Published: 4th February 2013
This is a guest post. Author: Andy Gosling
Andy and I have been friends for a number of years now, he is a former work colleague of mine. Every so often we’ll meet up and have a catch-up over coffee and and discuss politics, current affairs and the like. We’re just a pair of geeks really.
There are many reasons why people choose to cut out meat from their diet, but you may be shocked or confused to find out that this is not simply due to a love for animals. This guest blog is going to address the reasons for going meat free that have NOTHING to do with animals at all (well – the ones that we consider edible).
When most people think of a vegetarian or a vegan (someone who doesn’t consume any products such as dairy and eggs), I’m sure the common vision that springs to mind is of a long haired tie-dye wearing hippy with a megaphone shouting about why they don’t want you to chop down the tree that they’ve tied them self to.
More and more ‘normal’ everyday people are either drastically reducing their consumption of animal products (helped by campaigns such as ‘Meat Free Monday‘) – or cutting them out altogether – with an estimated 50% increase in vegetarians in the UK this year. The ability to walk into any major supermarket or High Street and buy faux chicken nuggets, bacon and even fish free prawns, makes it easier than ever before. There are some vegetarians who will never have encountered beans, lentils and tofu!
The newest thing that has been documented in the media over the past few weeks, since the horse burger scandal, is the rise in ‘flexitarianism‘, those who are mainly vegetarian but occasionally still eat meat. Great for those who don’t feel that they could go cold turkey – for want of a better phrase!
With the revelations of horse and pig DNA being found in supermarket burgers and Burger King Whoppers in the UK, the ethics of meat eating, and which animals we choose to eat, was for a brief moment brought to the forefront of our news – leaving many people now questioning their choices. I’m here to explain to you why many people are now choosing to live on a plant based diet, but not necessarily because they have a care for animals.
I don’t mean the flu, or an outbreak of measles. I’m talking diabetes, heart conditions and cancer.
The China Study, widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted, spanning a 20 year period and covering 6,500 people, and what the celebrity endorsed film Forks over Knives is based on.
A nutritional scientist, Dr Colin T Campbell (who incidentally was raised on a dairy farm) was exploring various issues regarding the explosive rise in obesity and cancer sufferers in the United States of America – when after two decades of research he made a stunning revelation.
To cut a long story short – he couldn’t understand why there was an obesity crisis in the US, and also so many cancer deaths, but in other countries, such as China, there were extremely fewer cases. We are all the same species after all, so why was there such a contrast?
During his research Campbell found that there were isolated pockets of areas in China appearing, where deaths from cancer and diabetes had suddenly risen, whilst everywhere else in China rates had stayed low. These are people from the same country – so what was going on?
The answer: In the pockets of isolated areas where these rises had appeared, there was something they had that everywhere else in China didn’t have. Western influence.
These areas had acquired US television channels, which in turn created demand for US products and companies such as McDonalds, various pizza outlets and diners selling hot dogs and milkshakes etc. The ONLY difference was diet.
‘How can meat, dairy etc cause these diseases?’
Well, with the majority of our food having been factory farmed in horrendous conditions, the way these animals are kept alive is by being fed an absurd amount of antibiotics and drugs. Think about it: when you eat meat, you are eating the flesh and blood of that animal, so whatever is has eaten, whatever is in its body, is heading straight into your body.
Are cows, pigs, sheep, chickens given full body examinations to make sure they themselves don’t have cancerous cells in them before they are chopped up and used as part of your dinner? I very much doubt it.
Make the connection.
‘Going vegetarian or at least reducing my meat intake will help save the lives of other humans.’
Allow me to explain.
It is not possible for any animal to get to its sufficient size before it is killed for food without it having something to eat or drink first. And as we know from various Oxfam adverts, Comic Relief and various other channels, not everyone has enough food to eat or clean water to drink.
An estimated 850 million people go to bed hungry, with around 60,000 people per day dying from starvation or thirst. That’s not to mention diseases related to the drinking of unclean water.
The worlds cattle alone consume enough food for NINE BILLION people. That statistic alone shows that we do actually produce more than enough food to feed everyone on this planet.
It takes 2kg of grain to produce 450 grams of chicken, 3.3kg of grain to produce 450g of pork, even farmed fish are fed 2.5kg of wild caught fish each.
In my opinion it is criminally wasteful to feed perfectly edible food to farmed animals whilst children of our own species are dying. Essentially there is direct competition for the worlds grain between affluent meat eaters and the worlds poor.
To end world hunger forever, we need 40 million tonnes of grain. Sounds a lot. Well we give TWENTY TIMES that amount to farm animals, so that we can produce the next Big Mac’s and Whoppers, yearly.
‘So, how can I help? It’s not like I can physically take the grain to Africa!’
