Anyone who knows me, knows I cannot stand people who try to force their views on others, though proselytizing and expressing opinions are different. And so while I generally do not spend a huge amount of time telling others why I think they should be vegan, I had to write an essay for classing using a classical schema to argue a controversial topic. And so naturally I chose the issue of veganism and global warming. I sometimes want to cry if I walk through the meat section of a supermarket, so I carefully avoid those aisles. But when it comes to the environment, I get heated! So I wanted to post my argument here and I think I'm going to put it in a facebook note as well. So enjoy and feel free to comment.
You cannot call yourself an environmentalist or actually care about global warming if you are not a vegan. With global warming on the rise, appearing more often now in news reports and documentaries like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, more and more Americans are becoming conscious of the current environmental devastation and beginning to do their parts. Recycling is on the rise, more and more people are bringing reusable bags to the supermarket and driving hybrid cars. But there is one major factor in the global warming equation and that is the meat industry.
This essay will prove to you that while all of the above mentioned ways of going green are great, switching to a vegan diet and encouraging others to do so will have the greatest impact on this world threatening situation. After examining the affect of fossil fuels and greenhouse emissions associated with factory farming, as well as how the meat industry impacts the rainforest, you will see that the only way to truly make a significant and positive impact on the planet, to slow down the affects of global warming, is to adopt a vegan diet.
Agriculture accounts for more than 1/3 of the fossil fuels being emitted in the United States. Currently, the emission of fossil fuels is occurring at an alarmingly fast pace, depleting our source faster than we can create more. The emission of these fuels from the earth release carbon monoxide into the air, which is fine in certain amounts, but right now we are experiencing a severe excess. It takes ten times the amount of fossil fuels to produce one calorie of animal protein than a plant protein. With the booming meat industry, we have an excess of poisonous gases in the air, raising the earth’s temperatures, and polluting the air we breathe.
Let’s not forget the entire process surrounding the production of meat. Animals must be transported to the slaughterhouses, often being driven in non-fuel efficient trucks, where during the slaughter process a vast amount of energy is used. From the slaughter house to the processing plants, to the factory, to the supermarket, they may be transported in refrigerated trucks, also depleting the earth of its energy and resources. But we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves here. We cannot raise livestock to eat as food, if we do not produce and transport food for the animals first. And so we have the process being repeated, of consuming energy to produce grains, and transporting the grains to feed these animals. Think about the amount of fossil fuels emitted, and energy consumed the next time you take a bite out of your hamburger.
Here’s something else to consider as you eat your burger. Where did these animals, whom we had to feed, slaughter and transport multiple times before they made it to your dinner table live? Quite possibly in a depleted rain forest from Central America from where America imports about 200 million pounds of beef. Transportation of beef from Central America to the United States don’t forget requires even more energy consumption than simply shopping local. For one hamburger made from a cow grazing on rain forested land, 55 square feet of the forest has been cut down. How about attending a beef and beer party? If you plan for fifty people, that’s 2,750 square feet of the rain forest you can kiss good bye. In the United States alone, over 260 million acres of forest have been chopped down to accommodate the animals being readied for slaughter.
How about those gases other than carbon dioxide leading to global warming like methane and nitrous oxide? Where are they coming from? The agriculture industry is the leading cause of these emissions into the atmosphere. Animal farms are the number one cause of methane release, which is twenty times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is even worse, trapping 300 times the amount of heat as carbon dioxide. And sixty five perfect of its emissions are from the meat, egg, and dairy industries according to the U.N.
Though we are often told about car pooling, taking the bus, and purchasing recycled goods, a 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry released more greenhouse gases than all of the SUVS, cars, planes, and trucks in the entire world, combined. If every American skipped one meal of meat per week they would save in carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the U.S. roads. Many environmentalists are encouraging hybrid cars. Hybrid cars are great; they conserves just a little over a ton of carbon dioxide a year. That’s great. What’s even better? A vegan diet conserves one and a half tons of carbon dioxide.
Many might object to a vegan diet, citing the need for protein: that the bible supposedly says it is our duty to eat meat: that we would destroy industries and worsen the economy, and so on. These are all valid arguments that deserve to be fought individually. However, the greatest threat to our lives today is not our protein intake, and it is not how much money we are making. It’s the dangerous destruction of our environment. If we lose our living conditions on earth, none of the above arguments will really matter much. Global warming is a real and serious problem that the world is beginning to combat. While hybrid cars, car-pooling, and reusable shopping bags are all wonderful additions to helping the cause, we need to be effective, we need big results, and we need them now. The only way we can all achieve this is to lessen our consumption of meat. At the very least cutting down on meals of meat will give dramatic results. But to see a new renewed earth, you should seriously consider becoming a vegan today.