Vegetarianism: It does a body (and planet) good

go vegetarian, save the planet

You’ve probably heard a lot about how you can help save the planet but you might not have heard how much you can help by making a few changes in what you eat, not to mention how much you can improve your own health.

The Standard American Diet (SAD), based on large-scale consumption of animal products, is a major contributor to our most serious problems.

Producing the food that makes up the SAD has a staggering effect on the environment – from wasting and polluting waters, burning excessive amounts of fossil fuels to eroding the topsoil that sustains us. The environmental impact of the SAD comes down to the inefficiency of one equation: it takes 16 lbs. of grain to yield one lb. of meat. There is also the social impact of this equation: when the rich nations consume large amounts of animal-based food, there are not enough resources left to feed the poor.

Consuming the SAD also has a destructive impact on human health, contributing to heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney failure and other diseases.

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Simply reducing the amount of animal products we eat and produce would go a long way in healing all of the following problems:

Deforestation. 55 sq. ft. of tropical rainforest are consumed with every quarter pound of rainforest beef. In 1989 alone, 120 thousand sq. miles of rain forest were cleared for beef cattle production. 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to raise feed for food animals, but only 56 million acres are needed to grow food for a vegetarian diet. The fewer animal products we consume, the more trees and natural land we’ll have. In fact, for each individual who switches from a typical meat centered diet to a pure vegetarian one, an acre of trees is spared.

Topsoil Erosion. It takes 20 times more land to produce the SAD than a plant-based diet. That puts pressure on our farmers to farm more land and farm it intensively, leading to heavy use of polluting fertilizers, toxic pesticides and farming methods that lead to erosion and topsoil loss. Over 75% of our topsoil is already gone and 85% of that is directly associated with animal agriculture.

Plant-based food production requires only 5% of the farmland needed for, animal-based production. As we eat more plant-based meals, we take pressure off our farmland and allow it to be rescued through less intensive use, crop rotation and organic farming methods.

Water Shortages. It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat but only 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat. The meat industry alone consumes over 50% of all water used in the U.S. Most of the water is used to irrigate the pasture and crops that livestock eat. 85-95% of all grain and legumes grown and irrigated in the U.S. is fed to livestock. Eating plant-based meals instead of animal-based meals saves thousands of gallons of fresh water.

Water Pollution. The majority of animals used to maintain our SAD are kept in large factory farms. These cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens produce 20 times the excrement of the entire human population. Because these animals are injected, fed and sprayed with antibiotics and pesticides, their waste is filled with toxic chemicals. Much of it is washed by rains, untreated, into our waters. Feedlot wastes are 10-100 times more concentrated than human sewage. 90% of the organic water pollution in the U.S. is attributable to animal agriculture.

Energy Shortages. It takes 40 times the fossil fuel to produce a pound of protein from feedlot beef than to produce a pound of protein from soybeans. The production of livestock alone uses 33% of all raw materials, including fossil fuels, consumed in the U.S. A plant-based diet would consume only 2% of all raw materials consumed in the U.S.

If everyone on the planet ate our SAD, we’d have enough petroleum to last only 13 more years; if everyone ate a plant-based diet, our petroleum would last 260 years. At the current rate of oil consumption, we will be out of petroleum in 40 years. Eating less animal products reduces our nonrenewable energy needs, lessening our dependency on oil, and giving us time to develop renewable sources of energy.

agriculture as climate killer

Global Warming. Burning fossil fuels, which produces carbon dioxide, is a major cause of the greenhouse effect. Another contributor to global warming is deforestation. Burning trees puts more carbon dioxide in the air while reducing the number of trees that can turn C02 into oxygen. You reduce carbon dioxide pollution more by not eating 7 rainforest beef hamburgers than you would by not driving, your car for an entire year. Methane is also a greenhouse gas, one that traps 25 times more solar heat than C02. One of the primary sources of methane is cattle, which release methane as part of their digestive process. The less animal products we consume, the less fuel we’ll burn, the less forests we’ll destroy, the less cattle will be raised, and the less our climate will be altered.

