Cowspriacy & Other Surprising Reasons to Become a Vegetarian
by Brionna Sandridge
Picture this: you arrive at home expecting a run-of-the-mill visit with your normal suburban family. Your siblings use your family dinner as an opportune time to announce that they are going to cut meat out of their diets. My mind races to try to assign them to a vegetarian category: 1) Health Nuts - those who cut meat out of their diets in order to lower cholesterol or fat intake/just to feel generally better and more energized. 2) Animal Nuts - those that either were predisposed to animal-loving OR those who have read and internalized the hard and fast facts about the conditions in which animals are bred and slaughtered. 3) Supermarket Skeptics - those who have ever been into a Walmart, looked at really anything, but especially the low quality meat on the shelves, and thought to themselves "hmmm....." As I went through my list of reasons, my siblings validated them but instead of assigning themselves to one of my pre-existing herbivore groupings, they introduced me to a brand new and extremely interesting reason to avoid eating meat: the Environment.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than what is emitted from all transportation in the world. IN THE WORLD. That’s right- all of the transportations. I’m talking cars, buses, trains, planes, boats, etc. (in case you were so shocked by that fact that you blanked on how many transport forms exist). These fossil-fuel burning machines take the brunt of the blame for climate change, but in reality they are contributing less to the demise of our planet than animal agriculture is. How is this possible, you ask? Well, cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day. (If you are confused here, I am talking about cow farts). The problem with methane? Methane produced by these animals has been deemed 25-100 times more destructive than carbon dioxide on a 20-year time frame.
Animal agriculture, you say? Animal agriculture is the breeding of animals for the production of products such as meat, dairy, and other things we like to consume from animals (shout-out to those reading this in your non-vegan leather booties). In order to farm enough cows, pigs, poultry, and fish to meet our high demands, tons upon tons of water and food are needed. To be exact, it takes about 2500 gallons of water to produce one single pound of beef. Some other astonishing numbers: 1000 gallons are needed for one gallon of milk and 477 gallons are required to produce one pound of eggs.
In addition to the greenhouse gas emissions and the absurd amount of resources needed to produce these animal products, animal agriculture contributes to several other things that we can collectively deem as "bad", environmentally speaking. Livestock covers 45% of earth’s total land and is a main contributor to the deforestation in many areas of the world. Ever been to a forest? Ever thought to yourself, "man, I wish all of these trees were replaced by cows!" Didn't think so. Like I said, bad. Furthermore, it has been discovered that animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction and water pollution.
The point of this blog is not to say that you should never eat meat again and that if you do, you are deliberately disrespecting the planet like the bad human being you are. No, the point is to bring light to an issue that seems to remain hidden for most of us. I want to challenge others to merely begin to think about the consequences of consumerism, specifically your own personal consumerism. As a result of first-world privilege, I have been able to buy and eat things without taking the time to realize what goes into producing them. I have challenged myself to start eating meat only a few times a week- not multiple times a day or even every day. I have vowed to only eat beef once a month until I can completely cut it out for good. I am trying to lower my carbon footprint, and would like to educate others so that they can push themselves to as well. If any readers are interested, I would suggest watching Cowspiracy on Netflix or doing some online research on your own to get the facts. Perhaps the next time you look at that delicious double-bacon cheeseburger in the face, you may think to yourself- is this hunk of meat worth nearly 700 gallons of water and a giant cloud of methane emissions? (Halfhearted apologies for potentially ruining your guilt-free burger gorging)