I love my vegetarian friends. But I love my meat too.
This is definitely a dilemma for me. I love animals. I love dogs. I think pigs are really smart animals. I care about the environment. I recycle. I reuse bags. I pay extra for the recycled business cards.
Am I a hypocrite?
For those of you who eat meat, I’m sure you understand. For those of you who don’t, please don’t prejudge me yet. I have tried to go vegetarian, but I really like meat and my body doesn’t really do well with only vegetables (or only grains).
A few weeks ago, we joined Blog Action Day on the issue of climate change. BTW, I thought I was so clever today and made up the word “carbon fooDprint.” Turns out, there’s a neat organization – Cool Foods Campaign – where you can learn more about how to reduce your carbon “foodprint” via your food!
ANYWAYS, this issue just gets more interesting…let’s see a run-down just the last couple weeks…
Lord Stern of the UK (not a vegetarian himself) warned the public they need to turn vegetarian in the Times October 27, 2009. You’re probably familiar with the argument that cattle and pig emissions (i.e. farts and stuff) are more dangerous than carbon dioxide to global warming.
The first country to take this connection seriously is Sweden. In Elisabeth Rosenthal’s October 22, 2009 article, she reports that the Swedish government is taking steps to literally track their food by labeling the carbon dioxide emissions on food products and menus, from pastas to burgers.
Has this changed anything? Well, it seems that restaurants have found up to 75% of their carbon footprint attributable to meat. But even when they put these labels on their menu items and the more “climate-friendly items” have seen an increase in sales, some people just want a burger. They may feel a bit guilty ordering it, but they do anyways.
Moreover, she notes that the environmental cost is not just because of meat. Rosenthal notes that there are other factors like the type of soil used to grow the cattle’s food. So if we cannot cut meat entirely out of the human diet (which I don’t anticipate happening), then as Michael Pollan and others argue, we really should be paying more attention to where the meat comes from and how the animals are raised.
Rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman wrote in the New York Times on October 30, 2009 about this exact dilemma and raises some provoking points, affirming Rosenthal’s contention that it’s not as simple as meat/no meat, but how the land and surroundings are cared for in the raising of said meat. She points out that smaller, traditional, local farms don’t really have these carbon emissions that lead to global warming whether it is because of distance to market or little reliance on machinery (which sucks up energy).
And can vegetarians eat completely guiltless? Niman points out the reliance on soy for protein…and the most common soy and tofu found in supermarkets are from deforested lands overseas. Between large agribusiness emitting carbons to ship soy from overseas to large agribusiness companies like Monsanto destroying entire ecosystems in the Midwest to grow soybeans, we might have to think again whether meat is the only culprit to massive carbon “foodprints”.
Photo Source: Ecolitics Now
So what does this all mean? As Michael Pollan says, eat less meat. Eat more locally. By buying organic and local meat (which is also more expensive), I naturally buy and eat less. If I can’t get to the farmer’s market, I buy my meat at Whole Foods, where I know they have actually walked the walk with their involvement with the Animal Compassion Fund and Animal Welfare Standards.
I’m not sure I can ever fully resolve this dilemma. I sleep on organic cotton sheets, but my towels are not. I bike or walk where I can, but my car still gets lots of usage. But if Elisabeth Rosenthal is right that “”changing one’s diet can be as effective in reducing emissions of climate-changing gases as changing the car one drives or doing away with the clothes dryer,” then is it possible for me to care about the planet and animals, but still eat a little locally-, organically-, humanely-raised meat once in a while?
Starting today, I’ll start by cutting out meat 3 days a week.
About the Author (Author Profile)With a flair for spontaneity, pizzazz, creative excellence and her own unique sense of aesthetic grace and perspective, we have our very dear friend, Belinda (or B, to some of us). Although an incredibly accomplished professional and career woman, B’s down-to-earth approach and demeanor transcends all scenarios, communities and people. She manifests, in her day-to-day, the essence of the word “Zomppa” as demonstrated by her extraordinary commitment to creating sustainable and positive change for us and future generations to come. She’s asked for a dog every year since she was five. Check out Belinda’s work on global education research and coaching: www.hummingbirdrcc.com or more about her portfolio www.belindachiu.com.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Contemplating Meat on a NC Beach | Zomppa - Food, Meet People | December 9, 2010