Top 5 Reasons I’m Going with Veggies

As of January 1, 2008, I am changing my diet rather dramatically to remove all meat content. I’ve actually been considering this move since a 2006 college ethics class where I was exposed to the mistreatment of animals and the negative effect that eating meat takes on our environment and social structure as a whole.

I’m not here to try and push my beliefs onto anyone else. I have no problem with people who eat meat, hunt, whatever. However, I wanted to post something here so that those who care can view what went into the decision and walk away with a (hopefully) greater understanding of the topic.

So, without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons I’m switching to vegetarian:

  1. Eating Meat Has Potentially Serious Ethical Issues

    Ok, I think we all know that. Everyone at one time or another has been faced with the PETA advertisements. From my perspective, I learned in depth the kind of mistreatment animals experience during an ethics class I took in 2006. I did a really good job of feeling horrible about the suffering that takes place, but then ignoring the issue because I didn’t think I could give up meat.

    deer.jpg

    That sort of “sweeping under the mental rug”, however, takes its toll on your conscience after a while. I know that I couldn’t kill an animal in the brutal way that factory farming has a tendency to do (in fact, I don’t think I could kill an animal on purpose at all), so why would I be ok to let someone else do the work for me?

    “But don’t animals kill each other in the wild?”

    I’ve actually used this argument myself in the past, but the more I think about it the more I reject it. For better or for worse, human beings have moved (Evolved? Been created? Both? Another great topic that I’d love to discuss … but not now) from being amoral creatures like my dog to moral creatures who empathize with the suffering of other beings. A wild animal cannot be expected to do anything based on morality because its first instinct is to survive regardless of the cost.

    We, however, believe that life is bigger than just existence and survival and have the capability, if we let ourselves, to really feel. While we may choose to ignore this, the fact that it exists at all makes me believe that we now have a moral responsibility to act in a way that recognizes this fact. Other animals don’t. That’s where they are, this is where we are.

  2. Eating Meat is Bad for the Environment

    I won’t go into a ton of details here, but here are some interesting facts (please contact me if you’d like specific sources):

    • More than half of all water used for all purposes in the US is consumed in livestock production. More than half! While 25 gallons of water are required to produce a pound of wheat, 5,000 pounds are required to produce a pound of California beef. (source: http://www.animalsuffering.com/vegetarianism.html.

    • About one-third of the raw materials used in America each year is consumed by the livestock animal industry.

    • Fossil fuel is not immune. It takes almost 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of beef protein verses only 2 to produce one calorie of soybean. If the rest of the world ate meat like we do here in the US, we’d deplete our known oil reserves in only 13 years.

    • Many countries, including our own, are bulldozing ridiculous plots of land in order to raise livestock. Since livestock takes a much larger area of land to raise than vegetables, forrest land that used to supply valuable oxygen to our atmosphere is destroyed.

  3. Eating Meat Devalues Life

    I think we can all agree that we already have a huge problem with value in our country today. For better or for worse, and probably thanks to excessive greed, we have commoditized things that used to hold a lot of value. Music. Art. Medicine. Now we’ve applied that mindset to life as a whole.

    Raising animals in ethical ways costs more and restricts the amount of meat supply that can be injected into our restaurants and supermarkets. The cheaper an animal can be raised and the faster it can be converted to eatable product the more money the farm can make. We’ve seen the damage this does to the things we all used to cherish, but now it’s happening with life. This, in my opinion, is bad.ReepInSweater.jpg

  4. Eating Meat Hurts Those in Need

    Because so many resources are used to raise livestock, those in developing countries and the poor among us suffer. Resources that could be used to help are used, instead, to feed and raise animals for food.

    Even worse, those in developing nations are encouraged to use their land for livestock instead of grain and other subsistence crops. As such, small farmers are bought or forced out of their land and their relatively efficient crop is replaced with less efficient livestock in order to sell to more developed nations (like ours) at a profit. This hurts the poor who can’t afford to buy meat.

    Bringing the issue a little closer to home, while meat is relatively inexpensive at the supermarket, it costs a lot when tax subsidies are taken into account. A pound of beef, for example, costs an upwards of $30 when “behind the scene” taxes are added to the mix.

  5. Finally, Eating Meat is Poor Stewardship

    We only have so much to work with, and we have a lot of people and other animals in the world that need to survive as well. Raising livestock is far more inefficient and damaging to our world than growing vegetables. We don’t need to eat meat. Millions (maybe even billions) of human beings around the world survive just fine with little to no meat intake.

