A lot has been debated about being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian; if a vegetarian diet is a complete diet or should one depend on other species for the necessary requisites.
My earlier articles named ‘Should We All Be Vegetarians’ & ‘The Modern We’ clearly throws light on:
- The ill effects of a non-vegetarian diet on the human body
- Myths & speculated facts about meat eating, proteins, strength etc
- Scientifically how these indispensable rudiments are obtained through a vegan diet
- The cruelty on animals – for its skin & meat
- How we are meant to be herbivores
- How are desires for leather goods & brands result in mutilation of the other species
The other effects of meat eating are detrimental; especially on our Eco-system & our psychology. Ecology is a study of how living entities interacts with one another & their surroundings. If one were to grade the modern human beings’ efforts in taking care of our ecology, particularly in the last fifty years, we would definitely receive an ‘F’ for failure!
The world today is in deep peril because the environment has deteriorated as a result of our inhuman activities. Mother Nature has been pushed to her limits & we have begun to pay the price for altering her.
Schools in the 80’s opened their classrooms on how to improve & save the environment. But surprisingly, the most environmentally destructive practice on the Earth has been largely overlooked, namely killing of animals for food & byproducts. With the increase of our aptitude, we have incepted new methodologies of increasing Food Farming but fail to construe the consequences of Livestock Farming. The term “livestock” refers to all farmed animals, including pigs, birds raised for meat & egg-laying hens.
Hence it is not your Aptitude but your Attitude, which will decide your Altitude! Let us evaluate some of the threats to our ecology:
The meat industry is a big contributor to this phenomenon as it is attributed to the greenhouse effect. Absence of carbon-dioxide will cause the sunlight to reflect off this planet; leaving it dead cold. Hence carbon-dioxide helps to trap the sunlight & in that way heat is retained. Therefore more carbon emissions will result in trapping excess heat from the sun & there by increasing the temperatures across the planet. So when cattle ranchers burn our tropical forests, millions of carbon-dioxides are discharged into our atmosphere only trapping more heat from the sun. Carbon-dioxide can account for nearly 45% of global warming.
This chemical can be more dangerous as it traps about 25 times the amount of Carbon-dioxide. It is released whenever organic matter breaks down. Both termites & cattle have, in their guts, microorganisms that digest cellulose & produce methane. We have over 2 billion cattle that are eructating (burping) or flatulating (expulsion through the rectum of a mixture of gases) methane on a regular basis.
They are a 3000-mile wide greenbelt that straddles the equator. They are irreplaceable habitats for almost half the world’s animals & plants. Our rain forests continue to be decimated so that we can have more pastures to herd our livestock. The topsoil once lost cannot be gained & hence we face threats of destruction from flooding. Our landscape is no more capable of holding water & it only ensures displacement of families & homes.
Aiding Extinction of Species:
We are not only displacing ourselves but a lot of species that unlike us are incapable of adjust to new habitat. These species have interdependence on one another. What is waste for one is critical for the other. Amongst them; they do a lot of composting, recycling & returning materials to the land. That is nature’s way of regeneration & when we dislodge these species, we also jeopardize the equilibrium of our ecosystem.
Topsoil is the depth from the surface to the first densely packed soil layer known as Subsoil. It is the upper, outermost layer of soil, usually the top 2 inches (5.1 cm) to 8 inches (20 cm). It has the highest concentration of organic matter & micro organisms and is where most of the Earth’s biological soil activity occurs. The desertion of our topsoil happens when land is cleared for grazing of cattle or due to the subtraction of trees. Both of them result in instability of the soil. What we are guarantying is barren, infertile & unproductive land like deserts giving us a mirage to undo our doings.
The sewage from factory farms is the biggest water polluter associated with animal agriculture. These animals when alive, consume most of our fresh waters & after being slaughter use subsidized water to dispose the animals’ excrement. In addition, pesticide runoff as a major polluter of our water as once these toxins enter our waterways, it only mends the aquatic life. Hence becoming a vegetarian contributes more toward cleaning & preserving our water than any other single act.
