Melanie Joy, Ph.D., Ed.M. beautifully delves into the psychology of what we eat and why. I remember in college learning about how we have learned to more easily kill our enemy from a distance. This thought has resurfaced time and time again as I think about people who eat meat and dairy, what Melanie Joy calls Carnism “The invisible ideology that disconnects us from our rationality, our feelings and our values. And which enables a massive global injustice.”
Melanie highlights concisely yet thoroughly the pure integrity of being vegan. She furthermore delves rather deep into the inherent violence with carnism and the inescapable cognitive dissonance associated with this invisible ideology. She sets the premise for explaining this “invisible ideology” with saying “We tend to assume that only vegans and vegetarians follow a belief system. When eating animals is not a necessity, which is the case in much of the world today, then it is a choice. And choices always stem from beliefs.”
After becoming ill from eating a burger with Campylobacter bacteria Melanie quit eating meat. She described her diet change as a paradigm shift. When she explains the experience of seeing the world differently I could really relate. Now when Melanie witnesses others eating meat she sees “people putting the bodies of dead animals in their mouths as if nothing at all were wrong”. So she set off to figure out “how rational caring people, like myself, could just stop thinking and feeling.”
Melanie does an amazing job explaining the belief systems, choices, and ideology of veganism and Carnism, a term she coined. She boldly confronts us with the violence meat and dairy eaters are in denial of which totally conflicts with core values. She follows this up beautifully saying “Our pain is the mirror in which we can see the reflection of our humanity.” Then she delineates various ways in which we pay for our carnism and enable it through denial, justification, and cognitive distortions.
Melanie even explains that the mentality which enables all violent ideologies (racism, sexism, etc…) are the same. She says “It’s the mentality of domination and subjugation, of privilege and oppression. It’s the mentality that causes us to “turn someone into something. To reduce a life to a unit of production. It is the might-makes-right mentality that makes us feel entitled to wield complete control over the lives and deaths of those with less power-just because we can…” “And so if we fail to pick out the common threads that are woven through all violent ideologies, then we will recreate atrocities in new forms.”
Check out the great video of her speech at TEDx Talks to learn more!
“If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.”
As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.
I was Grocery shopping the other day and stumbled across this issues of National Geographic on Superfoods. It’s subtitled “Eat Your Way to Health and Longevity” accompanied by a collage of fruits, nuts, veggies, etc. on the cover, so I just had to get it!
Right away I could tell this is going to be a great read. The first few pages introduce the reason for a plant based diet. They emphasize how far science has taken our knowledge regarding all the evidenced that a plant based diet is better for not only us but our planet, how nutrient deficient so many Americans are, and how easy it can be to really eat healthy.
Getting to the premise of it “This magazine is filled with up-to-date, evidence-based information on 91 foods-vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, whole grains, and more- to help guide you toward better health”.
Each food item they discuss explains in awesome detail what the food item is, where it comes from, minerals and nutrients in it, a bit of science around it, and more. Information is organized well highlighting things like recipes, ways to prepare and consume raw, pairing items, and how it can benefit you and your planet.
As far as I can tell it’s all vegan. I thought Sarah noticed one small item in a recipe when I first showed it to her. But, looking back I can’t find it. I honestly haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, but so far it’s great! I wanted to get this out there quick because it’s available until April 6, 2016.
It’s so great seeing more and more honest information being put out there. Great job National Geographic!
Cowspiracy is an incredible documentary regarding the animal agricultural industry. It’s a journey through the eyes of Kip Andersen as he explores the effects this industry has. The journey predominantly revolves around the shocking, and most disturbing facts of the meat industries environmental impact. This journey appropriate evolves into the ethical aspects of slaughtering animals. Below are some clips from the video. The full version is available on Netflix and for purchase/rent on YouTube. For facts checks visit: cowspiracy.com/facts
“The world’s climate scientist tell us that the highest safe level of emissions would be around 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide green house gases in the atmosphere, we’re already at 400. They tell us that the sort of safest we could hope to do without having perilous implications as far as drought, famine, human conflict, major species extinction would be about a 2 degrees Celsius increase in temperature. We’re rapidly approaching that and with all the built-in carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere we’re easily going to exceed that. So, on our watch we’re facing the next major extinction of species on the earth that we haven’t seen since the time of the dinosaurs disappearing.”
UN News Centre: Rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars, UN report warns.
“Hydraulic fracking uses 100 billion gallons of water every year in the United States. Raising livestock just in the US consumes 34 trillion gallons of water. And it turns out that methane emissions from both industries are nearly equal.”
One quarter pounder hamburger requires over 660 gallons of water to produce.
One hamburger is equivalent to taking a shower for 2 months.
Domestic water use is only 5% of what is used in the US versus 55% animal agriculture.
