To live green, don’t eat meat; the planet will thank you

In response to the Living Green feature [“Nov. 17, Xpress”], it’s important to point out its glaring omission regarding one of the most effective and easily doable steps we can take to reduce our carbon footprint and protect the planet: changing our diet.

Research conducted by University of Chicago scientists showed that eating a plant-based diet is healthier for the planet than an animal-based diet, and the food that people eat is just as important as what kind of cars they drive. After a United Nations study concluded that livestock production is one of the major causes of global warming, land degradation, and air and water pollution, the organization warned that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change.

World Bank environmental advisors concluded that the environmental impact of raising animals for food accounts for at least half of all human-caused greenhouse gases. Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown argues compellingly that animal farming is an ecological disaster and that the only real solution to the problem of climate change is to end this grossly unsustainable practice.

We can all agree that — generally speaking — consuming local products as often as possible is an important way to reduce our carbon footprint. However, this does not apply to animal products. To answer those who argue that eating local animal products is an equally effective alternative to following a plant-based diet, Carnegie Mellon researchers found that eating a plant-based diet, even one day per week, drastically eliminates more greenhouse gases than eating an all local diet.
Consuming animals is nothing more than a habit. It’s one that we can and should break — that is, if we really do care about the planet and its ability to sustain future generations.

— Leslie Armstrong
Asheville

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26 thoughts on “To live green, don’t eat meat; the planet will thank you

  1. Johnny

    Yeah, I call “Buncombe” on that research.

    Funny how there’s never a mention of the assumptions used in the studies that get cited over and over by the activist vegans.

    One could easily create a study to show how eating local meats, including some wild game, is far more sustainable using a variety of metrics than purchasing all of one’s protein from mono-cropped soybeans grown thousands of miles away and trucked here.

  2. Cheshire

    Oversimplification, blanket statement without considering all the angles, and you’re the one pointing out “glaring omissions”? How’s that kool-aid taste, Ms. Armstrong?

    I’ve said it before: I have ZERO problem with how people choose to eat. I have a BIG problem with people who attempt to control how I choose to eat. Don’t bother telling me I’m not environmentally conscious solely because I am mostly a carnivore because that’s complete BS.

  3. Velogoat

    None of us is perfect, we all do things that we think matter. So eat what you like but try to keep your head out of the sand…

    Here are two references:
    …the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow which reveals that the production of animals for food is responsible for a larger percentage (18%) of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions than its buildings (8%) or all the planet’s cars, trucks, ships, trains and planes (13%). It also draws upon a 2005 University of Chicago report, Diet, Energy and Global Warming, which concluded that the average driver of a Toyota Camry can reduce his/her carbon footprint the equivalent of switching to a Prius hybrid by eating just a fifth less meat. The recommendation ends, “You can change your light bulbs, buy a hybrid car and plant more trees till the cows come home, but nothing is as effective, available, inexpensive, quick, and powerful for the individual in affecting global warming as the choice of where to put your fork.”

    Recent remarks by the chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that the 18% figure reported in 2006 may be significantly lower than actual and that meat production must be a principal focus in rapidly affecting global warming (because of the global expansion of meat consumption and deforestation, and the new understanding of methane’s primacy).

    Also consider reading this: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html

    We can (and should) all do more.

    And finally, “the Planet” could care less. It will happily go on without us and, once we are gone, relatively quickly eliminate all evidence of our presence.

  4. Piffy!

    The claims in this letter are as fanatical and demonstrably inaccurate as the guy claiming ‘global warming’ is a myth.

    They pick and choose what information they believe, gloss over context and specific details, and prop up their pre-determined ideas.

    Eating meat is not bad for you, nor the planet. Eating food from FACTORY FARMS is bad for the planet, but not all meat comes from factory farms, nor does merely removing meat from one’s diet magically mean all your food comes from idylic farms. Factory farms produce ALL kinds of food, from beans and grains, to veggies and meat.

    Buy local if you want to reduce your strain on the planet.

  5. Barry Summers

    I have a BIG problem with people who attempt to control how I choose to eat.

    Wow, Cheshire. Overreact much? Ms. Armstrong isn’t attempting to ‘control’ what you eat, she’s stating her beliefs. How does this elicit such a virulent, insulting reaction from you?

  6. Stewart David

    Let’s take a look at the latest science. Note that these stories are from the UK, the American media just won’t talk about this issue.

