To Meat or not to Meat
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To Meat or not to Meat
By Bart C. Good
The practice of raising mass produced animals in corporate animal farms to be slaughtered for human consumption is unnecessary and ultimately morally unacceptable. Corporate animal farms hurt the environment, the consumer and the animals under there control. Therefore corporate animal farms are harmful and should be phased out of there current existence. Consuming factory farmed meat by humans is primarily for pleasure, (it tastes good) and is unnecessary since a plant based diet has been proven to be healthier and can taste great as well. Corporate animal farms consume large amounts of water and other natural resources and produce vast amounts of waste which pollutes the environment. To cause pain and death to an animal and harm the environment for the trivial purpose of pleasuring an individual’s immediate sensual gratification without considering how the product is produced is irresponsible.
Meat vs. “Meat”
In the opening sentence of the first paragraph I mention that the consumption of meat is unnecessary. As a response someone may ask a perfectly reasonable question, “Unnecessary in what sense, do you mean strictly for health reasons or do you also consider taste and the tradition of eating meat in your label of unnecessary?” I will attempt to address all three of these considerations. Meat alternatives such as the Boca Burger are significantly more healthy than a traditional, ground up beef burger. On the Boca website a comparison chart clearly indicates this fact. Here are a few of the statistical comparisons between Boca (Select Original Burger from the Boca Meatless products menu), Boca Burger 1 gram of fat verse a Beef Burger 16 grams of fat, Boca 0 grams of cholesterol verse Beef Burger 65 grams of cholesterol and Boca 0 grams of saturated fat verse Beef Burger 5 grams of saturated fat. Boca’s great taste comes from concentrated soy protein which is a quality protein unlike the protein obtained from beef which is regularly pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones. What about the taste? According to me and many of my pleasantly surprised friends, the meat free alternatives taste great. I used Boca burgers as an example because of the statistical comparisons on there website but there are many other great meat alternatives. Here are some of my favorites: Tofurkey (www.tofurkey.com) and Yves Turkey Slices, these product can be found in the health food and produce isles of major grocery chains such as Safeway and Bel Air as well as Whole Foods and Trader Joes. What about the tradition of eating meat? That’s impossible to replace except to change the tradition, the only truthful answer to that concern is to consider a new healthy and cruelty free tradition to pass on to future generations!
The amount of natural resources used up to bring a pound of beef to the table is staggering. According to professor David Pimentel in a book entitled, Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation and Health, Island Press, Washington DC, 2001. Meat is ultra inefficient in providing calories compared with vegetable sources. “According to the USDA, one pound of ground lean beef has 1197.5 calories. The USDA lists one pound of potatoes as containing 288 calories. To get roughly the same amount of calories from potatoes as you do from a pound of beef, you would need 4.15 pounds of potatoes. So that's 249 gallons of water for 4.15 pounds potatoes versus 12,009 gallons for the pound of beef -- in order to get the same number of calories from the two foods. In short, it takes nearly 50 times more water to produce a calorie from beef as it does from potatoes.” There are plenty of good sources of plant protein such as beans and nuts. A cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein, but under 1 gram of fat. The FDA has now allowed this statement to accompany cans of nuts, "Diets containing one ounce of nuts per day can reduce your risk of heart disease." Water is a valuable natural resources and should be used in the most efficient way possible. Since producing meat is so inefficient compared to producing vegetable sources of nutrition it is clearly much more ecologically responsible and healthy to choose a vegetarian or vegan diet over a diet including meat.
Goodbye Meat, Hello Health
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Meat consumption contributes to higher levels of cholesterol and thus increases the chance for the accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of blood vessels and arteries which leads to heart attacks. According to Dean Ornish M.D. “This link between animal products and heart disease is now very well documented. It’s no surprise that half of all Americans develop heart disease, because the typical U.S. diet puts everyone at risk.” Ornish, Dean, Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Ivy Books published by Ballantine Books, Ornish 1996. The research that Doctor Ornish and his colleagues conducted has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, and The New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere; this illustrates the fact that highly respected institutions recognize the quality of his research. Foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as meat and dairy products, are the major contributors to high cholesterol levels. In fact, animal products are the only sources of dietary cholesterol. The good news is that the risks that increase the chance for heart disease can be avoided. According to Dr. Ornish and long term studies conducted by the Adventist Health Study, people following a plant-based diet have 2.5 times fewer cardiac events, and half the blood pressure, diabetes and colon cancer as meat eaters. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can significantly reduce and even eliminate your chances of dying from heart disease.
Of Meat and Men
The practice of factory farming is immoral and irresponsible towards the health of the individual, the community and the animal. First, let us define morality. Wikipedia defines it this way: “Morality, in the strictest sense of the word, deals with that which is innately regarded as right or wrong.” It has already been illustrated that a vegetarian and especially a vegan diet is right for the individual for health reasons but is a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle right for the community? There is much data that documents the negative effects factory farms can have on a community. A recent study found that a major river in Colorado has high levels of three antibiotics that are used exclusively in farmed animals. Jon Bonne, “Livestock Antibiotics Found in Waterways,” MSNBC Online 25 Oct. 2004. The amount of excrement produced by animals who are used for food is 130 times the amount produced by the entire U.S. population. Ed Ayres, “Will We Still Eat Meat?”
