Meat, To Eat Or Not To Eat
Patrick Hogan, NASA Earth Scientist Emeritus
and Greta Thunberg supporter
To eat or not to eat, that is the question, whether ‘tis nobler, in the mind, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune [Shakespeare’s Hamlet ‘To be or not to be‘ ]. . .or to consume animal flesh willy-nilly without considering the repercussions for sustainable life on Earth.
We could be as smart as Albert Einstein, who said in a personal letter of December 1930 “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” That’s Einstein for you, doing some quantum thinking deep into time. Even Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, is considered to have been a vegetarian. And the good news is this choice can be quite tasty as well as healthy, while also diminishing some very cruel conditions for a peaceful creature. Not to mention sparing life on Earth for half its debt in greenhouse gas emissions.
The activity of livestock raising alone is responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases! This is more than all transportation combined, and only second to energy production. Add to this another 13% for livestock transportation, and then include the 20% carbon-cost for their feed, livestock and its related activities account for 51% of all greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, that’s around 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. Scientists refer to a billion tons as one gigaton [gt], so 32 gigatons.
USA citizens actually pay dearly to encourage this enormously destructive behavior! USA federal tax dollars subsidize the US meat-and-dairy industries to the tune of $38 billion dollars every single year! That’s not for small farmers, that’s thirty-eight billion for big agri-business and their shareholders. And where does most of that meat go? Burgers! Our penchant for burgers is getting us deeper into unsustainable carbon debt.
Americans alone eat well over 10 billion burgers annually. Reducing that by even just 1/3rd would be equivalent to taking a few million cars off the road (World Resources Institute).
In contrast our flowering fruits and venerable vegetables get a paltry $17 million in subsidies, an anemic 0.04% of the meat-subsidy number.
Adding insult to injury, Earth’s major oxygen supply and carbon sequestration resource, rain forests, are being clear-cut, essentially for burgers, with 1-2 acres cleared every second. And if destroying our oxygen supply is not enough of a concern, please consider the horrific treatment of these gentle creatures, especially in the ‘fattening’ months prior to their violent slaughter, a horror far too disturbing to discuss here. And deforestation’s un-sequestration of that carbon further burdens our world’s greenhouse gas emissions by another 15%.
Rain Forest Deforestation Mostly for Burgers
Click on the Graphic Below to go to the website
Some approximate food value numbers:
The hard truth, from http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/
- 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes. 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture.
- Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today.
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, due to nitrogen-flooded ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction. Combined with the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers used in the production of feed crops. [Our oceans are suffocating.]
- Nearly half of the contiguous US is devoted to animal agriculture.
- Every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US (leading to nitrogen-instigated ocean dead zones).
- More than 6 million animals are killed for food every hour.
- 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, that are then eaten by western countries. [World Hunger Food-Choice Connection]
The positive health benefits to a meat-minimized diet are astounding!
Plenty of research confirming the wonders thereof,
including by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Prevent Cancer!
- Prevent Heart Disease!
- Lower Blood Pressure!
- Prevent and Reverse Diabetes!
- Reduce Gallstones, Kidney Stones, and Osteoporosis!
- Lower Asthma Severity and Frequency!
- Improve mood and lower stress! [Romaine calm. . .eat veggies to your heart’s content!]
Eating meatless is delicious!
- One Meal a Day
- The Best Vegetarian Diet Plan
- Meatless Recipes that Carnivores Will Love
- So Satisfying You’ll Want to Go Meatless Forever
- The Bizarre Economics of Meat and Dairy
- Five ways the meat on your plate is killing the planet
- Top Environmental Concerns
- Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth
- How Does Meat in the Diet Take an Environmental Toll?
- Studies Show Link Between Red Meat and Climate Change
- Meat and the Environment
- Farm Animal Welfare: Cows
- Are cows the cause of global warming?
13 Replies to “Meat, To Eat or Not to Eat”
Just reading this article for the second time today…got to say this was well done…I like the reference to Albert Einstein and learning that most of the meat goes towards making burgers made me cry out “Burgers, for burgers?, Wow, what a waste!,” since it’s pretty easy to get the same enjoyment from a veggie burger imho.
A juicy veggie burger, ah the joys of innocent and healthy indulgence!
Here’s one for you! https://youtu.be/QB-90-LEPZ4?t=32
Increasing awareness is the first (and essential) step to start addressing the global environmental challenge. Climate change is an extremely complex and multi-faceted issue. We desperately need articles like this, that make people think, realise and act….fast, as we have run out of time.
Thanks Patrick for such an informative article.
I agree regarding OVER consumption of meat & was horrified to learn on BBC World Service that a “Meat Lobby” in Argentina thinks people in many other countries eat too little meat & that Argentina should produce & export more beef.
