If anyone wants to save the planet all they have to do is just stop eating meat…vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.
~ Paul McCartney
Throughout the evolution of time, famous people have advocated a vegetarian diet. A meatless diet was embraced by well-known artists, writers and scientists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw and Einstein.
The evolution to a vegetarian diet would benefit the human race (not to mention animals).
The health benefits are one of the main reasons people choose to become vegetarian.
It’s no coincidence that the Latin root of vegetarianism is vegetare, which means “to enliven.”
Consider these facts:
- >>Meat-eaters have three times the obesity rate of vegetarians and nine times the obesity rate of vegans.
- >>The American Dietetic Association reports that breast cancer rates are highest in places where women consume high-fat, animal-based diets.
- >>Foundations like the American Heart Association, World Health Organization and the American Institute for Cancer Research agree that a plant-based diet will help prevent disease.
- >>The American Cancer Society recommends that we choose food from plant sources and limit our intake of high-fat foods, especially from animal sources, to reduce the risk of cancer. No meat is truly low fat.
- >>According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. Meat has lots of saturated fat. Saturated fat elevates your blood cholesterol, and clogs your arteries. Clogged arteries leads to stroke and heart attack. Dr. William Castelli, director of the Framingham heart study, one of the largest surveys ever conducted over an extended period of time, says that a plant based diet would lower an individual’s risk of heart attack by 85 percent.
The possibility for health problems caused by meat consumption doesn’t end there.
Often, the animals are given arsenic drugs, chemical pesticides sprayed directly onto their skin to ward off parasites, and force-fed food treated with even more pesticides. Higher demand for meat has led factory farmers to search for ways to supply it, which has led them to growth hormones, drugs, pesticides, antibiotics and toxic poisons.
Every time you consume factory raised meat or dairy products, you are consuming the antibiotics, hormones and pesticides administered to the animals. The FDA lists 1,700 drugs approved for use in animal feed. Of these drugs, approximately 300 include “weight gain.”
Jim Mason and Peter Singer authors of the book Animal Factories estimate 20,000 to 30,000 different drugs are actually being used. Which means factory farm meat will clog your arteries, and then some. These chemicals can cause neurotoxicity, which can jeopardize a person’s mental state and physical wellness. Dioxin is the most toxic chemical known to humans, and it is estimated that 93 percent of our exposure to dioxin comes through eating animal products, including meat, cheese, milk, eggs and fish. Antibiotics in the U.S. administered to farm animals cause antibiotic resistance in the humans who eat them. Of the billions of animals slaughtered each year, the vast majority of them come from factory farms. Seventy percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to livestock and fish. Eating meat has been linked to obesity, cancer, liver, kidney, lung and reproductive disorders, birth defects, miscarriages and nervous system disorders.
If the health risks of a meat laden diet aren’t convincing enough, read on.
The practice of vegetarianism is also connected with religious disciplines that espouse a meat-free diet and respect for animal life.
Buddha said to become vegetarian is to step into the stream that leads to nirvana.
The book of Genesis advocates a decidedly vegetarian diet:
Animals are God’s creatures, not human property, nor utilities, nor resources, nor commodities, but precious beings in God’s sight. … Christians whose eyes are fixed on the awfulness of crucifixion are in a special position to understand the awfulness of innocent suffering. The Cross of Christ is God’s absolute identification with the weak, the powerless, and the vulnerable, but most of all with unprotected, undefended, innocent suffering.
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, and the eight limbs of the yoga path, the first limb of yoga, Ahimsa, is the Sanskrit word for practicing “non-violence” towards oneself, others and all sentient creatures. Many religions refer to this Golden Rule.
Let’s reflect on this old adage inside a factory farm. Large animals like cows are “stunned” by a metal bolt shot into their skull, and then retracted. Slaughterhouses operate at lightning speed killing one animal every three seconds. And over 300 cows an hour. Sometimes the stunner misses his mark and penetrates other parts of the animal instead. Stunned, or not, the cow or hog is hung upside down to bleed to death by a chain attached from the ceiling to the animal’s leg, while its throat is stabbed open. But before the animal finishes bleeding to death, and it is still alive, it is sent down a conveyor belt to the “head-skinners,” which (gulp) slice the skin from the animal’s head while the animal is still alive.
