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

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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.

Meatonomics: The Bizarre Economics of the Meat & Dairy Industries

The meat industry in the United States is big business: The vast majority of Americans eat meat, and we eat a lot of it–roughly 200 pounds per person every single year (in animals, that’s about 30 chickens, 1 turkey, one-third of a pig, one-tenth of a cow, and dozens of fin fish).

And although per capita consumption has fallen in recent years, we’re still eating far more than our parents and grandparents–including six times as many chickens per capita as were consumed in the 1930’s.

Now, for the first time, we know how much our national meat habit is costing us: Roughly 414 billion dollars annually in external health, environmental, and animal welfare costs, according to a superbly researched new book, Meatonomics, by California attorney David Robinson Simon.

2013-09-03-animalfoodproduction.jpg
Courtesy Meatonomics.com.

If those costs were incorporated into the price, according to Simon’s analysis, animal products would cost almost three times as much as they do today. With the true costs included, consumption levels would plummet.

Simon stresses that his figures are conservative: Because his estimates are limited to those supported by published research, he necessarily omitted some costs that have gone unmeasured in the scientific and economic literature. For example, Simon’s numbers on health care assign only a fraction of the heart disease tally to meat, even though we know that a low fat vegan diet will reverse the disease for almost everyone who has it.

His numbers on the environment look at lost property values due factory farms destroying local environments and carbon offsets, but of course, the external effects of warming are far greater than the value of the offsets, and property values can’t capture the fact that these industrial farms destroy communities and ruin lives.

Finally, his quantification of the cruelty meted out by these industries discusses just five meat industry abuses–such as cramming pigs and chickens into tiny crates where they never spread their limbs or go outside–and relies on consumer willingness to pay to get rid of them. It’s an impressive analysis, based on work published by Oxford University Press and carried out by agricultural economists from Oklahoma State University, but of course these are the sorts of things that defy valuation.

The fact that $414 billion is conservative is in no way a problem with the book, of course–the real figures are incalculable, and conservative figures are more than adequate to accomplish Simon’s task of explaining that the USDA’s promotion of meat, and the lack of inclusion of external costs, mean that Americans consume vastly more of the stuff than we would if we were paying the true costs.

Simon’s solution comes in three parts: An excise tax on all products that contain animal ingredients, a tax credit for every American (basically giving back most of the tax revenues), and a reformulation of the USDA’s mission away from promoting the consumption of animal products to instead promote the public health.

The tax and subsidies are proposals that should be supported by all sides of the political spectrum: Progressives should love them for their positive impact on human health, the environment, and animals. Conservatives should love the consumption focus, as well as the tax relief and reward of responsible behavior.

Though enacting Simon’s proposals will require a steep climb, Simon makes his case persuasively: The meat industry is harming our health, destroying our environment, and abusing billions of animals annually. As he notes in discussing prospects for his plans: “Change does happen, often in swift and surprising ways.”

Meatonomics deserves a prime spot in the library of everyone who cares about the politics of food.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-friedrich/meatonomics-the-bizarre-e_b_3853414.html

What the Future of Food Could Look Like…

One of the largest matters of concern surrounding the issue of climate change (or at least it SHOULD be the largest concern) is what will happen to our global food supply if we carry on business as usual. It has been said many times, right here on OGP, that the fight against climate change begins on your plate. While this is known to be true by many reputable scientists, researchers, and governmental bodies, there is still an outrageous disconnect between the facts and the action that is being taken.

What I am referring to here is the wildly wasteful system of industrialized agriculture that we have in the U.S. and that can be found in countries across the world as well. Driven by an insatiable demand for meat, our entire food system – I’m talking globally here – has been warped beyond any recognizable measure to meet the needs of the meat industry.

The result? A lot of cheap meat, a lot of food being produced to feed that “meat,” and then all the not so great environmental, animal, and human consequences. So in the most ironic of twists, in the pursuit of feeding people, the industrial food complex may be the very thing that causes the massive collapse of major food systems.

