Animal Liberation
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Indybay Feature
Eating animals necessarily means
by food chain
Thursday Mar 1st, 2007 3:01 PM
save earth
eat low on food chain
Eating animals necessarily means
indirectly eating many, many more plants than one would require if
one ate plants directly instead. Thus, even if one values plants
equally with animals, it makes much more sense to eat the plants
directly. If we are to live at all, ultimately plants must be eatedn
In any case, environmentally, it is tremendously less damaging to
maintain a plant-centered diet rather than a meat based one.

A few pieces on the subject:

Common Ground (Vancouver) March 2007

Change your eating habits and help the planet

by Vesanto Melina

Recently, my columns have focused on a new phenomenon: the
recognition by scientists and the public that people's dietary
choices have an immense impact on global warming and the environment.
In other words, not only eliminating unnecessary big ticket spending,
but replacing our cars with co-op vehicles and bicycles plus
switching to transit, will impact Earth's future generations.

We can also make a huge climate change difference at our next meal.

European environmentalists observe that people generally, and openly,
display an extreme reluctance to change their eating habits. We may
be willing to donate a few dollars to an environmental group. But
change to a plant-based diet? Sorry. Although we'd cut our risk of
colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and reduce our weight and
favourably affect global warming, when it comes to changing our
menus, our eyes glaze over and we quickly change the subject.
Yet, a shift in our eating habits could play an immense role in the
arrest and reversal of major environmental problems. Considering the
impact of a single food, environmentalists recognize that the
production of beef has the greatest negative impact upon the
environment. Cheese, fish and milk are other high-impact foods.

Huge quantities of animal waste damage the ecosystem and contribute
heavily to global warming. (Nutrispeak, January 2007). The community
of Walkerton, Ontario is a tragic example of what can go wrong. In
2000, seven residents died as a result of drinking water contaminated
with E. coli, eventually linked to manure from a dairy farm. And many
cases of gastroenteritis, hemolytic uremic syndrome and kidney
failure have occurred among children who live near "feedlot alley,"
an area northwest of Lethbridge, Alberta, accommodating more than one
million head of beef cattle, which contaminate the environment with
massive quantities of manure and CO2.

Globally, poorer countries' resources are exploited for animal
husbandry. Each year 66,000 square miles of rainforest, the lungs of
our planet, are destroyed and the trend is increasing. Although not
all of this land is cleared to rear cattle, most is. In the Amazon,
88 percent of the cleared rainforest is, or was, used for grazing for
a short time. Unfortunately, the situation becomes sadder as the land
in the Amazon, as in other tropical rainforests, has little or no
soil; after a year or two as pasture, it quickly reverts to growing
useless poison scrub. In Costa Rica and Panama, about 70 percent of
the land is being cleared in this same manner.

As "food production machines," livestock are extremely polluting and
inefficient. When plant foods are transformed into animal products,
most of the proteins and calories are wasted and used for the
animals' metabolic processes, bones, offal, bones and manure, thereby
creating environmental problems.

A great deal of energy is employed to produce and transport animal
feed and to maintain facilities for animal husbandry. Considering
fossil fuel consumption alone, the production of one calorie from
beef requires 40 calories of fuel; one calorie from milk needs 14
fuel-calories, and one calorie from grains can be obtained using 2.2
calories of fossil fuels.
Water consumption represents almost half of the overall environmental
impact. Between them, animal farms and agriculture are responsible
for 70 percent of freshwater consumption on the planet. Immense
volumes of water are used for irrigating feed crops, quenching
cattle's thirst and cleaning stables, milking halls and
slaughterhouses. Industry uses an additional 22 percent of the
world's water and only eight percent is used for domestic purposes.

During World Water Week in Stockholm in 2004, international water
resource specialists linked water shortages with people's eating
habits, explaining that the planet's freshwater reserves will no
longer be sufficient to feed our descendants the present western
diet. They noted: "Cattle feed on grains; (and) even those which are
left to graze need much more water than is necessary to grow
cereals." For now, rich countries will be able to buy their way out
of the dilemma by importing "virtual water" in the form of cattle
feed or meat from water-poor countries.