The cow struggles frantically. So sometimes, to avoid injury, the worker will strike the animal’s head with several severe blows and paralyze the animal by impact to its spinal cord. But they can still feel the pain from the scalping. Next, while the cow is still living, its body is chopped into pieces, its legs and head, and finally until it is hacked entirely in half.
Before hogs bleed to death, they are dunked into scalding 140 degree water to remove the hair from their bodies.
The chickens’ beaks are painfully mutilated with no anesthesia—the chicken’s face is literally cut off. The chickens are sometimes dragged through an electrically charged bath water to render them immobile for death, but it does not render the chicken unconscious. They are killed thousands by the hour shackled upside down—throats slashed open. If the chicken hasn’t bled to death, then it is boiled alive, and then pulverized by machines to rid them of their feathers. Thousands of male chicks, rendered “useless” are thrown in piles in the garbage dumpsters left to die.
Gail Eisnitz, chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association, interviewed hundreds of workers for her book, Slaughterhouse, and every one admitted to animal abuse or refused to report those who did. Nobody could inspect the humane slaughter of billions of animals for meat. I think, for a lot of people (myself included), it’s really easy to justify the cruelty when it’s not in front of us.
The following quotes of slaughterhouse workers are reprinted from Gail Eisnitz’s findings and the world implores you to continue reading:
I seen them take those stunners—they’re about as long as a yard stick—and shove it up the hog’s ass…They do it with cows too…And in their ears, their eyes, down their throats…
These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water and start screaming and kicking. Sometimes they thrash so much they kick water out of the tank…Sooner or later they drown. There’s a rotating arm that pushes them under, no chance for them to get out. I’m not sure if they burn to death before they drown, but it takes them a couple minutes to stop thrashing.
Sometimes I grab it [a hog] by the ear and stick it right through the eye. I’m not just taking its eye out, I’ll go all the way to the hilt, right up through the brain, and wiggle the knife.
I’ve drug cows till their bones start breaking, while they were still alive. Bringing them around the corner and they get stuck up in the doorway, just pull them till their hide be ripped, till the blood just drip on the steel and concrete. Breaking their legs…And the cow be crying with its tongue stuck out. They pull him till his neck just pop.
According to Congressional testimony of a former worker—
After they are hung, sometimes the chickens fall off into the sewage drain that runs down the middle of the line. This is where roaches, intestines, diseased parts, fecal contamination, and blood are washed down. Workers [vomit] into the drain…Employees are constantly chewing and spitting out snuff and tobacco on the floor…Sometimes they have to relieve themselves on the floor…The Perdue supervisors told us to take the fallen chickens out of the drain and send them down the line.
A USDA inspector said of the cockroaches, “One time we shined a flashlight into a hole they were crawling in and out, and they were so thick it was like maggots, you couldn’t even see the surface.”
Another worker said, “Every day I saw black chicken, green chicken, chicken that stank, and chicken with feces on it. Chicken like this is supposed to be thrown away but instead would be sent down the line to be processed.”
Factory-farmed chicken is so unclean that Gerlad Kuester, former microbiologist, says, “The final product is no different than if you stuck it in the toilet and ate it.”
When the flesh we put in our mouth is diseased, is it any surprise that we get sick ourselves? According to a survey by the National Research Council one chicken processing plant had 90 percent of its poultry contaminated with salmonellas, a deadly food borne illness.
Billions of animals suffer in these conditions year after year and nothing has changed.
George Bernard Shaw said: “Animals are my friends—and I don’t eat my friends.”
But pretending an animal does not suffer like humans does not justify our cruel behavior. In an excerpt from his essay “All Animals are Equal”, Professor Peter Singer of Princeton University explains it is this sense of purposeless cruelty, where people (or animals) suffer or prosper for reasons unconnected with ethical merit—
Animals can feel pain…there can be no moral justification for regarding the pain (or pleasure) that animals feel as less important than the same amount of pain (or pleasure) felt by humans…If I give a horse a hard slap across its rump with my open hand, the horse may start, but it presumably feels little pain. Its skin is thick enough to protect it against a mere slap. If I slap a baby in the same way, however, the baby will cry and presumably feel pain, for its skin is more sensitive. So it is worse to slap a baby than a horse, if both slaps are administered with equal force. But there must be some kind of blow—I don’t know exactly what it would be, but perhaps a blow with a heavy stick—that would cause the horse as much pain as we cause a baby by slapping it with our hand. That is what I mean by “the same amount of pain,” and if we consider it wrong to inflict that much pain on a baby for no good reason then we must, unless we are speciesists, consider it equally wrong to inflict the same amount of pain on a horse for no good reason.
