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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Decision to stop eating meat

NO I am not a PETA activist (I wear leather shoes), NO I am not a religious freak, (God didn't tell me not to eat meat because it's mean) YES I really enjoy a good grilled chicken breast or steak once in a while. So why am I becoming a vegetarian you ask? Several reasons...

While I never ever condone animal violence or cruelty I have always been of the opinion that some animals are raised for food. Settlers & farmers have for hundreds of years lived off of the animals they farm. Of course in those days the animals were given free reign to roam over acres of fields and pastures. They were loved and treated well and the family had a deep respect for the fact that the animal gave his/her life to provide sustenance for their family.

Mass production factories have greatly eliminated such a way of life for food raised animals. They have also gone a long way to remove a safe, clean, healthy lifestyle (however short it is) for the animals that are slaughtered for food. I've done some research and if animal cruelty wasn't reason enough for me to swear off ever ordering a quarter pounder again, seeing the conditions of the factories where the meat I bought came from was. Chickens are kept in small metal cages. Not one chicken to a cage, where it can roam around, clean itself, do the things it needs to do to produce healthy eggs and safe nutritionally viable meat, but 5 to 15 chickens in a small cage. Crammed in so tight they can't turn around, can't clean themselves and are forced to sit in their excrement and breath air filled with insanely high levels of amonia and other toxins produces by their waste. So they're pumped full of drugs and antibiotics to keep them alive. My dad used to work for a uniform company & BC Rogers was one of their customers..(they are a chicken processing plant). Anyway the workers told him that some stores & fast food chains buy sick or diseased chickens because they're cheaper. I guess they figure we'll cook it and hope any bacteria or disease will be killed before we put it in our and our children's bodies!

I've never been much of a red meat eater so I figured.. hey I'll just eat chicken. It's high in protein, low in fat, nothing bad for you right... ya that's what I thought until I started doing research. Even the chicken you buy that says "Organic" or eggs that say "Free Range" are rarely really organic or from free range chickens. The USDA has a set of guidelines that farmers..I hesitate to call them farmers, let's say mass producers have to follow in order for their product labels to contain the terms organic or free-range. This can be something as small as having a window in the shed where the chickens are still kept crammed in a metal cage. The window is the "access to outdoors" vs being kept entirely indoors. So that kind of disolved any further desire I had to eat chicken.

I also started reading about the human body,the effect mass animal "farming" has on the earth, it's resources, the economy and many other things that all led me to the conclusion that while sure, a sweet juicy BBQ'd chicken breast sure tastes good, there is no real positive benificial outcome of eating it.

The effect of eating meat on the world and it's people -

Global Warming - With methane emissions causing nearly half of the planet’s human-induced warming, methane reduction must be a priority. Methane is produced by a number of sources, including coal mining and landfills—but the number one source worldwide is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. And this source is on the rise: global meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, and shows little sign of abating. The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products. Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan - eating no animal or food that contains any animal byproduct),we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today.

Earth's Resources - Would you ever open your refrigerator, pull out 16 plates of pasta and toss them in the trash, and then eat just one plate of food? How about leveling 55 square feet of rain forest for a single meal or dumping 2,500 gallons of water down the drain? Of course you wouldn't. But if you're eating chicken, fish, turkey, pork, or beef, that's what you're doing—wasting resources and destroying our environment. We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals, and almost all of those calories go into simply keeping the animals alive, not making them grow. A major 2006 report by the United Nations summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry. Raising animals for food, the report said, is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale.." Growing all the crops to feed farmed animals requires massive amounts of water and land—in fact, nearly half of the water and 80 percent of the agricultural land in the United States are used to raise animals for food. Nearly half of the water consumed in this country is used for livestock. According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institute, the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed every minute, much of it to create more room for farmed animals. Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., nearly 80 percent is used in some way to raise animals—that's roughly half of the total land mass of the U.S. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals.

Life - Do you know how often one of our fellow brothers or sisters dies from starvation? Every 2.43 seconds. Every year 15 million children die of hunger. In 2004, 35.1 million people, including 12.4 million children, in the United States did not have access to enough food for an active healthy life. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger. One out of every eight children under the age of twelve in the U.S. goes to bed hungry every night. This isn't just a third world problem. Hunger does not exist because the world does not produce enough food. How many people could be fed by the 70% of grains & cereals grown that are used to feed livestock? We have the experience and the technology right now to end the problem. The challenge we face is not production of food and wealth, but more equitable distribution. It would take a modest effort to end hunger and malnutrition worldwide. Hunger is a political condition. And so the key to overcoming hunger is to change the politics of hunger. (The less people that eat meat, the less big corporations make in their heinous practices of mass producing animals for slaughter).


Now I'm not one of those people who are going to look at you funny if you order a steak when we go out to eat. Hey I've been a carnivore for 30 years. Becoming a vegetarian is like picking a religion or a church or a lifestyle. It is a choice each individual person needs to make based on his or her own reasoning. But I do encourage everyone to do a little research. It's as easy as typing a few words in the Google search bar. Deciding to make a conscious decision to KNOW about what you put in your body is one of the most important decisions you can make. If you do the research, learn about the conditions and still say "Hey I like my steak!" Then by all means eat steak. But at least you will have the knowledge of what the process of that steak coming from the cow to your table had on the earth, on the economy, on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people world wide.

I know a lot of people think omg there is no way I could become a vegetarian. It's too hard. What on earth will I eat?! Well, last year I had the honor of meeting one of the most incredible men I may ever meet and he is a vegetarian. I asked him what guided his decision to stop eating meat. He said, "We have a disconnect from our food. Chicken does not come shrink rapped and in styrofoam. I could not kill it, so I don't eat it." It intrigued me so I thought, what the heck, I'll try it for a few months & see what I think. It really wasn't that hard and I did it eating whatever the mess hall on the SeaBee Base provided for lunch & dinner each day.

Tofu (I know, I know I hear you YUCK!) can be made to taste like most meat when used in recipes. I made a tofu lasagna for my family one night last year. They had NO IDEA & didn't know the difference until I told them. Then of course they made the obligitory funny faces and set their plates aside lol, but they'd eaten over half of their meal & commented on how great it tasted. What foods we like or dislike are mostly determined by our mind. You hear something tastes bad, or it doesn't fit with what you were brought up knowning, ie. tofu & you automatically train yourself to think it's gross and you'd never eat it. I've eaten tofu tacos, tofu stirfry and honestly couldn't tell the difference in taste. Tofo takes on the taste of whatever it's cooked with and is an excellent source of protein. There are actually a lot of choices these days that make a vegetarian diet rather easy to maintain, and there are a ton of health benefits! Yes a vegetarian can quite easily get ALL of the protein, nutrients and vitamins they need without eating meat. AND they consume a great deal less saturated fat, cholesteral and other icky things found in meat!

Wow this turned out to be a lot longer than I had planned! But it's all good solid easily verifiable information. So next time you're dying of boredom at work, pass over that super tempting MySpace survey lol and do a little reading instead. You may be surprised at what you learn!

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