This probably isn’t a good time of the year to write an article about the effects of eating animal products, but I can’t help notice all the stores fridges and freezers stuffed full of fresh and frozen meats all ready and waiting to make their way to the dinner table. Heck, I practically can’t walk into the grocery store without being asked if I’d like to try the latest burger or slider or some other type of flesh food they’d like to sell me on. It just makes me shudder to think of what we’re doing to not only our health, but also the planet with all this meat mankind is now consuming.
A century ago, the diet of the average person was based on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains products. However many people were not receiving enough nutrition most likely due to their economic status, and many people were developing deficiency diseases. In the early 1900s, food policies changed and were now directed towards eliminating these deficiency diseases. For the less fortunate and undernourished people, adding meat and milk to their diet made a huge difference. Not only that, but studies showed that children who were small for their age, grew faster when given more animal products. As a result, these foods were given special status and governments offered large subsidies to farmers in an effort to increase production. These subsidies also supported intensive marketing initiatives as well as massive nutrition education campaigns to insure increased consumption. Nutritional deficiency diseases quickly decreased, and the interest of animal agriculture was becoming well established in the economy. It began looking as though the job of improving the health of the nation, with the addition of meat and dairy in the diet, had been accomplished.
However, what was discovered by the middle of the twentieth century was a less favorable health picture. Although deficiency diseases were no longer the threat they had once been, heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity were on the rise, and the authorities were baffled. Science could not explain why these serious health conditions were on the increase.
It wasn’t until 1990 that the World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned a panel of nutrition experts from around the world to sort through the existing research and assess the evidence linking diet to disease. Their results were clear. Less whole-milk dairy products, fatty meats and refined sugar, and more vegetables, fruits, cereals and legumes. In the later part of the decade, more and more health organizations joined together to develop and endorse one set of dietary guidelines. Their message was just as clear. Most of what you eat should come from plant sources.
Although governments, health organizations and officials are all aware of this, and encourage the public to increase the amount of plant foods they eat, there remains a great hesitation to tell people to cut back on their consumption of animal products. Sure they tell us to cut back on saturated fat and cholesterol. But aren’t animal products the primary source of these harmful dietary substances? This is where the buck stops…or I should say, doesn’t stop.
Animal agriculture is big business and it’s literally killing us, and our planet. Animal agriculture demands huge amounts of fresh water, is the biggest polluter of our water systems, is destroying the earth’s rainforests, is causing desertification, is increasing global warming, and consuming the earth’s resources. Here are a few startling facts about animal agriculture from the book “Becoming Vegetarian” by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis:
Animal agriculture demands tremendous amounts of water. It is estimated that almost 50 per cent of all water consumed in the United States is used for the raising of livestock. On average, it takes about 100 times more water to produce a pound of beef than it does to product a pound of wheat.
Animal agriculture is the biggest polluter of our water systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture is the biggest polluter of America’s water systems. It is responsible for 70 per cent of water-way pollution, its damage exceeding that of sewage treatment plants, urban storm sewers, and pollution from contaminants in air. The major offenders are livestock-feeding operations. This waste (manure from immense feedlots) never sees a sewage system or treatment plant and all too often ends up poisoning rivers, causing severe oxygen depletion, and devastating fish populations. Livestock manure is a breeding ground for dangerous pathogens such as E. coli, giardia, and pfiesteria, which cause sickness and death in people living in regions where factory farms are concentrated. Furthermore, waste from North America’s 9 billion chickens and 150 million other farmed animals is permeated with hormones that propel the bird “from egg to fryer in thirty-nine days” and other similar unnatural feats.
Animal agriculture is destroying the earth’s rainforests. According to the Rainforest Action Network, two-thirds of the rain forests in Central America have been cleared primarily for the purpose of raising cheap beef to stock American fast-food establishments. They estimate that for every fast-food burger made from rain forest beef, 16.75 square metres (55 square feet) of tropical rain forest has been cleared. With the trees go twenty to thirty different plant species, 100 different insect species, plus dozens of birds, mammals, and reptile species.
Animal agriculture is causing desertification. Overgrazing is considered the leading cause of desertification worldwide. In the western United States, 70 per cent of the entire land mass is used for grazing livestock. When land is overgrazed, the soil is compacted, decreasing its ability to absorb water. When heavy rains fall, topsoil is carried away. Fifteen centimetres (six inches) of topsoil are needed to grow healthy crops. It takes approximately 3,000 years for nature to produce this amount of topsoil. Every twenty-eight years in the United States, every fourteen years in developing countries, and every seven years in China, 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) of topsoil are lost as the result of current intensive farming practices. As this rate, it is estimated that there are as few as forty-five years of farmable soil left on the planet.
Animal agriculture is increasing global warming. Intensive animal agriculture is a significant factor in global warming, increasing all major global warming gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons. Carbon dioxide emissions come largely from fossil fuels. Raising livestock requires huge amounts of fossil fuels—for transporting feed, heating shelters (often large buildings), and transporting animals to slaughter and the products to meat-packing plants and stores. According to Worldwatch Institute, 15-20 per cent of all methane emissions come directly from livestock. In addition, the chemical fertilizers used to produce food for grain-fed animals are important contributors to nitrous oxides. Finally, the increased refrigeration necessary to preserve animal products releases chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere.
Animal agriculture is consuming the earth’s resources. It is estimated that if every inhabitant on this planet used as many resources to produce his or her food as each American does, we would need three planet earths to sustain the current population. Unfortunately, that is the very direction we are heading. Between 1990 and 1995, China’s grain consumption increased by 36,280,000 tonnes (40 million tons). Of this total, 29,931,000 tonnes (33 million tons) were consumed as animal fodder and 6,349,000 tonnes (7 million tons) as food for humans. China, like many other developing countries, is rapidly moving up the food chain. Tragically, more and more of the world’s resources are used for raising livestock to provide food for the wealthy, while one in every six people goes hungry every day. Today, our planet is home to nearly 1 billion pigs, 1.3 billion cows, 1.8 billion sheep and goats, and 13.5 billion chickens—more than two chickens for each man, woman, and child. We have altered vast ecosystems and devoted massive resources to support this inefficient way of eating. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on earth.
“Becoming Vegetarian” was copyrighted in 2003. I would imagine some of these figures are now much higher.
Consuming less meat and other animal products (or eliminating them all together) will not only have a significant effect on the improvement of one’s health, but will also help our earth and her resources. Reducing our consumption of animal products is easy to do, and there are many books and recipes both online, and in your local bookstore or library, that can help you make the transition to a healthier diet. Many supermarkets now carry a large variety of meat and dairy alternative products. There are also many nutritional supplements that contain a broad spectrum of nutrients to supply our body with the vital nutrition we need.
AIM’s Daily Essentials™ consisting of BarleyLife®, AIMega®, and Herbal FiberBlend® will provide us with the greens, essential fatty acids and fibre we need on a daily basis to help our body detoxify, cleanse, build and energize.
Hopefully very soon, governments, health organizations, agriculturists, farmers, and people from all walks of life will realize we cannot continue to consume our earth’s resources at the rate we are consuming them. Unless we do, there won’t be much hope for future generations.
To meat or not to meat? The answer should be clear.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~ Mahatma Gandhi
The AIM Companies™ provides high-quality whole food concentrates and superior nutritional supplements. Their products work well for anyone wanting to improve their nutritional status and would be very beneficial for vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, and vegans. For more information about the AIM products, please visit our website at http://www.followthegreen.com where you can read more, download a data sheet and watch a video. As with any supplement it is always recommended to read the literature thoroughly to find out if this product is right for you, and consult a health care practitioner if you have any medical conditions or concerns.