    From The Guardian, June 2, 2010

    UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet: Lesser consumption of animal products is necessary to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change, UN report says

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet

    From The Telegraph, October 2, 2010

    Go vegetarian to save planet, scientists tell Government
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/8079534/Go-vegetarian-to-save-planet-scientists-tell-Government.html

    The studies noted below are just the lastest of many that all reach the same conclusion. It’s just science.

  7. Stewart David

    OOPS. I meant to say the studies ABOVE are just the latest of many that all reach the same conclusion.

  8. phantom28804

    First off I don’t think it’s feasible. I mean if you are going to propose cutting down the consumption of meat and mass slaughtering of animals. Then I feel you could have a valid argument. I do not think it’s feasible to stop big companies like McDonald’s from mass producing meat. Companies with that much money do not fold easily. Kind of like even though you want to use non-fossil fuels for cars you don’t see much change happening there either do you. The bottom line on that angle is that if the company has enough money they will bury any legislation against them so deep it will take decades for it to make it’s way to a vote.

    Secondly I take issue with the argument in general as it implies that we were not meant to eat meat. If you look at the Anthropological data of the world you can not show me anything that shows humans maintaining a vegan diet. Human beings are carnivores by nature, and it’s part of who we are. You can choose to eat vegetables over meat but that is not in our DNA. It’s all part of the food chain. If we stopped eating meat then the animals we consume would multiply, and eventually it would unbalance things in the opposite spectrum resulting in a whole new problem. It’s simple science. There has to be a balance to keep our ecosytem in check.

  9. Barry Summers

    @phantom28804

    What legislation are you referring to? The letter writer only seems to be trying to persuade you to change your own diet – she doesn’t mention legislation any more than she’s threatening to beat down Cheshire’s door with the ATF & pry the hamburger out of his cold dead fingers.

    But we could talk about the massive subsidies that the taxpayers give to the beef/dairy industry.

  10. BigAl

    Here we go again. Now meat eaters want to destroy the planet, and only vegans can stop them.

    Welcome, fascist Druids.

  11. Cheshire

    By insinuating I don’t care, or that I’m being greedy based on the type of food I eat and ignoring that there are ways to eat meat that are environmentally sound…considering I’m a pretty active environmentalist, it’s hard to see that as not trying to control my diet. Yeah, she’s stating her beliefs: she believes everyone needs to be vegetarian or the world is screwed.

    Have you ever known real starvation? I don’t mean “I haven’t eaten in a whole day”, I mean losing muscle mass, destroying your ability to tell when you’re hungry, becoming a walking skeleton in a couple of months starvation. I have, twice: both times when someone else was in the position of controlling my diet…so no, I don’t think I’m overreacting.

  12. Stewart David

    “The cows of the rich eat the food of the poor.”

    Gandhi

  13. Agnes Johnson

    Fine, if carnivores want to eat animals, let them also kill, bleed, and cut their bodies up themselves. Going to the supermarket and buying nicely packaged, nitrite and food coloring laden “meat” blinds one to the suffering of the animals and the disgusting spectacle of a slaughterhouse. Go visit a slaughterhouse. If you come back and still buy shrink wrapped hamburger without considering where and how it got to the store, then your heart needs some softening.

  14. Piffy!

    [b]“The cows of the rich eat the food of the poor.”

    Gandhi [/b]

    Actually, many say that Ghandi renounced vegetarianism in his old age as being mal-nourishing and counter-productive to the poof he advocated for.

    Regardless, Ghandi was never a vegan, and was by David’s logic, a horribly cruel person for drinking milk. So why does he prop up that dead man’s out-of-context quotes to support his own beliefs, when they clearly are not aligned.

  15. Piffy!

    In addition, the inclusion in this thread of the ‘moral’ reasons for not eating animal products does not relate the the premise of the letter, which claims that not eating meat is ‘good for the planet’, something that has still never been shown to be true.

  16. BigAl

    “The cows of the rich eat the food of the poor.”

    Gandhi

    Good for me! I am avenging the poor every time I eat a rich man’s cow.

  17. Johnny

    The so-called “environmental angle” has plenty to be discussed (factory tofu farms, delicious local venison, etc.), but you’re right that’s not the angle that really matters here.

    What really matters to the activist vegan letter writer in the Mtn. Xpress is this moral high ground they want desperately to stake out somehow. It’s about how killing animals for meat is just plain wrong and people shouldn’t do it. Sometimes they’ll drift into the environmental stuff as part of the sideshow to that main focus.