I don’t claim to have all the answers on this (or any other, for that matter) issue, and I’d love to hear your comments on it! At the very least, I hope this opened up a dialogue in understanding a bit more outside of our little sphere of existence.

Advertisements

About johnnywey

Welcome to A Regular Expression. This blog is designed to reflect my thoughts on life, music, software design, Apple, faith, philosophy, and whatever else I can think of.

Posted on December 27, 2007, in Life, Vegetarian. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
    And Brussels in a cake,
    Carrot straw and spinach raw,
    (Today, I need a steak).

    Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
    Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
    Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
    (I’m dreaming of a roast).

    Health-food folks around the world
    Are thinned by anxious zeal,
    They look for help in seafood kelp
    (I count on breaded veal).

    No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
    Zucchini by the ton,
    Uncooked kale and bodies frail
    Are sure to make me run

    to

    Loins of pork and chicken thighs
    And standing rib, so prime,
    Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
    (I crave them all the time).

    Irish stews and boiled corned beef
    and hot dogs by the scores,
    or any place that saves a space
    For smoking carnivores.

    — Maya Angelou

  2. Hey Johnny,

    Great thoughts, I can tell you’ve really thought this through, and I applaud you for that. There are many people who do things “just because”, I personally have known a few people who have gone veggie “just because”, without any real reasoning behind it, and then switched back a few months later. Personally, I am a meat eater, and plan to remain that way. But I do appreciate your thoughts on the subject.

    My thoughts on this don’t have to do with the idea of mass-farming cattle, etc… but with home-raised cattle or hunted meat. I do have qualms with large farms and the way they handle animals, etc… many of which I have not worked out yet. ;-)

    First, hunted elk:
    Because we, humans have wiped out the predator population here in colorado, the Elk population has way overgrown itself. DOW studies show that colorado can safely sustain an elk population of around 185,000. More than this, and you begin to see Chronic Wasting Disease (and other diseases) in Elk, as well as damage to ecosystems not designed to contain that many animals. RIght now Colorado has around 250,000 elk. More than 65,000 animals over the optimal number, and they are multiplying every year. In fact, there are plans to hire hunters to help thin the population of elk in RMNP, because there are too many.

    To be a good steward in a situation like this, something must be done to thin the population. Not that that necessarily means you need to eat the meat, but some of the population needs to be killed, so that in the end, the elk can be self-sustaining. Without predators, they will die off from disease. It is our responsibility, as stewards, to make sure that the elk are sustainable, and that our earth is cared for. In this situation, it is our responsibility to manage the herds, and make sure that the numbers are trimmed. If we have to kill them anyways, why should we not partake of the meat harvested from it? In fact, I think it would be wasteful and wrong not to.

    Home farm-raised cattle:
    There are many small farms and ranches here in colorado that raise free-range or free-grazing cattle that they don’t sell en-masse, but rather deal in specialties. My father-in-law recently purchased half of such a cow, and had meat for over a year, spent the same or less money on it as he would normally, and had beef that was raised naturally, in a humane manner, and was in the end, healthier meat for him and his family to eat.

    Anyways, not trying to convert you back ;-), just add some thoughts to the discussion!

    -nate

  3. Nate,

    I appreciate the thoughts! I have a hard time accepting that we can decide what the optimum numbers of animals are in any case, considering we don’t ethically place those sorts of limits on human population when, some argue, that human population control would benefit the environment far more than other species control.

    I’m just not sure if I’m comfortable making the decisions of what dies and what doesn’t. While there is almost no way to get around this pragmatically, the animals have an existence that extends beyond their numbers, just as we humans do.

    I’m still trying to work this out in my own head, and I know that the practical issues are far more difficult than the theoretical. I also completely support small farms that use ethical means to raise animals. While I personally hold the conviction that eating animals could have serious ethical issues, I also don’t expect anyone else to hold that same conviction (although I love the dialogue).

    Thanks for the comment … I appreciate your insight!

    johnny

  4. Good thoughts…

    Your post has definitely given me some fuel for thought… I still don’t plan on going veggie, but switching to small farm-raised meat is definitely something I could do…

    Besides, I’d way rather support the small guys than those mass-producing farming corporations…

    Thanks!
    nate

  5. Gentlemen,

    I must say that this is a dilemma I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into until you went to your ethics class, Johnny. However, I have thought about it since. I have mixed thoughts and emotions regarding it, I must say.

