Tuesday, July 27
My big issues...
This can be a tetchy subject and invariably it isn't me that brings it up. First up I want to say this. I am expressing my feelings, opinions as well as some hard-nosed facts here. I am not judging anyone, I may challenge you, but I dont judge anyone. Everyone is different. And everyone cares about different things. I just happen to care quite a lot about this particular thing. I've been vegetarian since I was twelve years old. I remember loving steak and kidney pies and I remember loving lamb chops covered in tomato sauce. The smell of roast chicken makes me salivate every time. I get the feeling that the reason I often encounter so much aggression from people who ask me why I'm a vegetarian is that they believe (no matter what my response is) that I am judging them. I know a lot of people think about what they eat and take it quite seriously, I also believe (here we are entering opinion territory), that a lot of people don't think about what they eat, what the consequences of there eating is (on themselves and the environment), and the huge variety of food that there is out there.
Now, I am asking you not to judge me when I tell you I have been watching Masterchef. And you know what I've noticed? Every main course that is served up has meat or fish in it. Every single one. (I may have missed the vegetarian episode, if it exists, it has to be said - but for the last few weeks its been meat all the way.) When nutritionists recommend we eat meat 3-4 times a week why is it that every meal that is prepared involves it? I have the same grudge with a magazine I buy. It has a seven-day food menu in the back and I would say occasionally it has one meat-free meal. One. No wonder people are always asking me what I eat!
I find it astounding that with all the climate change kerfuffle that is happening, the media has managed to gloss over that one of the best ways to help the environment is to eat less meat (or none). Even when it does get mentioned, no one really knows what it means. Does less meat mean once a day?
Now all this aside there are some really really good reasons to go vegetarian, or certainly cut down on your meat and eat free range.
* Did you know that if you switched from meat eater to vego you would save more carbon emissions than if you switched from a regular car to a hybrid car.
* In Australia, we are reducing our animal species at a higher rate than any other country except the USA. The biggest contributing factor to this endangerment is habitat destruction caused by clearing land for animal pasture.
* 92% of all land degradation in Australia is caused by animal industries.
* Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the World. 67% of water in Australia is used for agriculture whereas 9% is for household use.
* It takes up to 50,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of beef. It takes 2500 litres to produce a kilo of rice.
* We each use about 500 litres a day through direct household use (toilets, showers, drinking etc). A person on an average Australian diet actually uses about 3,500 litres a day. A vegetarian uses about 1,000 litres a day.
* Animal industries pollute our fresh water supplies. In the US, factory farms are polluting rivers more than all other industries combined.
* 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia are attributed to animal industries.
* Animals produce Methane, which is, in the short term, a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2. Over the next 20 years Australia's livestock will produce more warming than all of our coal fired power stations!
* Grazing land takes up nearly 50% of the continent, this is in addition to the land cleared for growing hay and other food for animals. If a small fraction of that land was reforested we could "soak up" Australia's carbon emissions in a few decades.
* 790 million in the world are chronically undernourished. Most edible grain is used to feed animals for meat and dairy production.
* The world's cattle consume enough food to feed 8.7 billion people. Yep that's more than the world's actual population.
* Vegetarians live 5 - 10 years longer than meat-eaters. They are much less likely to have heart disease, cancers, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other diseases.
I appreciate that not everyone is into this. One of my good friends delights in wearing his t-shirt, "I love animals - they're delicious", around me. However, I challenge you to consider where your food has come from. (watch this interview!) If you don't think you could look a cow in the eye and kill it then perhaps you don't deserve to eat it. If you can't grab a chicken by the neck and break it, then pluck it and cut its head off then you don't deserve to eat it. It's about respect really. Animals are living things, I believe all living things deserve respect. Meat farming is shrouded in mystery. It is almost impossible to visit a farm or abbatoir. You know why? Because it's horrible and not what you want to associate with your dinner!
Resources to find out more:
Wonderful author Jonathon Safran Foer.
* My main source:
Eating up the world. All facts and figues are quoted from here, and are properly referenced in the booklet.
Don't watch this if you're squeamish. But if you are squeamish and eat meat then you should.