The Amazing Powers of Veggiesby Hanna Morris on Sep, 28 2012
His lips twitched up at the corners as a sardonic grin slowly spread across his face. This reaction was typical. While preparing for the usual spiel, I thought to myself, which angle should I take with this one? What prepared argument would suit him best? But then, he spoke. And I realized this guy was quite different from the rest. His assertion was beyond the standard set of retorts normally thrown at me.
This is what he said: “Some people we share this earth with don’t have the luxury of being vegetarian! People in Africa can’t afford a vegetarian diet. Vegetarians are just pretentious and privileged elitists!”
Well, meat-boy, here is my response:
First, economic growth and meat consumption coincide. As nations develop, demand for meat rises. The Chinese, for example, have been demanding more and more meat with the accumulation and spread of more and more wealth.
This seemingly inseparable link between a developed nation’s carnivorous desire for both meat and money is a huge environmental and political concern.
According to a 2010 United Nations report, “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”
Scientists report that the meat and dairy industry account for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of total world land use and 19% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
As recently developed nations, such as China, grow in population size, demand for meat will only rise. Scientists fear the ecological impacts of this dietary trend.
The United Nations report states, “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
Therefore, people in developing nations such as Africa, cannot afford, both fiscally or environmentally, to eat meat. Not to mention, the meat-based diets of richer countries add significantly to climate change (through reduction in tree cover and subsequent elimination of carbon sequestering plants, methane produced from animal wastes, and chemical fertilizers used for growing animal feed) as well as water depletion (through the irrigation of both grazing land and feed crops). This environmental destruction has global impacts. Both climate change and water depletion impede the successful propagation of fruits, grains and veggies that feed the developing world. Meat consumption in first world countries, therefore, endangers the sustained food supply of poorer nations.
Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is the most inexpensive, doable and effective means for personally reducing one’s environmental impact. If switching to a delicious and nutritious vegetarian or vegan diet reduces the adverse effects of climate change, why not try it?
“Pretentious and privileged” citizens of developed nations should adjust their dietary habits in order to minimize the global environmental consequences of their consumption choices. Do you, fellow classmate, want to experience the “luxury of being a vegetarian”? It might just help save those people in Africa you are rightfully advocating for…
Celebrate World Vegetarian Day on October 1st! Pledge to abstain from eating meat on the first of October and enter a chance to win $1,000! More info here.
Where are the best places to eat vegetarian foods in Berkeley? What are some vegetarian diet tips? Check out AskCaliber for various vegetarian as well as other Cal questions answered!