Are you hungry?!
Maybe temporarily, but not like the 925 million or so people worldwide that suffer from undernourishment. If you don’t sponsor a child in a third-world country – and even if you do – there are other ways to help end world hunger. More importantly, there are ways you personally can stop contributing to it.
We as Americans must step away from the burgers. In order to reduce the prevalence of world hunger, the wealthier nations (that’s still us) need to reduce consumption of meat.Twenty vegetarians can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed one person consuming a meat-based diet, and Americans eat 60 percent more meat than Europeans.
Factory farms aren’t just starving our neighbors; they’re also ruining our environment. These farms produce over 500 million tons of manure annually. They also represent the largest of all anthropogenic land uses, and up to 70 percent of this land is considered degraded. Livestock consumes more protein than it produces and contributes more to global warming than transportation. It’s bad for water quality and other wildlife, increases erosion, depletes water supply, and is responsible for more than a third of pesticide use in the United States.
A recent study offers these and other reasons to curb meat consumption, highlighting the climate impacts of various food options. Unsurprisingly, red meat is one of the worst options. But study also looked at the impact of meat on human health, finding that eating meat increases your chances of suffering from a wide range diseases.
Now, it has been noted these environmental impacts aren’t really breaking news to most people anymore. But whether it’s really penetrated to the general population is questionable because… well… we’re still not eating less meat.
So what’s the hold-up? Is it an Alex Roth-style slippery-slope straw man argument that ‘if you take away meat, what’s next? Our children because they poop too much?’ Seriously, sober people, we’ve long known that our livestock consumption is bad for the environment – and I just told you it also increases your chance of disease – why aren’t we making progress?
If you eat one less burger per week, it’s like taking your car off the road for 320 miles. If everyone in the country ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road. That’s not a huge sacrifice. And when you do eat meat, consider healthier options like grass-fed and pasture-raised livestock. If you don’t do it for the environment, or for your own health, you can at least do it for the poor, hungry kid on your T.V.
Livia Borak is an attorney at Coast Law Group, LLP in Encinitas where she focuses on a variety of environmental issues representing various non-profit organizations. She’s a former San Diego Coastkeeper staff attorney and member of the third-place CityBeat Trivia night team By Rolland’s Beard. She serves on the board of League of Conservation Voters and is legal advisor to the environmental nonprofit Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation. She makes killer chocolate chip vegan cookies.