Thursday, February 7, 2008

Not A Vegetarian

Image, copyright Gary Larson

I am not a vegetarian. I used to be, but after ten years, the siren call of bacon lured me back into the meat-eating fold. Recently though, I read a bit of information in the NY Times that directly corollated the growth and consumption of meat to energy terms; and that I haven't been able to stop thinking about.

"Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

Wow. It really puts human appetite into perspective. Combine that with the cruel and unsanitary conditions the animals are raised in, it's enough to inspire a return to vegetarianism. Or at least to spur a reduction in burger consumption.

Might not hurt the old *squeeze* waistline either.


steph said...

right on!!

madeleine said...

It's interesting, I remember when I was younger, my aunt was a vegetarian for what my family called, "silly political reasons." Turns out she was right.

kelly said...

It's not that I'm a bleeding heart farm animal lover and can't bear to eat something with a face that makes me vegetarian. It's actually the reasons you've just posted. Why use land to grow grains (or whatever) not fit for human consumption for livestock, when we could just use that land to grow foods that are? Plus, there's more energy in the plant than the meat, and it's healthier for you (fiber, vitamins, no cholesterol, blah blah blah).

That's really interesting about the green house gas data as it relates to "growing" meat. It's good to have some qualitative evidence, for next time I run into someone who feels like debating about vegetarianism (mostly my family).