Time Magazine Online Edition, 8 Nov, 1999. The alternative to these negative systems based on meat production is organic family owned farms producing healthy, plant based foods. If the American diet changes and moves towards a vegetarian diet, especially one based on organic produce, the positive effects on both the individual and the country in whole will be positively revolutionary!
The Problem of Animal Cruelty
The mass production of meat in factory farms in America is a very cruel and insensitive enterprise. Factory farms exist for the simple reason that they are efficient in producing the product they supply. As the world wide population grows, if meat is to be a staple like it is here in America than factory farms and the methods for producing meat must grow not diminish. The conditions in factory farms for animals is by any reasonable definition horrible and cruel and yet the pigs, chickens, and cows found on these farms are completely unprotected from outright torture. Most of these animals are packed so tightly together that they can’t turn around or even lye down. These animals spend there lives in dark areas with no fresh air or sunlight. When it is finally time to be killed the animals are often transported through extreme weather conditions in metal trailers. A recent lawsuit highlights some of the cruel practices: “U.S. industry practices include hanging live birds upside down in metal shackles, then moving them through an electrified water bath that paralyzes them while still conscious, the lawsuit claimed. The slaughter plant treatment increases the chance that a bird will inhale feces in the water, leading to a higher bacteria level in its meat, the lawsuit said.” Doering, Christopher, Yahoo News, November 21, 2005. These practices must end and the only way to truly prevent the escalation of these methods to produce more and more meat is to adopt a vegetarian and especially a vegan diet.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel concerning many of these issues. There is a growing health awareness in America and a realization that a vegetarian lifestyle is a healthy and moral choice. According to an article at Forbes.com the trend is showing promising results for potential investors. “Americans are — slowly — turning vegetarian. Vegetarian food sales doubled since 1998, hitting $1.6 billion in 2003. The market is forecast to grow another 61 percent by 2008 according to Mintel, a global market research firm.” As the momentum grows for the movement money and energy will begin to reap even more benefits and promote the lifestyle and the trend will continue to take hold and eventually will be accepted by society at large. One of the largest stumbling blocks for many is the stigma of being “different” and for males the association people hold of a vegetarian person as feminine and thus not macho or masculine. As attitudes slowly change though, social acceptance will allow more to feel comfortable about a strictly vegetarian diet.
In any arena of thought and dissertation one must always address the concerns of others and there point of view. Although I feel strongly about the positive benefits to the individual and society at large of adopting a vegetarian diet I understand that others do not share my perspective. One concern that is almost always brought up when I mention that I’m a vegan is, “how do you get your protein?” There are many natural sources of protein. Beans and nuts are great sources of protein. Lentils have one of the highest concentrations of protein found in plants. The many soy and tofu derived forms of meatless products today offer not only a healthy alternative to meat but a tasty one. Some people are concerned that vegetarians practice a moral double standard. These people feel that the law of nature dictates that some animals are stronger and smarter than others and thus earn the right to consume and kill “lower” animals. In this way of thinking they are using survival of the fittest (or smartest) thus the law of animals, such as the behavior of African lions and applying it to humans. That defies a unique attribute of humans though, the ability to reason and rise above the laws of the animal kingdom. If we are to solve many of the problems the human race encounters we must think like the enlightened beings we can be, sensitive to our fellow earthly inhabitants, both animal and human. This is why many great people throughout history have been vegetarians including, Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein. In fact Einstein once said, "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
Some Final Thoughts
Someone once said that ignorance is bliss. This sentiment seems true to some in the sense that with knowledge comes responsibility. Knowledge and responsibility are the hallmarks of positive change in society though and thus a good thing. Although it is hard to change habits and traditions in our own lives it is sometimes necessary. By choosing to be vegetarian and especially by choosing to be vegan you are making a choice that will reap benefits in your mind, body and spirit which will in turn benefit your community and ultimately society at large. Just as the growth of organic agriculture is making a positive impact in the environment, vegetarianism greatly increases the quality of our air, water and land use. By eliminating unneeded cruelty to animals vegetarianism is a step towards peace not only towards animals but to other humans as well. As Sir Paul McCartney said, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.” So start a revolution today and stop eating meat, it’s the moral thing to do.
Boca, Nutritional Comparison Chart; Available from http://www.bocaburger.com/main.aspx?m=boca_nutrition
Ornish, Dean, Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, Ivy Books published by Ballantine Books, Ornish 1996
David Pimentel in a book titled, Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation and Health (Island Press, Washington DC, 2001
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Environmental Health, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) (1 Oct. 2004).
U.S. population. Ed Ayres, “Will We Still Eat Meat?” Time Magazine Online Edition, 8 Nov, 1999.
Doering, Christopher, Yahoo News, November 21, 2005 Available from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051121/us_nm/food_poultry_dc
Tatge, Mark, Forbes.com, Sept. 17, 2004, Available from: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6008949/
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