“ I think that the water footprint of animal husbandry is greater than other activities, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
Carbon dioxide from the transportation and energy sectors have a terrible effect on our environment
65 percent of the worlds Nitrous Oxide is produced from animal agriculture, a gas with the global warming potential 296 times greater than CO2 per pound.
Energy related CO2 emissions are expected to increase 20 percent by 2040. Yet, emissions from agriculture are predicted to increase 80 percent by 2050.
“According to two environmental specialist at the world bank group, using the global standard for measuring greenhouse gases concluded that animal agriculture is responsible for 51 percent of human cause climate change.”
“Raising animals for food is responsible for 30% of the worlds’ water consumption; occupies up to 45% of the earth’s land; is responsible for up to 91% of Brazilian Amazon destruction; is the leading cause of ocean dead zones; the leading cause of habitat destruction, and the leading cause of species extinction.”
“free living animals 10,000 years ago made up 99 percent of the bio mass. Human beings only made up 1 percent of the bio mass. Today, only 10,000 years later, which is really just a fraction of time, we human beings and the animals that we own as property make up 98 percent of the biomass. And wild free living animals make up only 2 percent. We’ve basically completely stolen the world, the earth, from free living animals to use for ourselves and our cows and pigs and chickens and factory farming and fish. And the oceans have been even more devastating.”
“We’re in the middle of the largest mass extinction of species in 65 million years, rain forest is being cut down at the rate of an acre per second. And the driving force behind all of this is animal agriculture, cutting down the forest to graze animals and grow soy beans, genetically engineered soy beans to feed to feed to the cows, chickens, pigs and factory farmed fish.”
Several sources suggest that even the environmental organizations are not willing to talk about animal agriculture being a grave concern because they are businesses and need to protect their revenue sources that this crucial information may upset.
“116,000 pounds of farm animal excrement is produced every second in the US alone. That is enough waste per year to cover ever square foot of San Francisco, New York City, Tokyo, Paris, New Delhi, Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Rio De Janeiro, Delaware, Bali, Costa Rica, and Denmark combined!”
“Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones around the world in our oceans. Comprise more than 95,000 square miles of areas completely devoid of life.”
“If we don’t wake up and do something about it we’re going to see fishless oceans by the year 2048, that’s the prediction from scientist.”
“We’re at over 28 Billion animals were pulled out of the ocean last year. They’re not ever going to get a chance to recover, they can’t recover, they don’t multiple that quickly, we’re not given an opportunity.”
“The way we fish today to feed the demand of 90 million tons of fish is primarily through massive fish nets. For every single pound of fish caught there’s up to five pounds of untargeted species trapped; such as dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and sharks, known as bi-kill.”
“Between 40 and 50 million sharks each year are killed in fishing lines and fishing nets as bi-kill.”
“It is estimated that every day close to a hundred plant, animal, and insect species are lost due to rainforest destruction.”
“It is estimated that Palm oil is responsible for 26 Million acres being cleared, though, compared to livestock and their feedcrops, they are responsible for a 136 Million acres of rainforest lost to date”
“The Amazon rainforest itself could be gone in the next ten years”
“Why isn’t anybody doing anything about this? In Brazil in particular, if you look at what happened when the forest code was passed. People who were standing up against the lobbyist, special interest, cattle industry, the agribusiness industry, what was happening to them? A lot of people who were speaking out got killed… A lot of people just keep their mouths shut, because they don’t want to be the next one with a bullet in their head.”
Sister Dorothy Stang was a US born Nun living in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest. Her life’s work was to protect the Amazon. She spoke out openly against the destruction of rainforest with cattle ranching for years. Walking home one night she was brutally gunned down at point blank range by a hired gun from the cattle industry. 1931-2005”
“Over 1,100 activists have been killed in the last 20 years in Brazil.”
“Cattle produce 150 billion gallons of Methane per day mostly due to deforestation and the waste they produce. Which is 130 times more waste than the entire human population, virtually all without the benefit of any waste treatment.”
“Using 4,500 acres to produce 80,000 lbs of meat a year when the average person consumes 209 lbs per year, if that was all grass fed beef only 382 people could be fed on the land, that equates to 11.7 acres per person times 314 million Americans which equals 3.7 billion acres of grazing land. Unfortunately there are only 1.9 billion acres in the US’s lower 48 states. Currently nearly half of all US land is already dedicated to animal agriculture. If we were to switch over to grass feed beef it would require clearing every square inch of the United States, up into Canada, all of Central America and well into South America. And this is just to feed the US demand on meat. That doesn’t even take into consideration that much of that land isn’t suited to graze livestock.”
