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Comfortably Unaware

Albert Einstein, perhaps regarded as the smartest man to have lived on our planet, a true genius. After pondering the state of the world and the continued survival of the human race, he came to this conclusion “nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet”. We are comfortably unaware of the impacts of the food we decide to put in our mouths.

After the research I did for my first article on this topic and watching the movie ‘what the health’ I turned from being vegetarian to vegan. Why go some of the way to help stop global depletion when I could go all the way. My interest in the topic lead me to reading the book “comfortably unaware” written by Dr. Richard Oppenlander. This follow up article is not intended to preach about veganism it is simply to give you the facts I learnt from reading this book. Facts that I feel the need to share with my family and friends, not only to help the health of our planet but the health of the individual readers.

The population of the earth is around 8 billion people, and rising. We are killing 70 billion animals a year. If an alien from another planet was to survey our earth it would think that the earth is ruled by cows, pigs and chickens. It is absolutely unsustainable for 8 billion people to live with a diet dependent on animal products. The livestock industry is causing major depletion of our planet and yet every day we continue to eat these products. Is it that people don’t care what they are causing or because they simply don’t know what they are contributing towards?

The diet of the developed world is destroying the developing nations. However, it seems as if many people have the attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”. Not all of us have had the chance to visit a rainforest, but we all love to see them on nature documentaries. They are truly remarkable. Did you know your burger and chicken wings are by far the number one contributor to the rainforests destruction? 70% of the amazon rainforest has been destroyed (lost forever) due to cattle ranching. 95% of Brazils Atlantic coast rainforest has been slashed and burned for cattle ranching. Approximately 34 million acres of rainforest on earth is lost each year. Why ?? So we can have a juicy burger for lunch.

Most of the meat (animals) produced by these areas is being shipped to the developed world to feed our hunger for flesh. Yet we don’t see this information on the ingredients lists. When fires shred through Europe and America this year there was none stop coverage on the news of how it is destroying homes and forests. However, there is never any coverage of the devastation of the rainforests. Is one circumstance really less devastating than the other? The livestock industry is not only the biggest contributor to global deforestation but is also the biggest contributor to global climate change, global pollution and global water usage (for more information see my previous article “food for thought”).

So it is clear that the livestock industry is killing our planet. But if that isn’t enough to make you consider your next burger, did you know that the industry is also killing you and your families. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has its number one recommendation on nutrition and cancer as to eat a diet “with emphasis on plant sources”. What they are trying to say is, stop eating meat. People who do not eat animal products have a 50% less likelihood of developing many cancers. The ACS and researches at Yale have found that meat-based diets can cause cancers of the stomach, esophagus, colon, prostate and lymphoma. People who eat hot dogs, sausages and other cured meats have a 70% increase in pancreatic cancer. Eating meat and dairy also increase ones chances of contracting kidney stones and kidney disease, gallstones and osteoporosis. Yes, eating a diet dependent on animal products does in fact increase your chance of death at an earlier age.

Eating less meat and dairy could prevent yearly medical costs in the US alone of between $87 billion and $143 billion. Anybody else think that money could be better spent? People will say “but humans have been eating meat forever, they were fine”. The answer to that is, no they were not fine, they died. People before the industrial revolution had a live expectancy of around 50-60, they died before cancers and heart disease had a chance to show themselves. Now with medical advances we can perform bypass surgeries and pump radioactive materials into your body to prolong life to around 70-80. The moral of the story? Meat is bad for you, vegetables are great for you.

The truth is, people are stubborn and this article nor any other display of the facts is not going to make everyone stop eating animal products. Sooner or later the governments must step in to stop the industry destroying our planet and populations. At the moment governments give huge subsidies to the livestock industries, giving them cheap equipment, cheap access to resources such as land and water but mostly do not tax them for destroying our planet. The answer Dr Oppenlander came up with is an eco tax on food. Why should the livestock industry have false profit margins? They should be forced to pay for the destruction they cause. If this was reflected in the pricing of their products then consumers would simply stop the demand chain.

Dr Openlander came up with an awsome analogy of this idea. “If I drove my car off the road and through someone’s front garden, destroying every plant, animal and structure they owned, wouldn’t it be my duty to completely restore and pay for everything. Shouldn’t this be the same for the livestock industry? It is unacceptable – economically, philosophically, or otherwise – for a business to use any resource at will and to wipe out species of plants and animals”. Its time for the industry to pay for what they are doing to our planet, but for this to happen we must stop the demand for their products, we are feeding the monster.

Here is a summary of some hard truths of what the industry is doing to our planet:

  • Climate change - The livestock industry is the number one contributor of global climate change. The gases realised by the animals in production are by far the largest producer of greenhouse gases. Stopping to eat animals will be more effective than taking all transport off the road.

  • Water usage - 55% of global freshwater is being given to live-stock. And yet people around the world are dying of thirst. These water sources are not renewable despite the common thought that freshwater will last forever. It is already becoming a scarce resource. It takes 10-20 gallons water to produce one pound of vegan diet. It takes 5000 gallons to produce one pound of meat.

  • Edible resources - Over 70% of the grain in the US is fed to livestock. Yet around the world people are dying of starvation. All because we want to eat meat. If we adopted a vegan diet, we could feed the world with no trouble. 6 million children in the world will die from starvation this year. 1.1 billion People in the world are considered malnourished or suffering from hunger.

Since the first article I wrote about the topic of the livestock industry I have done much research. The truth is that it is difficult to find open admissions of what the industry is actually doing to our planet. The facts that the industry is killing not only our planet but also our species as a whole should be made easily available. We should be encouraged to take on a vegan diet that is healthy for us and our planet, Instead we are pushed towards a dependence on animal products just so the industry can put more money into its accounts.

I do not intend to preach that my diet is better or more honourable than yours. I simply want to provide you with the same facts that made me change the way I eat. As a conservationist I want to do my up most to try and stop the destruction of our planet, and by being a vegan I am not only helping do that but am increasing my life expectancy. If you want to continue to support such an industry then that is your choice, but I want my loved ones to know exactly what that choice entails. We have an option to live a healthier life style, it is down to you to decide if you wish to participate. Only you can choose what you put into your mouth.

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