Polluting the Land:
Chemical presence in our foods today is so pervasive that trying to avoid them is almost physically impossible. Fortunately fruits & vegetables surfaces can be cleansed of pesticide but we cannot remove the pesticides deposited in animal fat. This is why organic vegetation has gained prominence. Resistance to any foreign substance is natural to evolution. Bugs, insects & parasites develop immunity to chemicals when exposed to concentrated amounts that don’t kill them. And what does modern agriculture do? Try new chemicals … the cycle continues.
Trees are one of the principal pollution control units of this planet. It balances our oxygen & carbon-dioxide levels. The meat industry fails to replace the trees it has uprooted for the green pastures it requires. With the absence of trees we are ensuring rise in temperatures, loss of topsoil, loss of necessary nutrients for fertility, sucking out the moisture from our soil & leave it unprotected against wind. To add to the problem, it takes 10 times the fuel to transport grains, fruits & vegetables than livestock cattle. That many more trucks need to ply adding to carbon-dioxide & that much more rubber put to use.
Our Friends – Balancing the World:
With deforestation taking place; trees are lost. When birds lose their homes, they often die. Fewer birds mean more insects. More insects means more pesticide usage!
With the Ozone hole, the ultraviolet rays are killing the ocean phytoplankton. Phytoplanktons are responsible for much of the oxygen present in the Earth’s atmosphere – half of the total amount produced by all plant life. They also form the base of the oceanic food chain. Without them most life forms would suffocate or starve; so if we allow this to be killed – so will our oceans! If we do not have oxygen for our water scavengers – the fish; we can forget recycling of our filth that we dump in to the oceans.
In summation, we have created an environmental & ethical disaster. The rapid destruction & extinction of our valuable natural resources, which will be needed for future generations, is an unparalleled crime. Our dependence on meat, poultry & fish has resulted in a huge environmental toll. ‘The Modern We’ view other creatures as a means to our fulfillment; we snuff out their lives whenever it suits our purpose.
The world’s environmental problems will not be solved until we cut back on our overwhelming desire for material consumption.
People engage in word jugglery in order to rationalize a habit or desire. How often does one hear, “don’t tell me about the horrific conditions in a slaughter house or about what is in my meat, as it will ruin my dinner.” They only discover new pretexts to continue the ill they are doing. They are only trying to deceive themselves into labeling their incorrect as correct! Smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol & eating meat are sheer examples of deception to oneself. They have all the reasons to quit, but they either can’t or won’t!
One of the greatest ironies occurred at George Bush’s Presidential Inauguration. He genuinely talked about a gentler, kinder world. Yet that evening, Veal was the first course at dinner.
Veal is a product of a very violent industry. Veal is the meat of young cattle, as opposed to beef from older cattle. They have a few variants like:
- Bob Veal – slaughtered only when a few days old
- Formula Fed Veal – raised on milk formula supplements for creamy, pink & velvety meat
- Non Formula Fed Veal – usually marketed as calf; slaughtered in 22-26 weeks
- Rose Veal - Its name comes from its pink colour, which is a result of the calves being slaughtered at around 35 weeks.
- Free Raised Veal - The veal calves are raised in the pasture, have unlimited access to mother’s milk and pasture grasses. They are not administered hormones or antibiotics. These conditions replicate those used to raise authentic pasture-raised veal. Calves are slaughtered at about 24 weeks of age.
“Unless it eventuates in Compassion & Advancement, Knowledge is Worthless!”
With our advancement in technology, information & research, we should ascertain how to use the earth so that her productivity is enhanced & not diminished. "Our choices at all levels; individual, community, corporate & government affect nature. And they affect us in return."