Shouldn’t we condemn those who purchase and consume factory raised meat in full or even partial awareness of the brutality inflicted on the animal? Blissfully ignorant consumer numbers are dwindling thanks to public campaigns and animal welfare groups.
In an excerpt from his essay Torturing Puppies and Eating Meat: It’s All in Good Taste, Alastair Norcross, professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, beseeches us:
Consider the case of chickens, the most cruelly treated of all animals raised for human consumption, with the possible exception of veal calves. In 1998, almost eight billion chickens were slaughtered in the U.S., almost all of them raised on factory farms. Suppose that there are 250 million chicken eaters in the U.S., and that each one consumes, on average, 25 chickens per year…Clearly if only one of those chicken eaters gave up eating chicken, the industry would not respond. Equally clearly, if they all gave up eating chicken, billions of chickens (approximately 6.25 billion per year) would not be bred, tortured and killed. But there must also be some number of consumers, far short of 250 million, whose renunciation of chicken would cause the industry to reduce the number of chickens bred in factory farms. The industry may not be able to respond to each individual’s behavior, but it must respond to the behavior of fairly large numbers.
Factory farms come with a great cost to our natural resources and environment.
The amount of land, food, water and energy used to raise billions of animals for slaughter could be used to grow enough food for all the starving people in the world.
Some other sobering facts:
- >>Agricultural runoff is the number one source of water pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
- >>The methane resulting from the burps and farts of 10 billion domestic cows a year is a direct cause of global warming.
- >>If everyone in America were to adopt a plant-based diet we would reduce greenhouse gases by six percent—a significant proportion considering that we contribute to 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.
- >>According to a statistic by PETA, “If every meat-eating American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off the U.S. roads.”
- >>Factory farms create more greenhouse gases in our environment than all of the cars, motorbikes, airplanes, boats, and trains on earth combined.
- >>More than 50 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is used for animal livestock. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. land is used for factory farms. Fifty percent of our food supply goes to feeding domestic animals. So while people across the globe starve to death, our cattle remain well fed.
- >>Cattle grazing is the number one cause of destruction of the rainforest and we are destroying the rainforest at an alarming rate of 75 million acres a year. That is 144 acres per minute. And 2.4 acres a second. Every burger we consume destroys a small plot of land in the rainforest.
- >>It’s estimated that 2,500 gallons of water is used per every one pound of meat. It takes 33 gallons of water to grow a pound of carrots. To grow one pound of wheat requires 25 gallons of water. One sixteen ounce steak uses the same amount of water you need for six months of showers.
- >>The average American eats 97 pounds of beef a year. You’d save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you would by not showering for an entire year.
Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
~ Albert Einstein
If you must buy organic meat products, buy only certified organic. I am the lamb to the slaughter, at least all my faculties are still intact, until we stop destroying the rainforest, and shut down factory farm production. You can boycott dairy items at your school cafeteria or work. Order a vegan burger. Or, a hemp milk latte. Most farmer’s markets are certified organic and cheaper in price than items at the grocery store—and help support your local community.
I believe the energy in which our food is derived effects us in ways we may not even consciously be aware of. Try it for a period of time, and then reevaluate your feelings. Every fleeting second, minute, hour and day, we are leading ourselves closer to the slaughter.
If you want to save the planet, all you need to do is stop eating meat. For more information, watch this video on the “Meatrix.” I hope you’ll share this post with your friends and family members!
- >>Eisnitz, Gail A. Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1997.
- >>Norcross, Alastair. “Torturing Puppies and Eating Meat: It’s All in Good Taste.” The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy. Ed. Rachels, Stuart and Rachels, James. McGraw Hill: New York, 136-137. Print.
- >>Singer, Peter. ““All Animals are Equal”. The Right Thing to Do: Basic Readings in Moral Philosophy. Ed. Rachels, Stuart and Rachels, James. McGraw Hill: New York, 2010. 128-9. Print.
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Editor: Lynn Hasselberger
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