Eating less meat means less demand for the product. Less demand for the product means less animals being bred-raised-killed. Less animals being bred-raised-killed equals more grain and fresh water to go around.
How about we look after those less fortunate among our own species? After all, we know that there is more than enough food and water to share among us. Once we know that the less fortunate have enough to survive, only then should we consider using what’s left to fatten up animals that will be fed to us rich Westerners.
We have a choice as to what we eat. A family in Kenya does not.
Make the connection.
[I have not even touched upon the amount of fresh water we use/waste to produce meat. The photo below shows the water required for generic meals that we can choose from.]
The UN, essentially the group of people charged with keeping an eye on everything that goes on, have for many years been telling us one of the craziest/scariest facts there is.
We all know about C02 emissions and Global Warming/Climate Change, and the man on the street would probably think that things such as cars and air travel are the biggest contributors to this. Wrong.
According to the United Nations, the production of livestock for meat emits more C02 than every boat, car, train and plane – COMBINED. (Click here if you don’t believe me!)
Although of course, the powers that be make sure important information such as this stays out of our media, and thus allowing us to keep up with the Kardashians or something else equally as pointless.
The production of livestock for meat is the biggest threat to the future of our planet, and is going to have the greatest impact on what life is going to be like for your children, and your grandchildren.
Quite simply, you cannot be an environmentalist, or consider yourself ‘green’ if you eat meat. To say you want to save the planet and/or prevent climate change whilst contributing to the main cause of it is completely hypocritical.
Livestock now take-up 30% – almost a third – of the Earths entire land surface. This is both for grazing (where the animals actually are), and lands used to produce the feed for livestock. Of course, something has to give to make space for this.
If I spoke to you about the Amazon forests in South America, you’d probably think it was still a vast eco-system where you dare not venture for fear of getting lost forever. If your grandparents said this when they were younger, then I would have agreed, however you now have a much better chance of getting out alive.
70%, I repeat, SEVENTY PERCENT of the Amazon, has now been deforested and turned into grazing pastures for farm animals.
What is is that enjoys breathing in carbon dioxide from the air, and in turn providing us with oxygen?… Trees. Less trees – more carbon dioxide. I see a trend developing here.
Make the connection.
Earlier on in this article I mentioned people perhaps going veggie – but not because they care about farm animals. You may, however, still enjoy watching David Attenborough’s stunning documentaries, and like animals such as orangutans or tigers.
To create space for the explosion in farm animals needed to feed the worlds demand for meat, we have been forced to take down natural habitat to make room for this, whether it’s for grazing or for a huge factory farm. Destroying the homes of wild animals.
As an example, Brunei actually own a cattle ranch in Australia that they use to produce beef for their country. In terms of land mass the cattle ranch is bigger than their own country!
For an example closer to home, we should look at the planned badger cull. There hasn’t been a rise in the badger population, so why all of a sudden do they need culling? It’s because we want more beef and milk. If the badgers come into close proximity of cows then they can transfer tuberculosis.
More cows and larger dairy farms means that cows are getting closer to the badgers habitat, and but of course, consuming burgers and ice cream is deemed more important than keeping one of our native species in good numbers, and so the badgers have to go.
The population of many species of wild animals in rapid decline, both due to deforestation and development for the growing human population and our requirements. The growing population means that we need even MORE room to raise the thousands of animals that each human will eat – it’s a vicious cycle.
Make the connection.
Paul McCartney famously said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Now, those words can be taken both literally, but also in context.
The point being, there is a process that takes place for everything on this planet, be it the process of a baby sheep becoming a lamb shank, or of oil from far beneath the desert becoming a DVD case or a plastic bag.
Everything has a beginning and an end. The plastic bag wasn’t picked by Tesco’s from their plastic bag growing tree, and the shrink wrapped pork chop on a supermarket shelf did not start out life as that.
If we could all start thinking about the processes of how things come to be, and what has gone into making this ‘thing’ what it is, we would then realise just how much impact everything we choose to do or buy has on the planet, on animals, and on fellow human beings. Whether it’s a hungry family in a poor country, or YOUR future grandchildren’s lives.
By all means live for today, but also think about the past and be more vigilant in general. Remember that there will be a future after we’re gone. It is our job to look after the planet.
Let’s not be remembered as the generation who knew what they were doing wrong, and yet stood back and watched. I for one do not want to have to look my grandchild in the eye when he or she asks, “But why didn’t you do anything?”
Make the connection. Make a difference.
I personally would like to thank Andy for this fascinating, thought-provoking post. If you have any thoughts, opinions or questions on any of the above, Andy can be found on Twitter, @Andy_Gosling.
There will be a follow up/response to this post in a fortnights time by your usual author Ryan Pitcher – stay tuned for that!