If you eat Meat, you’re not an Environmentalist. I’m just Saying. (Cow Farts vs. SUVs]

Via Waylon Lewis
on Sep 9, 2008
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If you eat meat, it seems, you’re not half as eco-responsible as you could be.

Even local meat. Why is that? Not ’cause I’m a crazy vegan (I’m a crazy vegetarian, truth be known). But because it’s a fact. We all know (but mostly don’t care enough to give up the good stuff) that feedlots and slaughterhouses and trucking your average meal 1500 miles is sad and bad.

But here’s the strange-but-true fact-of-the-matter: cow farts and burps contain so much methane that they account for more carbon emissions than all the selfish gas-guzzling climate-change-creating SUV drivers in the whole wide world.

So add that one to your liberal guilt bank account—or do something about it. A great start would be to only eat local meat, but that’ll only get you about halfway, emissions-wise. If you’re driving a decent MPG SUV with multiple passengers, of course, that could be greener than a solo Prius-driver.

Too bad we can’t just offshore drill our way out of the problem. Oh, wait, we can!



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


25 Responses to “If you eat Meat, you’re not an Environmentalist. I’m just Saying. (Cow Farts vs. SUVs]”

  1. Heather says:

    What about hunting?

    Sorry animal lovers, but that’s what our ancestors did for thousands of years, and it seems the most natural and the most humane way to eat meat.

  2. admin says:

    Great point, Heather. If you hunt, you’re cool (at least eco-wise, if not morally—you’re still killin’ for pleasure—but at least you have the guts to do it yourself). If however we’re part of the supply-and-demand for fart-burp-crazy cows, we’re part of the problem.

  3. Heather says:

    Hunting isn’t necessarily killing for pleasure, it’s killing for food.

    Though, yes, I agree that hunting in the good old days—when animals weren’t confined to national parks and humans didn’t have the advantage of guns—is nothing like hunting today, I still think it’s a way for people to become connected to their food sources and actually consider the impact of eating another living animal. I mean, would the average person still eat meat if they had to kill it themselves?

    And just for the record, I was raised vegetarian and didn’t eat my first piece of meat (chicken nugget in the high school cafeteria) until I was 17, so I’m living proof that humans don’t NEED to eat meat. We (myself included) just do it because we want to.

  4. Kunal says:


  5. Anna says:

    The cows in Nova Scotia don’t fart, they have manners.

  6. tom says:

    i’m sorry, but as someone who has done the research, i find it very pointless to be vegan. i think anyone who considers his/herself vegan, and lives in a modernized, non-rural area, is a total hypocrite.

    #1: almost all of the modern conveniences we use today are mostly non-vegan. whether it be animal testing, or animal products, there are lots of animal-related “ingredients” in the things we use every day – appliances, vehicles, gadgets, medicines, etc. animal products aren’t just in foods & clothing. eliminating the obvious things like meat/leather/milk/etc., is a very naive way to pat your own self-righteous back.

    #2: modern science has shown that even non-animal lifeforms, such as plants, do show signs of “intelligence”. researches have found that strawberry plants are able to “communicate” with each other via root networks – if one plant is attacked by pests, it signals other plants in it’s network to up their defense systems, causing the pests to prefer external, non-communicating plants instead. plants have also been proven to have the ability to affect weather patterns and their environment so that it will produce the ideal conditions for that plant (see second below). if plants are able to communicate, and even control the weather, who is to say that plants do not feel pain? how hypocritical is it for a vegan to abstain from animal products, and thrive on plant products, without knowing these things?

    sources here:



    #3: global warming, and global cooling happen. the planet is not a static-ecosystem. for billions of years, the earth has gone though many changes. asteroids have collided with the earth, wiping out all life and causing the planet to be uninhabitable on more that a few occasions. oceans have dried up, mountains crumbled, continents shifted, glaciers melted, forests burned, etc – all before humans were ever in the picture. in reality, natural (non-human controlled) events are happening right now that release billions of CO2 & greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere: underground fires (some which are, and have been burnning for decades), underground volcanic activity, natural fires, etc. these are all the major contributors to global warming. in china alone, underground coal fires release more co2 into the atmosphere each year than all the cars and light trucks in the u.s. how selfish is it to claim that humans are responsible for global warming, when in reality the process has been going on for billions of years. while i understand it is not a good thing to intentionally or carelessly “trash” our ecosystems, i think it is absurd to claim that we should all revert back to some sort of pre-industrial lifestyle. humans have only been on this planet for a short period of time, and we probably won’t be here much longer. when it comes down to it, in the long run, overpopulation is going to be the source of the largest human-induced disaster on this planet. you want to do your part to save the planet? stop making babies. lol

    buddhists understand the concept of impermanence – that always things change, and there is no stopping it. the earth will thrive, the earth will die, it will thrive again. we can’t stop what’s coming.



    long comment, that i’m sure no one will read, but i had the information handy from something i had already wrote.