Try visualizing yourself in the form of:
- A Lobster being chosen for your sheer size & burning to death in boiling water or
- A Whale with a harpoon (a spear used for impaling) exploding inside you or
- A live Puppy in Taiwanese restaurants, soon to be served on a plate or
- A Cow in a slaughter house whose throat is slit while fully conscious or
- A Calf who wants his mother’s udder & love but is helpless as some desire its meat/skin or
- A Fish who gasps until its last breath or
- A Dolphin who ends up in the nets for a man’s hunt for Tuna or
- A Bull in Spain putting up a fight for your life while others are cheering the Matador to pierce your shoulder blades so you can bleed to death or
- A live Monkey who is tied to a table from below with your head popping out through a four inch hole & diners waiting eagerly for cracking your skull open to chew away your brain or
- A Chick whose beaks are cut off with a hot blade for complaining for space.
‘Truly man is the king of the beasts, for our cruelty exceeds theirs!’
We need to broaden our sphere of concern & contribution before it is too late! People often use the infamous quote: ‘No Pain – No Gain’ to which I state ‘such Pain for our Gain is Insane!’
We often wonder why we experience difficulties when we have done nothing wrong! We wonder why although being a good human being, our graph is not always steady or upward! According to the Holy Scripture the Bhagavad-Gita, our every Karma - Action (this & past lives) attracts a reaction & comes back sooner or later. I will in my next article write about the types, kinds of Karma & how it functions.
Some interesting data:
a. In 1856 Japan, US Ambassador Townsend Harris landed in Tokyo for a press conference. In those days the Japanese did not eat meat but reluctantly complied to slaughtering a cow to appease the Ambassador’s desire. To this day, there stands a memorial to that cow at Gyokusen-ji (Address: Kakizaki 31-6, Shimoda-shi, Shizuoka).
b. In 1987 Buffalo - New York, a Mr. Michael Halsey was jailed for thirty days for killing a ten week-old puppy. He was the first person to ever receive such a sentence for the death of an animal. Judge Michael Broderick sentenced him for killing of a living creature.
c. In 1998 New Zealand. A documentary on the lamb industry. This particular man was being interviewed on TV who was boasting for killing 20 million lambs. He concluded his comments with, “That’s something to be damned proud of!”
d. A story shared by a friend where his business associate went hunting with his 7-year-old daughter. After collecting the bird he had blasted out of the sky, his daughter noticed that the bird still had food in its mouth. When the daughter asked why, he replied, “it was probably carrying the food home to its kids.” where upon his daughter responded in shock, “Dad, did you shoot someone’s parent?”
Statistics state that the numbers of people who visit the American zoos are more than all sporting events combined. It only proves the love we have for other species. But unfortunately this love is overshadowed by our incessant materialistic desires! We should be content with what we have but never with what we are! But we have multiplied our possessions & divided our values! We continue to integrate intellectually but disintegrate morally!
Carbon emissions are a big concern of today & we should make ourselves accountable for the same.
Electricity is one of the greatest discoveries of mankind. It has literally induced light in our lives, our thinking & our outlook. But unfortunately it is now also responsible for depletion of natural resources (fossil fuels). We have become aware of the same hence alternate (solar, hydro & bio) energy is the call for of the hour but it yet needs to become a viable proposition. So until then we have no choice but to continue to rape this planet. All Electric Companies should use this as their caption:
“Don’t you just hate it when someone turns you on & leaves?”
The Car manufacturing industry has also taken to hypocrisy. They market their new engines by terming them as ‘Blue Efficiency’ or ‘Euro 5’ etc thus taking responsibility of the environment & at the same time is supportive of the most brutal trade - the Leather Industry.
The Car industry also plays a significant role in luring buyers into owning fancy, luxury & fast cars. They fail to grasp fast cars means powerful machines; powerful machines means less kilometers per liter; less kilometers per liter means more carbon emissions; more liters means high usage of natural gases; exhaustion of natural gases means its doom!
The Paper industry is also a threat to the environment. With new technology, we should reduce the dependency on paper & reduce the usage as much as possible. Wipro is one company who feels accountable towards the environment & every email of theirs has a footnote: Print only if necessary!
