By Ashley Fink
Sustainability Studies student
I know, I know. It seems crazy to think that choosing not to eat meat could be making the world a better place for anyone other than livestock, but in many ways, this is true. Have you ever heard of Meatless Mondays? Do you know what all the fuss is about? Well, neither did I. The short answer is: the lower we eat on the food chain, the lower the impact on the environment. While it’s true that agribusiness certainly has its own devastating impact on the environment, that effect is only multiplied when we factor in CAFOs. Think about it: What food does our food eat? Where will our food live? And hopefully you’ll eventually arrive at this question: What impact does our food have?
For the cows, pigs, and poultry bred and raised in CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, there also has to be land to house these billions of animals. This land doesn’t come from nowhere. Countless acres of land are destroyed and modified (no doubt by gasoline-fueled machines) to provide the space needed to breed, feed, and slaughter these animals. Not to mention the lighting, heating, cooling, and any other energy needed to provide the bare essentials to keep livestock living long enough to become our food. Don’t forget that our food needs its own food. With so many animals confined in small spaces, (remember, the point is to slaughter these animals to eat, so the more you can fit in, the more money you can make) there isn’t enough grass growing around to feed them all. Instead, other fields are used to grow the corn and soybeans that will eventually be processed into feed for this livestock to eat. And for any industry that is only concerned with quantity over quality, getting to the end result is the goal, by any means necessary (bring on the pesticides and GMOs!).
No step in this process doesn’t take its toll on the environment and don’t, for a second, believe that it stops there. These creatures that were only brought into the world to be consumed by us are then murdered, butchered, processed, packaged, and refrigerated until we transport their carcasses to our homes to prepare for our own consumption. No matter how long you cook it, that meat will always be bloody.
Vegans experience things a little differently in this regard. For the small percentage of our diet that actually requires protein, they seek other sources. Various foods like grains, beans, and even some vegetables are more than capable of providing the .36 grams of protein per pound needed to maintain healthy body function. Don’t think you can give up meat altogether? Well, no one says you have to go “cold turkey,” but every little tidbit counts.