Vegetarian and/or vegan eating can play an important role in
preserving our planet's resources, even if one only opts for those
choices occasionally. Want to do your bit? My April column will help
you introduce plant-based foods into your diet in a way that ensures
a delicious, simple transition.


The Aquarian (Winnipeg) Fall 2006

Another Inconvenient Truth

In the modern world, it is impossible to reconcile a carnivorous diet
with environmental responsibility


Go see Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It may well be the
most important film of the year. Al Gore guides us through a
fact-filled, highly persuasive exposition on global warming. He
convincingly argues that a tremendous crisis is upon us, one that
threatens our civilization and our entire planet. It is a crisis of
our own making. If we're going to avert global disaster, each and
every one of us must take decisive action. We must become active and
effective environmentalists.

Within this inconvenient truth is another, equally inconvenient
truth. Perhaps Al Gore missed it. Perhaps not. His movie fails to
mention it, in any case. That truth is, if we're truly going to be
effective environmentalists, if we're really going to attenuate
climate change -- if we're going to put the brakes on the tremendous
destruction that we're wreaking on this planet -- we're going to have
to give up eating meat. In the modern world, it is impossible to
reconcile a carnivorous diet with environmental responsibility.

When you munch on a burger, bite into a drumstick or chew on a pork
chop you're having tremendous deleterious effects on the environment.
Our hunger for meat is the biggest single contributor to planetary
degradation. Be it global warming, fossil fuel depletion, water
pollution or desertification, meat consumption is a prime contributor
to the problem.

In April, researchers at the University of Chicago showed that a
person eating an average American diet contributes the equivalent of
about 1 1/2 tonnes more CO2 to the atmosphere each year than does a
person on a vegan diet. That's more than the difference between
driving a Hummer H3 and a Toyota Prius 5,000 kilometers in the city.
Startlingly, fully a third of the raw materials consumed in North
America are used in meat 'production.' Half- to three-quarters of all
grain grown in North America is used for this purpose. So is some 15%
of fossil fuels. The livestock industry is responsible to an
astounding degree for the pollution of our air, lands and waterways.

Nearly three quarters of North American ammonia emissions are due
directly or indirectly to animal farming. According to the Worldwatch
Institute, farm animals around the world generate 130 times as much
bodily waste as the entire human population.

The raising of livestock and the soybeans to feed them is easily the
number one contributor to rainforest destruction. More than two acres
of tropical rainforest is being cleared per second to graze or feed
farm animals. Around the world, topsoil to the tune of tens of
billions of tons are lost each year to cultivation of animal feed
crops. Raising animals is an incredibly inefficient process.
Depending on the animal, it takes 2 to 10 lbs of grain to get one
pound of meat. Think how much less destruction would attend a human
world devoted to feeding itself directly with plant foods!

Some think that we can do our part by choosing to eat only free range
animals. But even free range animal agriculture does serious damage
to our environment. Free range cattle actually emit slightly more
methane per animal than do their grain-fed relatives. And the soil
loss associated with free range is significant, too. When raised on
semi-arid land (as is common in BC and Alberta beef country), damage
to the environment can be particularly severe. Several studies have
shown a strong correlation between the use of semi-arid land for beef
production and desertification.

What about fish? Well, the University of Chicago study showed that
eating fish is as big a contributor to global warming as is beef.
Most fish eaten in our culture requires energy-intensive long
distance voyages for harvest. Even farmed fish require this sort of
input; raising salmon, for example, requires some 3 lbs of
ocean-caught fish for every pound of salmon produced.
Hunting? Sorry, it's a no brainer. If everyone suddenly chose to hunt
for their meat, how long do you think there'd be any animals other
than humans left?

There are no two ways about it. Eating meat, dairy and fish is just
plain incompatible with sustainability. If this planet is going to be
saved, we must change our eating habits. Go see Al Gore's movie. Do
what he suggests. And give up animal products. It's not very hard.
Certainly not compared to trying to survive in a roiling, boiling
wasteland. If we don't do the right thing, that roiling, boiling
wasteland is the world we'll all too soon be living in.