“Typically a cow will eat 140 to 150 pounds of feed a day. And it will also drink between 30 and 40 gallons of water”
“How could dairy be sustainable when one gallon of milk takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce”
“Almost a third of the planet’s land is becoming desert with the vast majority due to livestock grazing”
“The government also shoots bobcats, coyote, mountain lion, cougars, and wolf packs to “protect” cattle on public land.”
“If you take externalized costs, which are about 414 billion dollars, if the meat and dairy industries were required to internalize those costs, the costs of the retail prices of meat and dairy would sky rocket. So a $5 carton of eggs would go to $13, a $4 big mac would go to $11. Whether you eat meat or not, you are paying part of the cost of somebody else’s consumption. So that when somebody goes into a Mc Donalds and buys a big mac for $4 there’s another $7 of costs that imposed on society”
“When you really look at who’s benefiting and who’s lobbied for this system of agriculture it’s the largest food producers in the country and the largest meat producers. And once they become so large and wealthy then they can dictate the federal policies around producing food because they have so much political power.”
“Animal rights and environmental activist are the number domestic terrorism threat according to the FBI.”
“One of the largest industries on the planet with the biggest environmental impact trying to keep us in the dark about how it’s operating.”
“You either live for something or die for nothing.”
“In 1812 the world population was 1 Billion. In 1912 it was 1.5 Billion. In 2012 it grew to 7 Billion. But even more important when determining world population is the 70 Billion farm animals humans raise.”
“The human population drinks 5.2 billion gallons of water every day and needs 21 billion lbs of food. But just the worlds 1.5 Billion cows alone drink 45 billion gallons of water every day and eat 135 billion lbs of food. This isn’t so much a human population issue, it’s a human eating animals population issue.”
“82 percent of the worlds starving children live in countries where food is fed to animal in a livestock systems that are then killed and eaten by more well off individuals in developed countries; such as US, UK, and Europe”
“The fact of it is that we can feed every human being on the planet today an adequate diet if we did no more than take the feed that we are feeding the animals and actually turn into food for humans.”
“You can produce on average 15 times more protein from plant based sources than from meat on any given area of land, using the same type of land, whether it’s a very fertile area in one area of the world or whether it’s an area that’s depleted”
“When you imagine all those egg laying hens eating all that soy and all that corn you have an energy conversion ratio of about 38 to 1. Whereas alternatively you can find plants, you can grow those plants and convert them into food. And the energy conversion ratio for the plants that we’re using to replace the eggs is about 2 to 1.”
“We are making (plant based) the omega products and proving that we can make them better tasting food that’s great for you and takes 1 20th of the land and resources that dairy do”
“When you think about it, the purpose of cows’ milk… is to turn a 65 pound calf into a 400 pound cow as rapidly as possible. Cow’s milk is baby calf growth food. Everything in that white liquid, the hormones, the lipids, the protein, the sodium, the growth factors, the IGF, every one of those is meant to blow that calf up to a great big cow, or it wouldn’t be there. And whether you pour it on your cereal as a liquid, whether you clot it into yogurt, whether you ferment it into cheese, whether you freeze it into ice cream, it’s baby calf growth fluid. And women eat it and it stimulates their tissues, and it gives women breast lumps, it makes the uterus get big, and they get fibroids and they bleed and they get hysterectomies, and they need mammograms, and gives guys man boobs. Cow’s milk is the lactation secretions of a large bovine mammal who just had a baby.”
“Not only is veganic more compassionate, it’s also more efficient. And in a society with this many billions of people, we need to be as efficient as possible. Some people might go back and say if we embraced this primitive approach of only wild animals everywhere, and we go back to a hunter-gatherer system, that sounds great. But that was 10 million people on the entire continent. Maybe a little big more, a little bit less, on one really knows. Today, now we have what? We have 320 million in the US, 25 million in Canada, another 100 and so many million in Mexico. So, North America is up to almost 450 million people. Trying to find a way to bring animal agriculture in balance with 450 million hungry people is impossible.”
“216,000 more people are born to the planet every day… what really extraordinary is you need per day 314,000 new acres of farmable land. It’s not happening. “
“To feed a person on an all-plant based vegan diet for a year requires just one-sixth of an acre of land. To feed that same person on a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy requires three times as much land. To feed an average US citizen’s high –consumption diet of meat, dairy, and eggs requires 18 times as much land. This is because you can produce 37,000 lbs of vegetables on one and a half acres, but only 375 pounds of meat on that same plot of land.”
As a vegan “every single day I save 1,100 gallons of water, 45 lbs. of grain, 30 sq. ft forested land, the equivalent of 10 pounds of CO2, and 1 animal’s life every single day.”
“Renewable energy is a good idea, and development is projected to take 20 years and, at least, minimally, $18 trillion to develop. Another solution to climate change we could stop eating animals. And it could be done today. It doesn’t have to take 20 years. And it certainly doesn’t have to take $18 trillion, because it costs nothing.”
