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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Articles - Letters - and More

What did you eat today?
(Submitted upon request to the Green Times 10/25/07)

What did you eat today? 

If you live in the developed world and your diet is typical, you consumed eight ounces of meat. If you lived in Africa you would average 1.1 ounces of meat.

The fifty billion farmed animals worldwide are not providing food equally to the citizens of planet earth. The energy needed to produce a pound of grain fed beef is equal to one gallon of gasoline. So our typical burger chomping, chicken chewing, bacon-biting American is using 183 gallons of gasoline to transform the flesh of animals into a substance that most people feel is attractive and palatable. Multiply that by our population of 230 million we use 42,090 million gallons each year.

Wait, I hear some of you asking, what about the energy to produce the bean burrito or tofu dog or whatever it is that you vegans eat instead of roast beef, ham or lamb chops? OK, you can subtract 5% from that. Revision: 39,988 million gallons of gasoline. Did you know that 70% of the grain grown in the western world and 30% worldwide goes to feed animals? For every calorie of meat produced, 78 calories of fuel are used, compared to 2 calories for beans.

Cycling grain through animals is a very inefficient use of resources, water, electricity, gasoline, grains, transportation and packaging. All of this has been known for decades. Although the number of vegetarians is increasing and environmental reasons are high on the rational many people have for no longer eating meat, the demand worldwide is growing – fast. In China people now eat double the amount they did only ten years ago.

Information that has been published recently should make it imperative that governments, businesses and individuals detour around the drive-thru and take a close look at how our escalating consumption of the flesh of animals is contribution to global warming. According to Greenpeace animal agriculture contributes significantly to global warming by producing more than 100 million tons of methane each year. Farmed animals are the biggest source of both methane and nitrous oxide.

The Food And Agricultural Organization of the United Nations issued a report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow. It states that 18 % of greenhouse gases that lead to global warming come from animal based agriculture.

Transportation is responsible for 13 %. This is all transportation from the jet plane from Kennedy to Heathrow and Heathrow to Athens, the cruise ships leaving from Los Angeles for Mexico, leaving from Miami for the Caribbean, the myriad trucks on our US Interstates, the soccer mom’s SUV, the police surveillance helicopter and all other gasoline powered vehicles world wide. Even the motorbike carrying a family of five in Goa, India. The environmental community has focused mainly on abating carbon dioxide emissions by raising fuel economy standards (yes, much more could have been done here too) and encouraging the purchase of fuel-efficient appliances, and capping C02 emissions from power plants. Almost everyone agrees with these measures. They are hardly controversial. Well maybe to the owners and drivers of Hummers. Dr, James Hanson, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies a long time supporter of global warming theory has said that C02 emissions are not the main cause of observed atmospheric warning. Methane is 21 times more powerful than C02.

Sure, cow farts, are always good for a laugh, but our planet is in trouble. 2006 was the warmest year on record. As I write this, massive fires rage up the California coast. It is a week from Halloween; yet, I made pesto with fresh cut basil from my garden today.

Talking meaningfully about reducing greenhouse gas emissions by not eating meat is as taboo as talking about cancer was a half century ago. Then physicians often withheld the diagnosis from patients and family members did not discuss it. Attempting to discuss the role that animal agriculture plays in global warming is met with indifference, annoyance and sometimes anger.

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth has opened they eyes of countless people around the world to the reality of global warming. Who can forget the polar bear stranded on a small piece of ice? This increasing awareness obviously has been a good thing. But not only did this landmark film not mention the role of animal agriculture, we are introduced to some black angus cows just like the ones his father raised. They just showed up in during the film, akin to a proud grandmother whipping out the latest photos of her newest grandchild in the middle of the book club discussion.

Nicholas Kristoff writing in the New York Times in August of 2007 asked “If we learned that Al Qaeda was secretly developing a new terrorist technique that could disrupt water supplies around the globe, force tens of millions from their homes and potentially endanger out entire planet, we would be aroused into a frenzy and deploy every asset to neutralize the threat.” Of course, we are not there yet, only a quarter of a million have had to evacuate their homes in California this week. He goes on to say, “That is precisely the threat we’re creating ourselves, with our greenhouse gasses.

While there is still much uncertainty about the severity of the consequences, a series of new studies indicate that we are cooking our planet more quickly than experts had expected.” In analyzing the Arctic Sea ice each summer since 1953 the computer models anticipated a loss of 2.5% per decade. The actual loss, 7.8% per decade. The polar bear knows nothing about computers, but she knows that she can’t get to where she needs to be. The nine countries with the most people in low coastal areas are, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam. It can happen here.

None of us live near the Arctic Sea, but what is happening there impacts us all and our appetite for meat is fueling it, literally. Our carbon emissions are causing crop failures in Africa; children are starving and dying. Yes, your mother was right, but the answer is not to clean your plate but rather to consider carefully the contents of that plate. Just today I attended a fundraiser for a political candidate who is a strong environmentalist. Unlike the recent Live Earth Concerts where burgers and chicken were served, the food, most appropriately, was vegan (no animal products). No it was not food for rabbits. The hummus, pesto, olive tapanade, polenta, artichoke spread, tofu-no-egg salad, ratattoie, lentil pate, whole grain crackers and organic wine and juice would have given any rabbit indigestion, but was enjoyed by all the human attendees.

Most of us adults can choose what we eat and what we give our children. Meaningful change can improve our health, reduce cruelty to animals and slow down the increasing temperature of our air and water that is degrading our life on earth. Dr. Maria Neira, Deputy Director of the World Health Organization advocates eating lees meat to reduce gas emissions and climate change. Less meat is good, but no meat and dairy is even better. You save more water by not eating a pound of hamburger than you would save by not showering for a year, and you get to keep your friends. Advocacy of a vegan way of life should be part of every global warming campaign.

Roberta Schiff, President
Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society

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