Last week I hung out with the lovely Bethaf in her hood in Toronto. While exploring the neighbourhood we wandered into a Goodwill in which she explained to me that she had challenged herself not to buy anything new (or, if it had to be new, it would be ethically produced) for a whole year. A few days later she blogged about it (here) and explained that the decision came partially from this feeling of entitlement to new things that is so pervasive to Western culture.
Reading her post helped me more eloquently think about my recent self-challenge of a plant-based diet (aka a less-than-completely-ethical vegan) and my motivations.
Do I (we) deserve to eat meat?
Meat is tough on the environment. Well, not meat exactly, but raising animals for consumption uses much greater resources than plant-matter. We put resources (water, land, grain, etc.) into raising animals to eat instead of just using that material to feed ourselves. Meat is resource intensive and very inefficient to produce. This is a figure from eateco.org (the percentages represent amount of energy available for human use divided by the amount of energy it took to produce). We are getting negative returns from meat and dairy products.
|Grain fed beef||6.4|
The lower the figure the more inefficient the process, requiring higher energy inputs.
This isn’t even mentioning the environmental impact of all the manure created by these animals and the horrific living conditions almost all of them endure. As other countries like China and Brazil move to match our meat/dairy consumption it puts even greater demands on the environment and these countries have massive populations. These massive populations are becoming richer and realizing that they too “deserve” a chunk of this dietary high-life we have experienced for decades.
All of this info can be found with a quick google search (and I encourage you to do so) but the point is always the same: animal-products are not a sustainable way to feed the planet.
So do I deserve to eat meat more than others in our world? Do I deserve to eat meat if it means others will go without food? Do I deserve to eat meat if it will have a much more negative impact on the environment than a plant-based diet?
The answer I have come up with to each of these questions is no. So I’m going to try very hard not to. I’ll probably slip up sometimes or choose to eat the occasional treat with dairy but, for the foreseeable future, I’m plant-based. I’m on a slippery slope to hippie-ism.
Plus, does this make you want to eat bacon? (No, it isn’t a sad peta video)