“Quietly and unmistakably the most powerful thing that someone can do for the environment. No other lifestyle has a farther reaching, and more profoundly positive impact on the planet and all life on Earth than choosing to stop consuming animals and live a vegan lifestyle.”
“I had to come to the full conclusion, the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet with seven billion other people is to live an entirely plant-based vegan diet. I decided instead of eating others, to eat for others.”
In 2006 the UN posted breaking news on cattle-rearing generating “more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation and smarter production methods, including improved animal diets to reduce enteric fermentation and consequent methane emissions, are urgently needed.”
“It generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.”
Cattle rearing also contributes significantly to acid rain, human induced methan, and emissions from land use and land change. It is a major cause of deforestation, esp. in Latin America where (at the time of this 2006 United Nations publication) “70 per cent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing”.
Deforestation is one thing, to make matters worse, the herds cause degradation of the land. This wide-scale degradation in turns contributes to desertification.
The source for this UN News report is Livestock’s long shadow. Some important things to understand about this information, data, and proposed solutions by the UN; while the data is very significant and valid, the proposed solutions are not vegan and therefore not the most powerful. The best solution to the environmental problems caused by the meat industry is for us to become vegan.
Here are some interesting points from the Executive Summary of this 300 plus page document:
“The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity.”
Global importance of the sector
“Global production of meat is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/01 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, and that of milk to grow from 580 to 1 043 million tonnes.”
Structural changes and their impact
“Extensive grazing still occupies and degrades vast areas of land
“The livestock sector enters into more and direct competition for scarce land, water and other natural resources.”
Changes in production methods “are marginalizing smallholders and pastoralists, increasing inputs and wastes and increasing and concentrating the pollution created.”
“The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land… In all, livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the land surface of the planet.”
“Expansion of livestock production is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America where the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures, and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder. About 20 percent of the world’s pastures and rangelands, with 73 percent of rangelands in dry areas, have been degraded to some extent, mostly through overgrazing, compaction and erosion created by livestock action. The dry lands in particular are affected by these trends, as livestock are often the only source of livelihoods for the people living in these areas.”
Atmosphere and climate
“With rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting icecaps and glaciers, shifting ocean currents and weather patterns, climate change is the most serious challenge facing the human race.”
“The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.”
“The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The largest share of this derives from land-use changes – especially deforestation – caused by expansion of pastures and arable land for feedcrops. Livestock are responsible for much larger shares of some gases with far higher potential to warm the atmosphere. The sector emits 37 percent of anthropogenic methane (with 23 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2) most of that from enteric fermentation by ruminants. It emits 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide (with 296 times the GWP of CO2), the great majority from manure. Livestock are also responsible for almost two-thirds (64 percent) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.”
“The world is moving towards increasing problems of freshwater shortage, scarcity and depletion, with 64 percent of the world’s population expected to live in water-stressed basins by 2025.”
“The livestock sector is a key player in increasing water use, accounting for over 8 percent of global human water use, mostly for the irrigation of feedcrops. It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures. Global figures are not available but in the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55 percent of erosion and sediment, 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.”
“Livestock also affect the replenishment of freshwater by compacting soil, reducing infiltration, degrading the banks of watercourses, drying up floodplains and lowering water tables. Livestock’s contribution to deforestation also increases runoff and reduces dry season flows.”
“We are in an era of unprecedented threats to biodiversity. The loss of species is estimated to be running 50 to 500 times higher than background rates found in the fossil record. Fifteen out of 24 important ecosystem services are assessed to be in decline.”
“Livestock now account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the 30 percent of the earth’s land surface that they now pre-empt was once habitat for wildlife. Indeed, the livestock sector may well be the leading player in the reduction of biodiversity, since it is the major driver of deforestation, as well as one of the leading drivers of land degradation, pollution, climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas and facilitation of invasions by alien species. In addition, resource conflicts with pastoralists threaten species of wild predators and also protected areas close to pastures.”
“Some 306 of the 825 terrestrial ecoregions identified by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) – ranged across all biomes and all biogeographical realms, reported livestock as one of the current threats. Conservation International has identified 35 global hotspots for biodiversity, characterized by exceptional levels of plant endemism and serious levels of habitat loss. Of these, 23 are reported to be affected by livestock production. An analysis of the authoritative World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species shows that most of the world’s threatened species are suffering habitat loss where livestock are a factor.”
“An important general lesson is that the livestock sector has such deep and wide-ranging environmental impacts that it should rank as one of the leading focuses for environmental policy: efforts here can produce large and multiple payoffs. Indeed, as societies develop, it is likely that environmental considerations, along with human health issues, will become the dominant policy considerations for the sector.”
Finally, there is an urgent need to develop suitable institutional and policy frameworks, at local, national and international levels”