other human beings as well; it’s not just animals who have this inevitable poor fate. The only difference is that this behavior of killing another human is considered illegal and is punishable to jail and execution. Yet millions of animals are being slaughtered and nothing gets done about it.
I wonder what humans would do if animals could talk. If when you looked into their eyes they spoke to you. If they pleaded to you not to kill them because they had a family to look after, or a loved one to see. Would humans still shoot them in the head and viciously slaughter them? Probably.
People have grown up eating meat and consider it so normal that they never really take the time to realize how un-normal it really it. What I consider normal would be growing a garden and picking your own fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and all the other foods that come from the ground, because that way, there is no violence and no one has to suffer and die. What I don’t consider normal is going out of your way to go and kill an animal, have to cook it’s meat (because you cannot eat it raw.. or you’ll get sick and die) and then eating it. I’m sorry if you consider that normal, but I sure do not.
Most people who argue that eating meat is acceptable usually say that they get their meat locally and that the animals they eat are raised and killed humanely. Okay, first of all, how can killing another creature be humane? You are killing it and taking away it’s life. Second of all, that is not my point at all. My point is not how you are getting your meat and if it’s a good or bad way – my point is that we are all creatures of this earth and mankind brutally slaughters other beings to consume, simply for pleasure. (We don’t need to eat animals to survive)
Man is not superior. I had a friend say to me once that we are smarter than animals, and I just couldn’t help but thinking how wrong that statement was. Dolphins and wales are one of the smartest creatures in the ocean. They can communicate with each other through vocal signals, non-vocal auditory signals, visual signals and tactile signals, meaning physical signals. Dogs are so smart that they can sense when it’s going to rain, or even when their owner has cancer. Can humans do such extraordinary things? I didn’t think so. How can someone say another species is lesser than them when they don’t even know what that creature is capable of? People think so little about animals just because they cannot understand their language – but imagine if they could? What would they say to us?
Many people want to be shielded from the reality of where their food comes from. They turn away and cannot watch cows being slaughtered, or chickens being thrown into grinders. If you cannot even watch that, than you seriously should not be eating it. Yes I have watched those videos and I am fully aware of all that happens to animals. But do I eat them? Not a chance. Seeing those videos is the exact reason I don’t. And I think people are afraid of seeing that because they love eating meat so much that they don’t want that precious idea of food to be ruined for them. And I do not eat anything that comes from animals either because the process to get cow’s milk or a chicken’s eggs is just as bad as eating their meat. The same thing goes for wearing fur and leather, or using products that animals had to be tested on and murdered for. You think that $500 jacket is nice and elegant? Think about where it came from next time you idolize someone for wearing it.
For our entire lives, we have lived in this room that had a bright light bulb, but the blinds were always kept shut. Who needs to open the blinds when having the light turned on is so convenient for us? But now I have reached out of the regular comfort zone of most people, and I have opened those blinds, and what I have seen and learned has shocked me in the worst ways possible. We live in this room thinking that life is perfect under this falsely lighted bulb, but it isn’t until we open the blinds and are greeted by the unpleasant surprise of what’s outside that we suddenly realize what has been going on this whole time. We have grown up believing so many lies and it’s awful how because we were raised that way, everybody thinks that way is normal, and that being a vegan is the weird/abnormal thing. Most people choose to keep those blinds closed and ignore what is going on around them. Most people keep those blinds closed as they prepare their chicken and steak for dinner that night.
Not only is it morally wrong to eat another creature, but it’s not even healthy for us. Humans are not getting the message that putting dead animals and animal by-products into their bodies is not helping them at all. Obesity rates and heart disease have skyrocketed in the United States, yet people still aren’t getting the message that it’s all about what you put into your body. And I’m not just talking about McDonald’s and Burger King – any meat is bad to consume, heavily processed or not. You cannot justify that your meat is healthy because you raised it yourself. The fact is, humans are not natural born carnivores – we are physically not designed to eat meat. Cow’s milk has been said to be ‘full of calcium’ and ‘good for our bones’, when in fact,countries with the largest consumption of milk and dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis, which is the degradation of bones. Eating eggs increases your risk of prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, heart failure, diabetes, colon cancer, and many other diseases. “Eggs are the most concentrated common source of choline in the American diet, which may increase the risk of cancer emergence, spread, and lethality.” “Men who consumed 2.5 eggs or more per week had an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer”.
However no one would ever believe these facts because we have grown up being told that “eggs are a great source of protein” and “milk makes your bones strong” Well I am so sorry to break it to you but those are all lies told by the industry to make money. Adolf Hitler once said,
“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
Don’t fall into the trap of the meat and dairy industries- learn and educate yourself. The best way to get protein, calcium and all your other vitamins and nutrients are through plant based foods, especially leafy greens. “They are calling Spinach the new Steak for the high amounts of iron and vitamins found in it”.
