Guest Post On Deciding To Stop Eating Meat.

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In October 1994, I decided to stop eating meat. Back then, I was concerned with only one aspect of my choice: what it meant for animals. I made my decision while sitting in my college dorm lounge. The TV news was on and it showed some footage of pigs who had been shipped overseas for the pork industry. It wasn’t graphic, but for the first time I fully understood that behind every piece of meat is a face, a life extinguished. That was it for me. My heart had been touched and there was no turning back.

Over time, I realized my decision did have other implications besides what it meant for animals. After taking a nutrition class with a registered dietician, I learned that by giving up animal products completely I had greatly reduced my chances of developing heart disease, cancer and other illnesses later in life. And I had totally eliminated dietary cholesterol. Up to that point I believed in my diet for purely “philosophical” reasons, so it was icing on the cake to learn that I had done so many favors for myself health-wise. These days you don’t have to look very far to find studies that show the health benefits of “going veg.”

But one of the most compelling reasons to stick with a plant-based diet became apparent to me just within the past few years: what it means for the environment.

In 2006 the UN released a report on environmental degradation via the livestock industry. The announcement warned that environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to prevent the damage from worsening. Yet just last month the UN reported that demand for livestock products is growing alongside human population growth. “Demand” is pretty straightforward: it’s a consumer issue. Rather than heed the UN’s 2006 warning and demand less for the sake of the environment, we are asking for more. At this rate the UN estimates that global meat output will increase from 228 million tons to 463 million tons by the year 2050.

I’ve tried to improve my lifestyle in order to lessen my footprint on this Earth. We use low energy light bulbs, love our Prius to death, recycle, reuse, buy less packaging, pick up litter, etc. but according to everything I have read none of these steps come close to the impact of cutting out animal products. I simply had no idea about the implications of that decision all those years ago. I only wish I had made the choice sooner.

In New Jersey where I live tiny buds are starting to appear on the flowering trees. Bright green shoots are peeking through the dry, brown leaves on the ground. Nature is such a gift, but it is fragile. There isn’t an endless supply of everything. When we read reports about what animal agriculture is doing to the planet, we must listen to what our hearts are telling us to do. The hidden costs of eating animals aren’t reflected on the price tags at the store. We are paying for these foods with our water, our land, our air, our precious Earth. It’s not too late, but if we don’t change what we are eating– someday it will be.

Guest post by Megan, a reader of The Good Human. Editor’s note – Yes, I still eat meat and try to only eat meat raised sustainably, cage free, and grass fed. But I applaud efforts like Megan’s here, as she is definitely doing her part to help clean up the environment!

🙂

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Comments

  1. as a recently-turned vegetarian (september of last year), i thoroughly enjoyed this post. i was tired of being a hypocrite. i’m a huge animal fan – i’m so nuts i save flies/moths from my apartment – and eating meat just didn’t seem to mesh well with my sensitivity towards animals. i feel so much better about myself, what’s going into my body and bonus that it’s good for the environment as well. i hope your attitude is contagious 🙂

  2. Great article Megan. Like Dave, my wife and I still eat meat BUT ONLY do so if it is grass fed and sustainably raised.

    We do not hold the save views on eating the animals, but we hold the exact same view on the devastating effect factory farming of livestock has on all of our lives.

    We order 1/4 of grass fed beef from our local Amish farmer, along with all our chicken, eggs, and butter. We buy unhomogenized organic milk from our local food coop.

    The difference? We actually save money by eating this way, and we have dropped a combined 50 pounds in just over a years time!

  3. Yes, yes and yes – to all of what you say, Megan. I don’t understand people who say they “can’t” stop eating meat. I became veg quite by accident 25 years ago, just by looking at the lovely coloured veg & the gray, dead animal on the table. I never ate meat again!

  4. As a biochemist and vegetarian I know of what Megan speaks. The cost to society incurred by eating animal products “produced” as 99% are today is enormous and devastating to our environment. Megan is only touching the very tip of a “gynormous” issue and most employ a willful blindness to it to shield our guilt. This is to the detriment to all of us and to future generations.

  5. Excellent post, Megan. The link between meat eating and environmental destruction is an issue that gets almost no billing whatsoever. No matter how they are raised, livestock either graze or are fed from grain farmed on land that could otherwise be left unspoiled. To add insult to injury farm animals are often labeled “inefficient protein factories,” requiring vast quantities of feed (and the land to grow it) to produce what is relatively little substance on someone’s plate. You need to also consider excessive water consumption, wastes produced by livestock, and all the petroleum used to manufacture fertilizers, run farms, and transport livestock to and from the slaughterhouse. I could go on. It’s a total mess. If all humans moved to a plant-based diet, the world would be greener in many ways.

  6. Great article.

    When I turned veg back in 1989, I became super militant about trying to convert people. It took me many years to understand that not everyone is going to go veg no matter how much we show them the effects on their health and the enviro. And I’ve since learned that not all people are even physically capable of being veg, because of their blood type. Me, I just happen to be the perfect blood type for a veg, but some people who say they have to have meat, probably do.

    We all do what we can and as long as each of us commits to doing at least that much, change can happen.

  7. I never really liked meat. I couldn’t understand other peoples craving for a cheeseburger. I always felt that it was who I am and was quiet about it. When I learned what it does to the environment, well, I am now very loud about it.

  8. My experience is almost the very same as the author. I decided to cut meat out of my diet in 1996, just after turning 18 and leaving the family home. At the beginning it was solely for the animals. Later I realized it was for just as beneficial for me as it was for the animals. Now I understand that my choice is beneficial for all life on the planet. This has been the best decision of my life.

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