    I see why you Nate, see fit for us to manage the elk population here in Colorado. I have heard it discussed on the radio in passing and the need I believe is there from the very little I know. I know that the meat made available because of this proposed program has the potential to be given to families who could not otherwise afford it.

    However Johnny, I see your point just the same. If we limited the number of human beings on the planet, or at least “controlled” the population, it too would seem unethical, even if the outcome was good environmentally, financially, etc. This in and of itself brings up topics like euthanasia, in general, and population controls found in China specifically, which I strongly disagree with.

    With that being said, at what point in time does one act? I think the lack of action in a case like this renders us powerless. How are we then to manage wildlife areas if we see the necessity for action focused on elk population control and yet do not act? That seems negligent. It’s similar to our conversations on the origins of sin.

    I also struggle with the idea of comparing the life of an animal with the life of a human being. Johnny, you clearly communicated the drastic differences between an animal and a human when you described the development of ethics and the ability to “feel”. Although I don’t think they compare exactly, I still don’t know what their place should be. They do after all experience fear and react similarly when being threatened and the like.

    This being said, I admit and agree that we have not proven ourselves good stewards as a whole with regard to livestock and something should be done, but I don’t know what.

  6. Harley,

    I agree that this is a tough issue. The best I can do now is go with my convictions and hope, at some point, that the world gets a little better as more and more people realize the problem regardless of whether their solution is as drastic as mine.

    I agree that we’ve done a pretty poor job of managing our ecosystem. A lot of that is due to ignorance of how complex it all is, and some of it is probably due to ingrained ethical ideas on animal life in general that we’ve since all but disproved with the emergence of modern science and biology.

    This is a great conversation for us to have, however, and I think just the action of mulling all of this over in our minds is a good start for finding solutions that are as ethical and sustainable as they can be.

    Thanks!
    johnny

  7. johnny wey,

    you’re my hero. hey man… good thoughts on the eating meat thing. i know this is like months well after you posted this but wanted to add on to this issue. i think you make good points and i can totally see the points where you include the impact on human lives. in fact, i agree the amount of resources it takes to raise livestock is excessive in the name of money and that human life is far more valuable. i am not sure how i feel about the issue of ethics and animals. i do believe that God has given us care over the earth and animals and like everything else, we can abuse that responsibility. however, animals are also here to serve a purpose for God, for the earth, and for us. i, however again, do also know that we were meant to eat “every herb that yields seed…and every tree whose fruit yields seed….” (gen 1:29) there is no mention of meat.

    so where do i stand? honestly, i’m moving towards eating less meat. have been for a while but it’s mostly for health reasons (knowing all the crap that goes into animals). when it comes to the ethics though, i don’t look at it from the stand point of “what are the animals going through” but rather, what are we (humans) doing in our “dominion” over the animals and earth. are we being good stewards, as you mention stewardship in #5, or are we abusing our gifts and responsibilities? when you get to hawai`i, i would love to pick your brain about this and a couple of other things.

    mahalo brother,
    ka`ala

  8. Ka’ala,

    Thanks for the contribution! I look forward to seeing you soon!

    I would respond by saying that we don’t, and shouldn’t presume, to know an overreaching purpose for any living thing on this earth. That same logic has been used, and continues to be used, to abuse minority people groups around the world. That animals are lumped into this group has been seen as acceptable until, I believe, recent increased understanding of the way animals interact with the world makes one at least pause and perhaps re-evaluate this approach.

    I agree that we have a responsibility in a way that other animals don’t (perhaps paralleling the picture of “dominion” that the Bible speaks of). However, I do not believe this responsibility lends itself to abuse anymore than the dominion picture of a government, described in Romans, lends itself to abuse of its citizens. From an ethical perspective, I believe these issues are very much the same.

    So then, the real question is probably what constitutes abuse? I error on a more extreme side here because I believe that destruction of a sentient life by another in a position of power is an abuse. However, I can understand why that opinion is not shared by everyone. I think we can agree, however, that factory farming and its commoditization of life as a whole, coupled with the usually gruesome and in-humane treatment of our food supply, is definitely an abuse! :-)

    See you soon bra,
    johnny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: