16 April, 2008

10 reasons to go vegetarian (or at least decrease meat consumption)

People often ask me why I decided to become a vegetarian. There are many, many reasons, but the recent riots in the Caribbean and Africa have reaffirmed my commitment to eschew meat and animal products. This morning I feel compelled to share some basic facts:
  1. Over seventy percent of American grain and eighty percent of American corn is fed to farm animals.
  2. According to a Cornell University study, the amount of grain consumed by animals could feed approximately 800 million hungry people.
  3. Valuable water resources are also squandered for meat production. Producing just ten pounds of steak requires the same amount of water as is used by an average household for an entire year.
  4. An estimated 4,000 gallons of water is needed to produce a one day, animal-based food supply for an average American; a one day, plant- based food supply would only require about 300 gallons.
  5. Intensive animal agriculture is a vast user of fossil fuel, mainly for the production of feed. A grain-fed steer who ingests twenty five pounds of corn a day and lives to reach a weight of approximately 1,250 pounds, consumes almost 284 gallons of fossil fuel throughout his life.
For more chilling statistics please visit Veg for Life.

And if that wasn't convincing enough have a look at this:
  1. Every year in the UK livestock are given enough food to feed 250,000,000 people while in the world 30,000,000 people die of starvation
  2. 20 vegetarians can live off the land required by one meat eater
  3. Every 3 seconds a child dies of starvation somewhere in the world
  4. If Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10% it would free 12,000,000 tons of grain - enough to feed 60,000,000 people (the population of Great Britain)
  5. If all Americans became vegetarian, it would free enough grain to feed 600,000,000 people (the population of India)
  6. The UK imports £46,000,000 worth of grain from third world countries to feed our livestock
  7. Due to overgrazing 850,000,000 people live on land threatened by desertification & over 230,000,000 already live on land so severely desertified that they are unable to sustain their existence & face imminent starvation
  8. 1 acre yields 165 lbs of beef or 20,000 lbs of potatoes
  9. 8/10 of cultivated land in the UK is used to grow food for animals (14,732,000 hectares)
  10. It takes 16lbs of high protein soya to produce 1 lb of beef
*These and plenty more reasons are listed at ARC


anno said...

You've hit a topic that's been on my mind these days -- thanks for these reminders!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What a powerful post, Betsy. This is really something to think about. But would you just need to be a vegetarian or would you need to be a vegan? What about dairy and egg production? What about fish? I'm asking this more in terms of discussing it with my family. I've been a vegetarian and flexitarian at other points in my life, but my ds's tastes are so pedestrian that we actually are eating more meat now. OTOH, he's really wanting to do something to be proactive aobut the environment. Any help you could send me about my questions would be extremely appreciated!

Betsy said...

You know, I don't think it's an all-or-nothing type of issue at all. I may be leaning towards veganism but my husband loves meat and I still cook fish once a week for the boys just to ensure that they are getting enough protein since they're growing so fast.

I do think, though, that every little bit helps. I was really struck by this statistic:

"If Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10% it would free 12,000,000 tons of grain - enough to feed 60,000,000 people (the population of Great Britain)"

One vegetarian day in 10 is probably a good place to start! That way it might be less threatening to your family and might seem like a culinary adventure rather than deprivation...

You could always reassess later and see if you want to go further or not, but you can feel good about making that one step!

Coincidentally NPR did a piece today on the rising demand for meat and its toll on the environment. And a couple of weeks ago they interviewed someone who had given it up for lent.

Good luck and keep me posted on how it works out! :-)

anno said...

Like Jen, I find myself often wondering about dairy & egg production, or whether it's better/more important to buy locally-grown produce vs. the organic stuff that's available year-round, but grown in California... and then I start to wonder if it's a bit precious to think so much about what one puts on one's plate. rather than simply being grateful that there is food on it. But then these headlines about food riots and shortages put the issue into a larger perspective, and my questions are renewed.

I'm trying to work my way through Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma -- slowly at the moment, as I had to return the book to the library -- which has some interesting ideas to contribute to the discussion. For example, did you know that the new hybridized corn seeds require more than twice as much petroleum energy to grow than they contribute in calories. Of course, the yields per acre are much higher... As soon as I finish this one, I'm definitely going to take a look at his latest book, In Defense of Food.

Greg said...

A timely post, indeed! Within a week I've heard that the United Nations has called for a world-wide overall of farming practices; that is, moving away from agri-business practices. I eat meat but try to eat grass-fed meat.
Additionally, the West's press for bio-fuels has driven up the cost of grains beyond the reach of many...an 80% increase in the price of food over the pasat 2 years!

Africakid said...

I strongly agree about decreasing our meat consumption--if we do eat meat. When the South Beach diet and Adkins diet became so popular, I cringed! My family's slowly moving in the direction of more fruits and veggies...(glacier speed, perhaps? But still trying!).

Brit Sung Kyung Kim said...

Betsy! I'm soo proud to know U! now - after a lifetime as vegetarian and the 'teen riot' ideas on how anyone could kill animals with soft fur and deep deep eyes of love was elaborated into politics and capital then I realized after many a party or dinner out.. that these facts, 'people' didn't want to hear ! and to avoid myself from dropping out of social life - I'd just eat my veggie food and stay low profile and... now-a-days - people when becoming aware on how the steak or eggs are PRODUCED! are stunned and somewhat dismayed.. omg. I'll stop my 'confessions of a veggie' now..:) Just Thanks for bringing this up and... a big hug and smile from miii

I DO HAVE LOTs of 'canine' friends ;)and love them lots

ps.. did you also read the calculation that all grown up US people 'contain'/carry' some 1-1½ kgs of undigested meat in their digestion system for up to weeks..
sorry that was a low stroke.. I've got to stop my ramblings.. now.

Marianne Arkins said...

Yeppers... it's why I eat nearly no meat. Besides all that, it's just plain healthier.

Just wish I could get my DH to realize that. Honestly, I'd probably go vegan if I was single, but cooking separately is really tough.