By Danielle Alexander
“I don’t like titles,” is my response when people ask, post my tofu order, if I’m a vegetarian. I’ve learned from watching other people address their vegetarian-ness that meat consumption or lack thereof, is a controversial subject. I often brush off the topic by saying things like, “I don’t like meat, never have, that’s why I don’t eat it.” I am not one to scream, “Meat is murder” or impose my views on my carnivorous friends, boyfriends or acquaintances. (Funny side note: I’ve actually never dated a vegetarian). Nevertheless, I am going to enlighten you, once and for all, as to why I am a vegetarian.
I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons around the age of 15. I was by no means an obsessed animal lover but I knew there was something fishy about killing animals to eat them — and it kind of grossed me out. As I got older I became more educated about the environmental impact of eating meat. Raising livestock uses up crazy amounts of natural resources like water, fossil fuels and topsoil. It also pollutes the air and water. I was shocked to learn that methane, a gas emitted when cows fart, is a major contributor to global warming.
Let’s crunch some numbers:
The Math of Meat Consumption
17 BILLION is the number of livestock in the world. (3 x more than people)
14.37 MILLION square miles is the amount of land used to feed livestock (26% of the earth’s surface, according to the United Nations)
2, 500 gallons of water is the amount that it takes to produce 1 pound of beef. With that same amount of water you could take a 7-minute shower every day for 6 months.*
80% of antibiotics sold in the United States are given to animals. After realizing that antibiotics speed up and increase the growth of their livestock farmers quickly started to medicate. 80% of antibiotics are given through feed, 17% given through water and 3% given through injection.
32.6 BILLION tons of Carbon dioxide is produced annually by livestock and its byproducts
That’s 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. Breakdown here.
Although turning the masses onto vegetarianism is a way to eradicate this problem, I don’t expect my meat loving friends to give up the fleshy stuff (too far?). An amazing movement was started by Sir Paul McCartney called Meat Free Mondays. Meat free Mondays suggests that people cut out meat one day a week. Cutting back will make a huge difference and will slow down climate change. Try it for a month. See how you feel.
And remember: things are definitely greener on the vegetarian side.
*According to Dr. Georg Borgstrom, Chairman of Food and Science and Human Nutrition Dept of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University.