Eating green: Vegetarianism as means of saving the planet

Eating green: Vegetarianism as means of saving the planet
By Evan Tan, Contributor
Want to save the Earth? Think twice about what you put on your plate.

The recent devastation brought by Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana) has pushed the climate change issue once more to the forefront—this time, with added gravity to Filipinos than before. With effects of humanity’s ecological crimes now palpably felt, one cannot afford to be apathetic to the global warming crisis. Evidently, humanity’s survival rests on stopping unsustainable habits that burden the planet.

But while supporting mass transportation, recycling and reusing goods, and advocating renewable energy contribute to helping the Earth, people should address the greatest contributor to climate change—supplying for humanity’s diet.

Alarmingly, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) revealed that the livestock sector generates 18 percent more carbon dioxide than transport.

But besides the carbon dioxide produced, the sector also disturbingly creates large amounts of other harmful greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide (which has 296 times Global Warming Potential than CO2) and methane (which causes 23 times higher warming than carbon dioxide).

At the same time, the sector has also been identified as a major cause of land and water degradation. The report estimates that 20 percent of pastures have already been ruined by overgrazing, compaction and erosion, as it continues to deplete and pollute the world’s limited water resources.

“It is obvious that the responsibility for the necessary action to address the environmental damage by the livestock sector goes far beyond the sector; it also goes beyond agriculture,” asserts Samuel Jutzi, FAO’s
director of Animal Production and Health Division, in the report “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.”

Yet, despite being a big factor in raising global temperatures, animal husbandry remains to be a thriving industry—especially in the Philippines.

Recently, the Department of Agriculture announced that the livestock industry’s performance increased by 2.42 percent this year, with a 2.68-percent gain in hog production. On the other hand, the poultry subsector grew by 4.31 percent. These rising numbers, which people interpret as positive figures for business, could very well be signs of apathy toward the environment.

Vegetarianism: Pro-Environment

The famous tagline goes, “When the buying stops, the killing can too.” Indeed, the demand for meat is the reason why the livestock sector continues to flourish—much to the environment’s detriment.

Rochelle Regodon, Campaigns Manager for animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA) commented: “There is a clear link between natural disasters such as Typhoon Ketsana and climate change. If we had a vegetarian world, we’d have a cooler world, and tragedies like Typhoon Ketsana could be prevented.”

According to the report by University of Chicago’s University of Chicago’s Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, a vegetarian diet, besides being good to one’s health, also benefits the planet significantly. A diet which excluded animal consumption turned out to be the most energy-efficient, with fish and red meat virtually tied as the least efficient.

And meat consumption’s inefficiency is undeniable. The independent research organization The WorldWatch Institute notes: “Meat consumption is an inefficient use of grain—the grain is used more efficiently when consumed by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.” After all, it takes 16 pound of grain to produce 1 pound of animal flesh—grain that could otherwise be consumed directly by people.

Faced with these facts, people must seriously consider if the desire for meat far outweighs climate change disasters.

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