I was speaking to a meat eating friend the other day about the whole issue of Vegetarianism and Veganism. Having decided to give up all dairy along with all meat, as well as non-food items made with animal parts, I had made a life decision he couldn’t quite understand. A life without burgers? Steaks? Real butter and cheese? Sure, he had heard of people doing that, but he never thought he would come across one of those extremists first hand.
He was saying that he could never give up meat, and my response surprised him. Mainly because he had just labeled me one of those wacky all-or-nothing types.
When he told me he could never give up meat, I gave him a simple truth: he didn’t have to.
Forget The Extreme Solution
It is so easy to get bogged down in the mentality of changing everything at once. Nearly every Vegan speaker I have listened to, and most literature I have read, advocates shocking people into turning to a completely meatless lifestyle. Which is a worthy cause, and I do think people should know where their food comes from. Those tactics are not without merit.
The problem is that, yes, you can shock a hundred people with the horrifying truth of what goes on behind the scenes of a factory farm. Or you can tell them the statistics of world hunger and how widespread Vegetarianism or Veganism could solve it. Maybe you even point out the health benefits to giving up animal products, and the inherent risks of eating meat. But I guarantee it won’t be a hundred Vegans walking back through the auditorium doors when it is over.
But do you know what you just might have? One new Vegan, a couple of Vegetarians, and maybe a dozen or more people who have decided to start cutting down on the amount of meat they consume.
Encouraging The Whole, Not The Few
This is what I believe the true goal should be. So many meat eaters are defensive of our cause. They feel judged and bullied, and I know a lot people reading this are thinking ‘Good, it is better than the way the animals are treated!’ However, that isn’t going to make them see the benefit of reducing their meat intake.
We should be focusing on education without judgement. We should be telling them that it isn’t about giving it up full stop, but of reducing your impact on the environment, meat demand and the profits that go to these inhumane slaughterhouses.
Just cutting down on meat can make a huge difference, and not only on the situation for animals. It also decreases the amount of resources used for livestock, which increases crop land and grain for humans who are starving around the world. There is even a huge health benefit.
A Bit Of Perspective
What really goes into a hamburger? I am not talking about the meat itself, but the production, the resources. The answer might shock you.
A pound of beef requires around 7 – 13 pounds of grain to produce in feed, according to Stanford University. We will go with the low end of the estimate and say seven pounds.
It also needs a whopping 52 gallons of water, 74 square feet of land, and more than 1000 BTU’s of fossil fuels.
The average burger is, say, 1/4 of a pound. That is 1.75 lbs of grain, 13 gallons of water, 18.5 square feet and 250 BTU’s. All to produce a single hamburger patty.
If you eat one hamburger a week (and be honest, you probably eat more), the resources you are using over a year come out to:
ñ 84 lbs of grain
ñ 624 gallons of water
ñ 888 square feet of harvesting land
ñ 12,000 BTU’s of fossil fuel
I want you to imagine for one second all of those resources are being put to other uses. You could feed a person on six cups of cooked grains per day, or 1 – 1 1/2 cups uncooked. There are 161 cups in 84 lbs of grains.
That doesn’t even account for the water (think of how many places have no clean water), and the environmentally damaging fossil fuels.
Is that one burger a week really so important to you? What about that bucket of fried chicken, that bacon with breakfast, that ham sandwich for lunch. Would it really hurt you to give it up a few times a week? Just think of all those resources you are saving when you do.
There is a reason Meatless Mondays has become such a phenomenon. That single day does so much for the world. It is also saving your body from a day’s worth of cholesterol, dangerous fats and toxins, all of which come from meat.
So when my friend told me he couldn’t give up meat, I meant what I said: he didn’t have to. But just a little bit cut from his diet would make a lot more difference than he ever imagined.