Say and eat what you want

In reply to Scott Smith's letter on vegetarians ["Vegetarians Are Too Pushy About Their Lifestyle," Nov. 4]:

Dear Scott, I am sorry that you are so offended by vegetarians. No doubt this is a free country, and you can say and eat pretty much whatever you want. But lifestyle does come with a price. Despite the faulty logic in comparing eating vegetables to slaughtering an animal, you forgot an even more compelling argument for reducing meat consumption, if not becoming totally vegetarian: The impact of meat-farming on the resources and health of the planet is tremendous. In addition to severe water pollution from animal production and slaughter, the carbon footprint of the meat industry accounts for 18 percent of all man-made greenhouse gases. To add insult to injury, meat farming involves inefficient use of resources. It is a well-known fact that growing grains for direct human consumption will feed six to 10 times the amount of people with the same plot of land. With the earth's human population reaching near carrying capacity, meat eating may well be become the gas-guzzler habit of the future.

— Rudranath Beharrysingh

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13 thoughts on “Say and eat what you want

  1. Piffy!


    [b]To add insult to injury, meat farming involves inefficient use of resources. It is a well-known fact that growing grains for direct human consumption will feed six to 10 times the amount of people with the same plot of land.[/b]

    It is not a fact. It is a commonly-perpetuated myth that relies on simplifying a complex issue.

    First of all, this assertion pretends there is a food, or even grain shortage. There isn’t.* Nations regularly have enormous stores of leftover food every year, in addition to the daily food waste in every industrialized country.

    Not to mention that the soy and grain fed to these animals is not fit for human consumption anyway, and that to say “on the same plot of land” makes no sense, since often animals can be raised on land that coudnt be used to grow other crops.

    But more importantly, it is based on numbers for a very specific type of ‘meat farming’, and is in no way a fair estimate for land or grain usage for meat in general. There are many, many different ways to raise animals that have a far lower impact than these examples. The Asheville area alone offers many alternatives that have a far smaller ‘footprint’ than these numbers suggest.

    I’m all for people eating whatever the heck they want, and certainly think that eating less meat (and less food in general) is a great goal, but these numbers have been thrown around by vegetarians for too long. Industrial Agriculture in all its forms is the problem, not just one facet of it.

    Regardless of what they are producing, be it beef, Chicken, soy, rice, veggies, etc- massive monoculture ‘farms’ have an enormous environmental footprint.

    Every statistic I have seen to support the vague “6-10 times” figure referred to above is referencing some of the largest agribusiness “Farms”, run by companies like Cargil. You could just as easily claim a ‘vegetarian’ diet has an enormous footprint by merely looking at the worst examples of grain and soy production.

    To simplify it into “meat bad, vegetarian good” is just not true, when one takes the time to actually analyzes the figures instead of just believing whatever is put in front of you. As far as the ‘environment” goes, a local diet full of many different types of food is by far, more “green” than any arbitrary lines drawn around whether you eat animal products or not.

    In other words, i’ll take my locally produced goat cheese over that soy milk (from where?) any day.

  2. chops

    ????, Pay attention!

    Rudranath never asserted that there is a food shortage. Why do you dwell on this?

    Sometimes, one needs to simplify a issue for people to understand. “Meat bad, veg good” does, in fact, ring true when you consider that eating foods that are lower on the food chain fosters a more efficient use of resources. Yes, there are exceptions on both sides of this argument, but overall — veg production has more sustainability.

    When vegetarians talk about population, energy, water, and land use, the point is that we have an unsustainable model of consumption in this world, and something needs to be done about it. Modifying your personal consumption is one way to help.

    Am I being pushy? ;)

    Eating local goat cheese is more sustainable than the alternative, I agree. But you should not deny the fact that a vegetarian, on average, has a smaller carbon footprint than a meat-eater.

    Let this message be heard.

  3. travelah

    meat eating carbon footprints …. the seedpodders are at it again.

  4. Piffy!


    So your point is that it’s okay to make false statements in the name of something you deem as “good”?

    re-read my post, silly.

  5. TokyoTaos

    I am reposting the comment I made on the letter last week on this same topic because I think it’s important to get away from all-or-nothing/either-or thinking:

    I am a meat eater too (I tried vegetarianism for five years but didn’t do well on it.) While I don’t like anyone pushing their lifestyle on me I can definitely empathize with some of the concerns of the vegetarian community – mainly the cruel treatment and slaughter of the majority of farm animals (or really factory animals at this point.) I do the best I can by trying to eat local free-range meat but don’t always succeed. I think if the issue was focused on changing the way we raise and kill animals rather than the alienating all-or-nothing issue of being a vegetarian or not (ie; vegetarian = good, meat-eater = bad) some real change could happen in that industry. It’s a hard issue! I also know the each pound I eat in meat is made up of many more pounds of grain and gallons of water and that the earth would be better off if I became a vegetarian again – but I always end up choosing my own health and vitality first – I and many other women I know in their 3os and 40s who were vegetarians at one point thrive better when we switch to at least some animal protein. As I said these are hard issues and all-or-nothing thinking doesn’t get us closer to a real discussion.

  6. former pfff

    [b]You have offered no proof of “false statements”. [/b]

    Neither you, nor the author, has provided any proof to back up the “6 to 10 times” number. Feel free to provide a link proving this true.

  7. Johnny

    Beer hogs up many acres of land that does not produce “food” for human consumption. we won’t argue about that will we? Eat healthy, a well balanced diet of veggies and meat protein, and a beer or two. Love ya!

  8. lilith

    We stab at this thing every which way but the root. As long as animals are raised and slaughtered humanely, it’s a good idea to eat some animal protein. In the ecological pinch we’re in now, it’s admirable to have given the practice up for the greater good along with stopping alcohol and tobacco consumption. I have done none of the above, nor given up my pets. But I did choose to remain childless. I’m 32 and with my alcohol and tobacco consumption that means in less time than I’ve been alive now I’ll probably be dead and my footprint will end. Babies, and especially babies that breed in their parents lifetime, increase exponentially even a vegans’ environmental destruction.

    The goal of future generations shouldn’t be to cram ourselves onto the entire planet like Hong Kong eating nothing but algae and fungus. The problem is the Earth’s human population grew in accordance with technology until the resource of oil made everything too easy. Then antibiotics and vaccines caused mortality rates to drop. Then religious organizations in conjunction with corporate governments started exporting petrol and medical technology to regions where women do not have equal rights. Result: 1 billion to 7 billion humans in 200 years and the model for perpetual market growth/neo-conservatism was enacted.

    Solution? Worldwide effort to reduce population over the next 200 years back to it’s pre-oil population of 1 billion. Big part of the stop-gap? Americans stop making babies because we make most of the pollution. That population can be made up incrementally in the future through immigration and I PROMISE, the world will not experience a shortage of humans and global citizens of the future can enjoy tuna sashimi, ribeye steaks, swimming pools, and cathedral ceilings and spend their energy on loftier concepts than guilt.

    Please respond with comments more creative than “maoist”/”malthusian”/”racist”/”nazi”/”misanthrope”/”nihilist” because what I am saying is the truth and you know it.

  9. Carrie

    I agree, the way to make less of an impact is to stop having children. SHOCKING I know. Previous comments are correct, the message has been “breed more” of “our” kind. I’m not attacking mothers/families or anyone else that wants to have children. I think that is wonderful. I just wish a little social responsibility would come in to play.

    I would love to see the “carbon footprint” that one new person will do. (a child) Let’s see:)

  10. Piffy!

    so, would eating children be the most environmental choice possible?

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