Unfortunately, we have grown up in a world that only cares about money and profit. That means lying to the public about where their food comes from, labelling packages with false information, and telling lies to the citizens that the food they consume is healthy just so they can make more money.
Energy, Fossil Fuels, and Global Warming
Another big factor that comes with the consumption of animals is the amount of energy used to feed them, breed them, slaughter them, and eat them. “Livestock are responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.” Humans are making this planet worse and causing more and more global warming per year just from the captivity and slaughter of animals. When will people realize this is the only earth we have – there is no planet B. We are living in the 59thminute of the hour that is earth and we don’t know how much longer that will last. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsd1IT7ySfE)
The warning about meat and the environment isn’t coming from crazed hippies. It’s coming from people like the head of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who has openly identified eating less meat as an important step in combating climate change. Why? Because cows are more damaging than cars. We put far more energy into animals per unit of food than we do for any plant crop. The main reason is that cattle consume 16 times more grain than they produce as meat,so right there we have 16 times as much energy just to grow those crops, just so we can waste them on livestock.
But the energy use doesn’t end there. The livestock themselves take energy to process beyond the energy that goes into their feed. And then there’s refrigeration, including during transport, necessary for meat but not for grains and beans. And then there’s the transportation itself.
Every year, millions of animals that are raised for food experience terrible living conditions on industrialized or “factory” farms. These factory farms are large, profit driven companies which view animals as units of production, rather than living creatures, and put efficiency and profits ahead of animal health and welfare. Industrial farms push for the maximum production from the animals regardless of the stress this places them under and the resultant shortening of their lifespan
Since the food industry is rapidly growing, animals that were once raised on pastures are now raised in foodlot where they are kept indoors most of the year and given feed formulated to speed their growth. Animals such as cows, goats and sheep have stomachs that are meant to consume grass. However since farms can’t always provide grass, these animals are fed grain and corn which can produce serious fatal digestive tract problems. They also add chemicals to the feed which can accumulate in animal tissue, potentially exposing consumers to unwanted chemicals such as veterinary drug residues and heavy metals. They also use pesticides which ‘bioaccumulate’ or build-up in the fatty tissues of animals which exposes the consumer to these chemicals. Exposure to pesticide has been shown to negatively affect reproductive, nervous, and immune system functions, as well as increase the risk of developing cancer.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
A whole foods plant based diet is essentially the best way to live. I am trying not to be biased because I too once lived a regular lifestyle. I used to eat meat, cheese, milk, eggs, etc. and thought everything was okay. But once I educated myself on these things, I found out how wrong I was. I am by no means trying to shame anyone’s eating habits or put down anyone’s style of living. I am however trying to get my point across that we are all equal, and that we can help this planet.
Go to your local farmers market, shop in the organic section at the grocery store, or even grow your own garden! I promise you that those options are 10x easier than catching an animal, impregnating them, milking them, cooking them, killing them after their babies are born or their eggs are hatched and so on. Not only are you helping animals but you are helping the planet, and most importantly yourself. Your body will strive off of whole foods and improve much more than it would on an animal based diet.
I have read many articles, documents, textbooks, and watched documentaries to know that the information I am telling you can be backed up and proven. I am not just some crazy vegan girl trying to persuade everyone to live like me. I am trying to make a change in the world, and even if it’s a small change that only affects a few people, at least it’s starting somewhere, and a little change is better than no change.
The China Study
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Forks over Knives
Climate Change and Global Warming – yes I know, it’s a hoax, it’s a scam and designed to keep us in fear and implement aCarbon Tax, as if we aren’t already taxed to death.
This video discusses an issue that is almost always overlooked whenofficials and science discuss climate.
What about the 90 BILLION animals raised for food production. The energy to grow their food, to feed them, to transport them, to slaughter and finally to your local grocer in the form of packaged flesh OR prepared / frozen meals and various by-products.
Let’s not forget these billions of beings produce massive amounts of feces and urine and it has to go somewhere. Negative health issues aside, this practice most certainly contributes to wide scale pollution and contamination of our air, water and land. The comparison in this film to cars and C02 emissions is to point out what is not being discussed.
The documentary Meat the Truth is the first major project undertaken by the Nicolaas G. Pierson Foundation. Meat the Truth is a high-profile documentary, presented by Marianne Thieme (leader of the Party for the Animals), which forms an addendum to earlier films that have been made about climate change.
Although such films have convincingly succeeded in drawing public attention to the issue of global warming, they have repeatedly ignored one of the most important causes of climate change, namely: intensive livestock production. Meat the Truth has drawn attention to this by demonstrating that livestock farming generates more greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than all cars, lorries, trains, boats and planes added together.