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Consider veganism

| Wednesday, January 13, 2016

As the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris recently came to a close, you may be considering ways in which you can make a positive environmental impact. There are certainly plenty of small changes every individual can make to help improve the world’s environment. If you are unsure of what you can do and want to take action, consider the impact of veganism.

It is widely known that animal agriculture is one of the primary causes of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Although the numbers vary by study, one recent study by the Worldwatch Institute determined that at least 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by raising animals for food.

Even if you’re not one to consider a full-fledged vegan diet and lifestyle, you should at least consider the benefits of small changes. Whether you decide to go vegan for a day, a week or life, know that you would be helping to make great strides towards a better world in more ways than one.

Sean Perkins
Dec. 11

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Johnny Whichard

    Because the fate of the earth rests on whether or not you eat that Big Mac…but if you don’t have the Big Mac, at least you will have a new found sense of self-importance and self-righteousness to effectively annoy those around you to death…thus saving the planet by killing a few polluting humans!

  • stewart lands

    Veganism recognizes two noteworthy goals–the first is to reduce animal suffering; the other to reduce environmental impact with the understanding that what is good for the environment is good for all of its creatures, including, of course, its animal inhabitants. Eliminating animal agriculture, as mainstream vegan thought demands, has the potential to make significant strides toward both outcomes. However, this is not to suggest that mainstream vegan philosophy has yet identified the best or even the most logical dietary approach to reaching these goals.

    To begin, veganism assumes that any vegetable item must also be animal friendly. The truth is, some plants require more resources than others to produce and transport. Growing any crop requires that wild lands be converted to barren soil, with the result that habitat is lost and every wild creature upon that landscape is destroyed. Some crops require much more land than others and therefore result in unnecessarily large numbers of animal lives lost. Some require more water, resulting in the excessive diversion of water from sensitive aquatic systems with the result that populations of fish and amphibians are in collapse, world-wide. Others require huge amounts of energy to transport across the planet. Despite all of these concerns, most vegans still think anything plant must be OK, as if there exists a line between plant and animal that somehow distinguishes between good food and bad. Yet cashews and almonds require four times as much water to grow than does chicken, and bananas imported across the seas help to contribute to global climate change. Fruit such as kiwi and orange require a lot of land relative to less destructive options. Nevertheless, extravagant options such as these feature prominently in listings for “favorite vegan recipes”. As it stands today, mainstream veganism suffers from the same lack of vision for which it criticizes omnivorism–namely, the willingness to overlook animal and environmental impact in order to please the tastebuds.

    The second point of improvement lies in regard to the sustainable consumption of wildlife resources. Most of us reject hunting and fishing as unnecessary and cruel without ever considering the impact of each in comparison to the option of agriculture. To clarify, an animal hunted is immediately replaced by another that would otherwise perish for lack of resources. Nature always breeds more animals than habitat can support and the rest die of starvation or disease. To consume the excess in a sustainable manner has no impact on animal populations and no impact upon the habitat upon which wildlife depends. Agriculture (even plant agriculture), on the other hand, kills every individual, of every major species, on any landscape converted to that purpose. Fields of beans or broccoli are not developed from barren dirt, and wherever they exist the myriad wild creatures that once inhabited these spaces are destroyed. In fact, they and every generation descended from them that might otherwise have been expected to inhabit the land are forever eliminated.

    Consider the millions of acres of forest, wetland and grassland converted to exotic monoculture serving no species besides man; consider the billions of pounds of chemicals dumped into the soil, water and air, and consider the trillions of gallons of fresh water diverted from sensitive aquatic systems, all for agricultural purpose. Agriculture is today recognized to be the foremost cause of extinction, world-wide, as well as the single greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Certainly, meat production bears responsibility for the greater part of this damage, but this does not alter the fact that where we may consume, in a well-regulated and sustainable manner, some portion of those wild populations inhabiting undisturbed lands, then we have the responsibility to do so in order to avoid the even greater animal death and environmental impact that results from agriculture of any sort–even plant agriculture.

    Of course, the human population is too large to exist entirely off wild fish and game, and so will continue to rely primarily on agriculture for its nutritional needs. But where wild foods are available, it makes sense to utilize them fully. Hunters in the state of Tennessee consume over 500,000 squirrel, annually. Add to this the millions of deer, pronghorn, elk, turkey, geese, pheasant, and innumerable fish taken across the continent, and it becomes apparent that wild game may effectively provide tens, if not hundreds of millions of meals each year. It is a mistake to criticize the rural resident who supplements his diet with fish and game considering that his alternative is to reduce the acreage of wild land available to native species in order to grow his own meal. Putting all prejudices aside, we should encourage those who would step off the back porch and into the woods to hunt deer or turkey rather than drive fifty miles in each direction to the nearest grocery store in order to purchase their meal from the vegetable counter.