I enjoy vegan & vegetarian food, & eggs, small portions of meat, fish. i.e. variety, balance. My view almost mirrors that in HARMONY: HRH Pr.of Wales et al ISBN978000734803.
Two interesting (and frightening) reads:
Eric Schlosser: FAST FOOD NATION ISBN 0-395-97789-4 .
Véronique Richez-Lerouge: LA VACHE QUI PLEURE ISBN978-2-36942-356-0.
Regarding vegetables, cereals and soils, listen to BBC World Service program about moving from toxic chemicals to ORGANIC wheat of farmers (men) & varied ORGANIC vegetables (women). They plant trees to bring in the birds (natural pest control).
We are eating too much meat, over-fishing, our plastic is going into seafood, we are over-consuming poor quality food…
We can learn a lot from First Peoples and availability of different food stuffs for varied geography…running out of time…tbc in Jan 2019
In haste… but Thank You Patrick
The organic wheat & vegetables : trees & birds mentioned = in the Punjab. Margaret
Hi! Hope all ScientistsWarning.org “foodies” can see this. April mentioned food question. My computer skills are limited. You know my views from my previous comment & I’m not sure whether or not this is the best place to update. FARMING TODAY on BBC Radio 4 is broadcast daily at 5.45 a.m. GMT. and they have spoken of COP24! This week farmers, National Farmers Union, NFU, etc. address practical aspects of food chain, environment etc. Plus many other topics. Not sure how easy it is for people in Canada, USA et al to download BBC. More interesting programs on BBC World Service..harnessing the Sun, nuclear fusion, solar energy, fertilizing…Meanwhile, veg. dishes, garden fruit, naturally-reared meat (i.e., from an educational farm I help support), baking with eggs of hens free to roam under the trees, and eating pests of an organic veg. patch (not mine).
One way to give advice would be to say “reduce your red meat intake,” Dr. Stampfer said. But then, “People would say, ‘Well, what does that mean?’”
These veggie burgers are getting better and better. Amazingly enough one of the top discounters (grocery stores) in Germany sold out their first batch of “beyond burgers” on the first day in all 250+ franchises (back in May – they have their own version on the market now). As one commentator indicated one could start reducing meat intake, and try one of the many delicious vegetarian options every other meal where meat used to be the main ingredient … at home or in a restaurant. Hayes Restaurant in the city (San Francisco) has a good veggie burger, too. To the amazement of my family and friends I have stopped eating meat since the beginning of the year, and will wean myself off fish and chicken, too. It’s not that hard.
I think people know that my views on this // in general terms, those expressed by Prince Charles, Tony Juniper & Ian Skelly in HARMONY first published in 2010. I’ve been preparing a series of little talks about food. and how our choice of food impacts on the Environment. The first will focus on the War against Food Waste: “What’s on your plate? Eliminate food waste , save money, by careful planning” …….We shall explore how to shop sensibly, portion size..etc.etc. on themes such as : Do I like/want/need this? then if the fate of a perishable item would be to end up in the bin we can tell ourselves, “Don’t buy it.” We’ll see the sense of avoiding buying food we don’t need. .
But for now, we we must focus on the War on Coronovirus.
A weighty read which is relevant to geographical variation in diet =
ORIGINS OF AGRICULTURE ed. Charles A.Reed (1977) Mouton Publishers – The Hague – Paris.
It brings together research in various parts of the world which show that agriculture has many origins. This book stems from a meeting held at the Woodstock Conference Center inspired by the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Science, held in Chicago in 1973.
Globalisation of the American fast food style of eating is unsustainable.
A vegan diet can be a healthy diet. However, to claim that to be vegan is the only way to eat sustainably is nonsense.
Some of the crops grown on land made available by destroying forests, wildlife and people’s livelihoods fuels the overconsumption of factory farmed meat and dairy. Other crops on land with a similar history of destroying Nature, are treated with toxic chemicals. They are grown in monocultures and when exported to far-away lands are likely to be a component of vegan diets
Clearly we can not put the clock back , nor should we, but we can return to taking a sensible approach to food, using more of what is traditional and local. That need not stop us from enjoying imported treats, such as sustainably produced chocolate, etc.
Millions of dollars have gone into the production of pesticide resistent crops, genetically modified to withstand massive doses of glyphosate and other chemicals. Pesticides devastate pollinators like bees (neonicortinoids) and birds who feed on insects which are rapidly disappearing. Most of these crops, whose monocultures destroy the soil, are grown to feed “livestock” (i.e. sentient beings raised as food). My glimmer of hope is that the next farm bill, under a responsible administration, will subsidize farmers to grow diverse crops for direct human consumption, instead of corn and soy for cows. ( I love cows, but not on my plate)
It will be a steep uphill against big agridollars!
Do you think we are any closer to
“the next farm bill, under a responsible administration,
[that] will subsidize farmers to grow diverse crops
for direct human consumption”?