Let’s Break This Down

According to the IPCC’s climate report, 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface is being managed for cropland and pasture. That is an incredible area of land all relegated for food production. But the proportion of food produced and food consumed is way out of balance. In the U.S., only 20 percentof the corn grown across 80 MILLION acres of cropland goes to feeding people. The rest is largely portioned off to feed livestock.

It has been estimated that the U.S. could feed 800 million people with the grains that they use to feed livestock. And this is a quickly becoming a global trend as 40 percent of the world’s grain goes to feeding livestock as well. In addition, the demand for corn to feed livestock has lead to the expansion of corn monocultures which are highly susceptible to collapse given an unexpected change in weather or disease.

According to the FAO, in 2007, 270 million tons of meat were produced across the world, every year this number increases by 2.3 percent, meaning by 2014 that number has increased by a significant margin. The energy ratio of the amount of fossil fuel to protein produced for beef is a whopping 54:1. A half a pound of steak contains around 77 grams of protein. Yum, fossil fuels.

Globally, livestock production is responsible for 80 percent of the world’s total methane emissions from agriculture.

As greenhouse gas emissions increase along with an increase of livestock production (as predicted by the FAO’s 2.3 percent per year) carbon dioxide concentrations rise, the IPCC predicts, that crops will flourish. However, the downside is, the additional CO2 comes with an increase in temperature, which over the long-term actually hinders plant growth. In addition, higher temperatures make droughts more common and more severe, making necessary irrigation nearly impossible.

The Two Options for Our Food Future

By now, the picture is pretty clear, if we continue to prioritize meat production over the production of other plant-based proteins then the future of global food supplies is not bright…to say the least.

The alternative, however, does not require new innovative technology but rather is a return to our agriculture roots, so to speak. The sustainable agriculture movement is based around the concepts of ethical and responsible farming, utilizing methods that were relied on for years before the first “concentrated feeding facility” was even created.

Organizations such as Sustainable Table and Slow Food offer an alternative to our current system of industrialized agriculture that if adopted world-wide could greatly mitigate the environmental damage caused by industrialized husbandry.

Using simple methods such as multi-cropping fields to reduce the demands for pesticides and fertilizer and planting a diverse variety of crops, sustainable agriculture is not driven by the demand to feed livestock that will one day become meat, it is driven by the intention of managing the Earth to feed to many people who probably intend on eating for the next thousand or so years…

We have put our food system on a track that is inherently self-destructive. By taking a step back and putting the nature back in agriculture we can create a flourishing food system that will be able to withstand the inevitable “surprises” posed by climate change.

Now, this change won’t happen over night, but you can take real steps to see this happen right now. First and foremost, of course, cutting meat out of your diet is a powerful way to remove your personal burden on animals and the environment. Second, take yourself out of the industrial food complex, try more raw foods, don’t buy produce that has been shipped across the world, and as a rule: don’t eat it if it didn’t come out of the ground. Consumer power is more important than you may think, change your habits and change the world – simple as that!

Source: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/what-the-future-of-food-could-look-like-spoiler-its-not-great/

This Journalist is Launching Drones

If all of these industries had nothing to hide, why are they up in arms about this? If you cannot be transparent and show the truth to your end consumers, you are flat out lying. And if hiding the truth wasn’t enough, marketing any animal product as “happy” or “humane” is wrong and should be forbidden! 

 

Here is the article:

This Journalist is Launching Drones to Expose Factory Farm Abuse (Video)

I had the pleasure of talking with Abby Martin last night on her show Breaking the Set. We looked at new laws backed by the agriculture industry which make it illegal to photograph animal cruelty and environmental abuses on factory farms, and why that prompted me to get creative for my next investigation.

On Kickstarter, I’m raising money to buy drones for aerial photography of factory farms. As Abby noted, this is the first journalism investigation of its kind, and the industry is already up in arms about it.

I met the original fundraising goal in just 5 days, and now I’m expanding the project—I hope you’ll consider donating, and sharing it with friends!

Check out the full video below…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-pySrEW3u4