  7. goodist says:

    to “torn” who has “done the research”… keep researchin’

    1. Vegan isn’t about being perfect or patting oneself on the back; it’s about trying to cause as little suffering as possible.

    2. plants feeling pain. you “think” plants might feel pain (which would serve no biological purpose), but you *know* animals feel pain. and given that eating animals requires those animals eating many more plants than if we just ate plants ourselves, if you really want to “be kind to plants” you’ll also go vegan. last point — most of the foods we eat as vegans are either in the form of something harvested from the plant, ie, not killing the plant (like tomatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, cucumbers and on and on) or come after the plant has run its life cycle (soybeans, corn, grains, beans, potatoes, etc.).

    3. you say “how selfish is it to claim that humans are responsible for global warming” — wow. if you think the magnitude and speed of this particular “warming cycle” has nothing to do with the input of humans, your head is in the sand. we can do so many things to help the planet — to ignore easy solutions is to steal from and kill future generations. i’m guessing you’re buying tickets to armageddon because you think it would be cool to see it in your lifetime. your “researched” attitude is killing other people, the planet, and billions of helpless animals. we can all do better.

    good luck with the research.

  8. jhs says:

    i agree with goodist

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  13. bittabuffalo says:

    You are vastly overstating and oversimplifying what can be derived from the citations you have included. Where do you get that locally produced meat would only reduce emissions by half? The figures in your citations show that animal production accounts for 18% of climate change causing emissions, but this *includes transportation, deforestation, and current factory farming production scale*. The local food movement, I assure you, does not suggest we somehow continue to eat just as much cow as industrialized agriculture produces! You can't do that on a local scale! Eating a locally produced diet reduces emissions from transportation, deforestation AND reduces the amount of meat produced necessarily.

    As a person who spent years as a vegetarian for ecological and ethical reasons I am very much supportive of your lifestyle decisions and your cause. But I implore you not to make the conversation incendiary and emotional by misrepresenting the data. The facts are that current industrial farming is the worst thing we have ever done to our planet and that transportation and consumption of meat need to be reduced. I welcome vegan arguments as to the ethics of killing a sentient being. That is a spiritual belief that I can not argue with and I support your decision to live your life by those principles. However, I am disheartened and affronted by misrepresentative arguments against sustainably scaled production. Before you go down this road I ask you to consider what vegetables grow in your neighborhood during the dead of winter, and what sort of carbon footprint a vegan lifestyle requires when the closest fields of yummy broccoli and spinach are an hemisphere away.

    Again, if your interest is sustainability I ask that you represent the options/tradeoffs equitably. That is the only way we can get through this mess together.

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  17. […] in their family. Previously, elephant has actually authored something quite similar, titled If you Eat Meat You Aren’t an Environmentalist. I’m Just Saying, (subtitled Cow Farts vs. SUVs) which also might be worth a look-thru. ~ ed. Via Will […]

  18. Sara Jelley says:

    I wish you were a crazy vegan! It would add another, more down to earth role model for all the vegetarians out there who think they need a better excuse to become vegan. Dairy and eggs are doing the same environmental and ethical damage that meat does. If you need help let me know. 🙂

  19. I don't eat eggs anymore. I hardly drink milk. I'm still confused about whether it's better to change the market from horrible and non-free-range, the way they treat cows is pretty bad…and organic and free range is much better, even if far from good. Soy milk is full of its own problems–and now barely any of it is organic.

  20. I'd love an article from you on this…we're not about propaganda, hopefully.

    You're right on re grass-fed, I recommend it to all my friends. That said, unfortunately, it's an incredibly small percentage of how meat is raised in the US. Hopefully more as folks like you wake up and get educated.

  21. elephantjournal says:

    Mike wound up writing a great article: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/02/mindful-me

  22. man says:

    vegatarianism is making the world just a little more ghey.. eat meat. be proud

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  25. Blog mode says:

    Like you I d'ont eggs anymore, I'm very happy to share your opinion !