Just a few examples how we directly abuse our planet; there are many more direct & indirect ways by which we compromise our ecology. We must feel the need for accountability.
The new industry, which I foresee to be the next big thing, will be the producing Oxygen & making them available in Spas, in cylinders, in pumps etc!
All of this continues to go on, while over a billion people globally are categorised as ‘Starving’. What travesty!
- Dr. Neal Barnard, President of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine concludes that the beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all disasters & all automobile accidents combined.
- The Center for Disease Control in America says that seafood is 25 times more likely to cause illness due to bioaccumulation of fat-soluble substances than meat.
- National Cancer Institute of America infers that 70% of the plants that have anti-cancer properties come from the tropical rain forests. The Amazon (referred as the greatest pharmaceutical lab) is one such example.
- Jeremy Rifkin, in his book ‘Beyond Beef’ estimates that 70% of all water consumed goes to animal feed & food. The amount of water needed to produce a 500-kilogram bullock is enough to float a Destroyer (Naval Warship).
- John Robbins, author of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominated ‘Diet for a New America’ calculates that 50,000 pounds of animal excrement per second go into our land & waterways. It’s been 24 years since he found out; can’t imagine what the figures are now! Studies state that it takes 10 times more amount of energy to transport animals than vegetables.
- In the last 200 years, we have lost 75% of our topsoil & it nearly takes 100 – 500 years to regain just one inch of the same topsoil.
- The United States Drug Association (USDA) states that the cost of one hamburger is 78 sq feet of our rain forest.
- Scientists at Dalhousie University, Canada found that the livestock sector will contribute enough greenhouse gas emissions to send temperatures above the 2 degrees Celsius rise; commonly said to be the threshold above which climate change could be destabilising.
- Studies confirm that a 1-meter rise in sea level would displace about 7 million people in India alone. By 2100, a rise of about 9 cm to 88 cm is expected which will have a physical impact on coastal areas by increasing flooding and the intrusion of salt water. By the year 2025, Earth could lose as many as one fifth of all species known to exist today as a result of our inhuman activities.
- Gas Emissions could push temperatures up to levels not seen for 1 million to 30 million years by the end of the century, threatening many habitats.
- 25% of all species of plants & animals could be extinct by 2050 as human-induced climate change heats up the earth, an international group of scientists has predicted.
- Nutrients in animal waste cause algal blooms, which use up oxygen in the water, contributing to a "dead zone" where there's not enough oxygen to support aquatic life. Gulf of Mexico is one of them.
- High levels of nitrates in drinking water also increase the risk of methemoglobinemia, or "blue-baby syndrome," which can kill infants. It is also a reason for abortions.
- According to Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 70000 various chemicals are being used in livestock farming.
- About 29 million pounds of antibiotics (about 80 % of the America’s antibiotics) are added to animal feed every year to speed livestock growth. And who are the end recipients of these antibiotics? Following a non-vegetarian diet only ensures a rise of resistant bacteria, making it harder to treat human illnesses.
- 1995: 10 million fish were killed in the New River, North Carolina due to an eight-acre hog-waste lagoon burst spilling 25 million gallons of manure. These dead fish were seen as an opportunity by few because most of us are governed by our tongue!
- United States Drug Association says that 50% of available land is used to breed livestock while only 4% is used for growing fruits & vegetables.
- 80% - 90% of our grain is fed to livestock that is later killed for meat.
- 3600 gallons of water is consumed to obtain 1 pound of meat & a mere 60 gallons of water in required for 1 pound of wheat.
- 1 acre of land can produce 165 pounds of beef whereas 1 acre of land can produce 20000 pounds of potatoes.
I know it is hard to worry about something that is so far & in someone else’s backyard, but we should not miss the bigger picture, as we are also instrumental in the demand of byproducts of livestock.
So the questions we need to ask ourselves is:
Are we Owners or Caretakers of our Ecology?