World Hunger. One acre of land can produce 40,000 lbs of potatoes or 250 lbs of beef. The same piece of land that supports one person with an animal based diet can feed 15 people eating a plant-based diet. It is so inefficient to raise animals for food that simply reducing our consumption of animal products by just 10% (one meal out of ten), would free up enough resources to feed every one the 20 million people who die of starvation every year.

Life Threatening Diseases. We have been conditioned to believe that we need to eat large amounts of meat, dairy products and eggs to be healthy. There is now overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that animal products contribute to heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. These diseases occur rarely among people who eat a plant-based diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts provide all the nutrients we need for a healthy body.

Cardiovascular Disease. The number one cause of death in the U.S. is cholesterol and saturated fat blocking the arteries and causing heart attacks and strokes. Cholesterol is found only in animal products. Saturated fat is found in all animal products and very few plant products. By eating a totally vegetarian, plant-based diet you reduce your risk of heart attack by 90%.

Excess Protein. Many people worry about not getting enough protein but the real danger lies in getting too much. According to the World Health Organization and the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S.D.A., 4.5-6% of our daily calorie total should he from protein. Mother’s milk – the perfect food for infants – contains only 5% protein. That is nature’s way of telling us that our bodies need very little protein. When we take in concentrated protein from animal products, our bodies take calcium from our bones in an attempt to deal with the excess protein, creating diseases such as kidney failure and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is actually a disease of protein excess, not calcium deficiency. Get your protein and calcium from plant foods like the cows, pigs and chickens do.

Toxins, Pesticides, Hormones and Antibiotics. Many people are concerned about the pesticides in vegetables, but we really need to be concerned about the pesticides, hormones, and diseases in the animals that we eat. 80% of pigs have pneumonia and 90% of chickens have cancer at slaughter. The residues of pesticides and hormones accumulate in the fat cells of the animals over their lifetime and are far more concentrated and dangerous than the pesticides sprayed on fruits and vegetables.

More than half of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to food animals. Scientists believe this is a contributing factor to the declining effectiveness of antibiotics in humans. This, along with the accumulated toxins in animal products, weakens our immune system, contributing to such diseases as cancer and AIDS. The breast milk of mothers eating animal products contains 35 times the contamination by toxins as that of mothers eating a plant-based diet. We are not only what we eat but also what they ate.

Cruelty. To meet the demands of our SAD, about 666,000 animals are slaughtered every hour in the U.S. The majority of these food animals are raised in factory farms in overcrowded, unnatural conditions, never seeing daylight. Treated as commodities rather than as creatures capable of feeling pain, their short lives are filled with suffering. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize said, "Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace."

{xtypo_quote_right}All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of Earth. Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.’ – Chief Seattle (1856){/xtypo_quote_right}

High Cost Of Living. Taxpayers subsidize cheap water to the animal agriculture industry to the tune of 80 billion dollars every year.

If the meat industry had to pay going rates for their water, hamburger meat would cost at least $20 per pound. By subsidizing animal agriculture, American taxpayers are subsidizing inefficiency, pollution, drought, starvation and disease.

Health care costs would drop dramatically as people move away from eating meat, dairy and egg products. Savings on health care could reach 100 billion dollars a year within 5 years of everyone changing to a plant-based diet.

The cost of energy would drop considerably as a result of the 50% reduction in the energy needed to grow a plant-based diet over the current animal-based diet.

Conclusion. There is not a single environmental problem that would not be immediately and positively benefited by a decline in the production and consumption of animal products. Reducing the animal products in our diet is the single most effective step anyone can take for our survival on earth. It is no coincidence that the same vegetarian diet that is healthier for humans is also healthier for planet earth.

(Note: Sources of all these facts are government publications, scientific papers, nationally known news media, agricultural industry publications and medical journals.)