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Rethinking the Meat Guzzler

From DawnWatch: "Stupendous" article on meat guzzling in New York Times
 1/27/08//USA TODAY Animal rights groups pick up momentum

Even if you are indifferent or unmoved by the cruelty and suffering on your plate, you should at least be concerned about the disastrous effects on the planet and your personal health, resulting from dependence on a meat-based diet. Irrefutable facts, studies and evidence leave NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER that global climate change and the future of life on this Earth are closely linked to the the massive and growing consumption of billions of animals raised for food. If your kids' and grandkids' future means anything at all to you, it's time to take the blinders off. Global warming, the devastation of rainforests, droughts leading to the starvation of millions of innocent children should provide a wake-up call for all those in denial, who are still sleep-walking through life. The Prius and lightbulbs won't do it! "It's that hunk of dead meat on your plate, stupid!"

DawnWatch: "Stupendous" article on meat guzzling in New York Times 1/27/08

I generally try to go easy on adjectives in my DawnWatch alerts, but I can't today. I have to describe the article, "Rethinking the Meat Guzzler," on the front page of the Sunday January 27 New York Times Week in Review section as stupendous. The piece is by Mark Bittman, who writes the weekly New York Times column The Minimalist, and is also the author of the "How To Cook Everything" cookbooks. His latest is "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian."

Bittman opens with:

"A sea change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store - something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn't oil.

"It's meat.

"The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally - like oil - meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

"Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world's tropical rain forests."

Bittman tells us:

"Growing meat (it's hard to use the word 'raising' when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it's a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth's ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases - more than transportation.

"To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan - a Camry, say - to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

Bittman also writes about the impact of our meat eating on world hunger:
"Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States."

He also tells us that in meat production the use "of antibiotics is routine, so much so that it can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten the usefulness of medicines that treat people." And he notes the many other health problems caused by high meat consumption, such as "heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes." All this while, "It's likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources."

He discusses environmentalism and animal welfare:

"Once, these animals were raised locally (even many New Yorkers remember the pigs of Secaucus), reducing transportation costs and allowing their manure to be spread on nearby fields. Now hog production facilities that resemble prisons more than farms are hundreds of miles from major population centers, and their manure 'lagoons' pollute streams and groundwater. (In Iowa alone, hog factories and farms produce more than 50 million tons of excrement annually.)"

And he writes:
"Animal welfare may not yet be a major concern, but as the horrors of raising meat in confinement become known, more animal lovers may start to react. And would the world not be a better place were some of the grain we use to grow meat directed instead to feed our fellow human beings?"

The whole article is superb. I urge you to read it at
http://www.nytimes. com/2008/ 01/27/weekinrevi ew/27bittman. html

Those unfamiliar with "the horrors of raising meat in confinement" should go to www.FactoryFarming. com and check out the photo galleries. And then please share some of that information -- or information on the joys of plant-based diets, in appreciative letters to the editor.

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