- University of British Columbia molecular biologist David Steele is
Vice President of EarthSave Canada.


The Canada Earthsaver March/April 2004

How Oily is Your Food?

by Dave Steele, Ph.D

Have you ever considered how much oil goes into your food? No, not
olive oil or corn oil or even palm oil. Have you ever considered how
much crude oil - how much petroleum - we're using to feed ourselves?
It's no small matter. According to Cornell University's David
Pimentel, we North Americans use an average of 10 calories of fossil
fuel to produce one calorie of food energy. Feeding just one of us
takes about 1600 liters of fossil fuel each year! For me, at least,
that's more than I use driving.

Where does all that oil go? Well, surprisingly, mostly not to
transportation. Moving our food around uses only about 256 of those
liters. That's not insignificant, of course. A USDA study of 16 fresh
fruits and vegetables sold in a small Maryland town found that they
traveled, on average, over 2400 kilometers to get there. And the
processed foods we've come to depend on travel even further.
Fertilizers avoidably use up 496 of those liters - it's amazing how
much oil goes into keeping our mistreated soils productive. Tractors
and combines burn oil, too. And food processing, even more. And don't
forget the energy we use cooking our food. But this sort of
accounting misses a very big part of the picture.

In large measure, North Americans eat oil in their meat. Citing
Pimentel again, it takes 6 kilograms of plant protein to produce one
kilogram of animal protein; on average, eight times as much fossil
fuel is required to produce animal protein than the plant equivalent.
Over 50% of our annual grain production is fed to animals who are
later eaten. The way we raise 'meat,' it takes 28 calories of fossil
fuel input to generate 1 calorie of food value.

The rest of the oil we eat comes mostly in processed, packaged foods.
Even vegetarian processed foods require some 10 calories of fossil
fuel input for every calorie of food value. Beyond the energy used to
grow the grain, it takes the equivalent of two liters of gasoline to
make your average box of breakfast cereal. Packaging consumes even
more oil - in that plastic and that paper that you're going to throw
away anyway.

Honestly, this is insane. In burning all this oil, we're pumping more
and more CO2 into the atmosphere. We're warming the planet. We're
conducting a giant, foolish experiment. Paradoxical as it may sound,
it may be even worse that we can't keep it up. The oil fields are
going to dry up and they're going to dry up in this century. Sooner
or later we won't have any oil to 'eat.' If we're going to feed
ourselves in the long term, we're going to have to learn to eat
without oil.

Fifty years ago, we used only 1/4 as much oil, per person, to produce
our food as we do now. In the not-too-distant future we will have no
choice but to do with a lot less than that. Let's do our very best to
make sure the transition is as painless as possible. And oh yeah,
about that car...

What you can do

1. Eat low on the food chain.
For a rough rule of thumb consider each step up on that chain
requires a 10-fold increase in energy input. That's why farmed
salmon, for instance, are nightmare energy consumers. They're two
steps up on the chain and fed the ground up remains of other fish,
which are caught at the cost of fossil fuel.

2. Buy local.
Go to your local farmer's market and buy from local farmers.
Supermarkets and their suppliers treat food as a commodity. They move
it around to to maximize their profits. They're not concerned about
where that food came from.

3. Buy in season.
We're spoiled. We expect fresh produce year round. It's far better to
rely on local crops even in winter. Root crops keep well throughout
the year; home canning in reusable bottles is relatively energy
inexpensive compared to trucking cross-continent, often in throw-away

4. Buy organic.
Doing so not only cuts oil input by nearly a third (for fresh
vegetables, at least) but it's healthier to boot! A win-win situation.

5. Avoid processed foods and even packaged foods.
As discussed above, processed food is a major energy hog.

6. If you must buy food from afar, try to buy food shipped in.
Ocean shipping uses six times less energy than land transport...
fifty times less than air freight.

7. Think for yourself.
Consider what you're doing when you're buying anything... be it food
or that toy for your little one. It's only by being conscious of our
own actions that we can hope to make this a better world.

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