  18. Barry Summers

    Actually, many say that Ghandi renounced vegetarianism in his old age as being mal-nourishing and counter-productive…

    I have looked and found no corroboration for this. Do you have a source? Could it be derived from this (from the wiki page on Gandhi)?:

    “However, late in life he broke his discipline and started taking goat’s milk on the advice of his doctor. This lapse of discipline bothered him to his dying day…”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohandas_Karamchand_Gandhi

    Gandhi lived briefly as a carnivore during his early life (when he proudly called himself a citizen of the British Empire). But apparently, when he went to London as a young man to study law, he met British vegetarians, and became one for the rest of his life.

  19. Piffy!

    [b]I have looked and found no corroboration for this. Do you have a source?[/b]

    Well Barry, I just spent an hour looking for the link i read that on a while back to no avail. So let’s just say it’s not true. I’m a big, fat wrong-O. Although i still say it’s silly for David to reference Ghandi, since I sincerely doubt David spins all his own loin-cloths, or lives in abject poverty in protest of the injustices of the least fortunate around the globe. To prop up one aspect of Ghandi as if it makes your decision to not eat meat something holy is kinda gross, actually.

    Just because you don’t eat meat does not make you a more ‘compassionate’ person.

    [b]What really matters to the activist vegan letter writer in the Mtn. Xpress is this moral high ground they want desperately to stake out somehow. [/b]

    That’s what frustrates me. First, they try and claim it’s about the ‘environment’, and when they can’t actually PROVE that (beyond repeating mis-readings of various UN studies that only refer to factory farms, and not animal husbandry in general) they fall back on the moral argument.

    It’s two entirely different arguments. There is nothing to show that animal husbandry nor consumption of meat is ‘bad for the planet’. Unless, of course, you conflate ‘meat’ with factory farms and over-consumption.

    WNC is lucky to have so many options for local, sustainable food of all kinds, it’s unfortunate that the more dogmatic vegans like Davd aren’t more willing to admit there is a middle path. After all, one can eat a 100% vegan diet that still comes from factory farms and is shipped thousands of miles. And one can be an omnivore (not carnivore since very few eat only meat) that enjoys an entirely local diet with a FAR lower ‘carbon footprint’.

  20. Piffy!

    [b]To answer those who argue that eating local animal products is an equally effective alternative to following a plant-based diet, Carnegie Mellon researchers found that eating a plant-based diet, even one day per week, drastically eliminates more greenhouse gases than eating an all local diet.[/b]

    ACTUALLY, what the study SAYS is that eating a ‘vegetable-based diet is better than the ‘average american diet’. It does not make any such comparison in regard to ‘local meat and animal products’.:

    [i]” They estimate that shifting to an entirely local diet would reduce the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as driving 1,000 miles, while changing only one day per week’s meat and dairy-based calories to chicken, fish or vegetables would have about the same impact. Shifting entirely from an average American diet to a vegetable-based one would reduce the same emissions as 8,000 miles driven per year”.[/i]

    http://www.cmu.edu/news/archive/2008/April/april17_foodmiles.shtml

    So, the letter-writer is completely wrong when he claims that eating veggie is better than local meat.

    The claim that ‘local meat’ is worse than veggies trucked in from california is patently false. My question for the letter-writer is was this lie intentional, or a repeating of something he heard somewhere but did not research himself?

  21. jess

    Who believes this Carbon Foot print crap? It’s just another way for bankers to steal your $$$ When Multi-National Corporations stop raping pillaging & polluting, then I’ll consider bringing my own bags to green Grocers. Now then this I’ve steak to cook!

  22. Cheshire

    “When Multi-National Corporations stop raping pillaging & polluting, then I’ll consider bringing my own bags to green Grocers.”

    So…you’re saying you’re not going to do anything until everyone else goes first? Come on…show some backbone and take some initiative. How does bringing your own bags feed corporations’ banks? There’s no connection between the two.

  23. Bjorn

    Anyone who cites the World Bank to justify morality, obviously doesn’t understand the greater agenda of the Carbon Dictatorship.

    It’s not about green house gas & rising sea levels it’s about reducing the population of the planet. Search “Agenda 21”

  24. mechanic

    It is moral high ground to not eat meat, yep it is.

    It’s a benefit on three levels- 1) Your own personal health
    2) The health of the planet
    3) To end animal abuse, slaughter, cruelty.

    Yes sir, moral high ground is right and like many other issues that take a morally responsible stance in order to provide a cleaner, healthier life for ourselves and our children, count me in!!

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