This week Transition Monaghan member Laura Hannon – and a vegetarian herself
– explains why she believes that moving to a non-meat diet is good for our health and for our planet.
RUNNING OUT OF THYME…
We are fond of our meat in Ireland, including it in almost every meal of the day. Whether it is the sausages nestled between the bacon and pudding in our fry, or the chicken sandwich we snack on at lunch time, to the spaghetti bolognese we wolf down for dinner, we always manage to incorporate it somehow. Many may say it is far from a vegetarian/vegan diet we were reared and they would not be far wrong, but we have reached an unforeseen excess and something has got to give. Despite this, an encouraging 10% of the population have found to be currently following a vegetarian diet in Ireland and this number is only increasing as people become more educated on the matter and establish the connection between this unnecessary overindulgence and its effect on our planet.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FACTS BEAN…?
The UN’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) urges “shifting consumption away from animal products, especially from ruminant sources in high meat consuming societies”. Unfortunately this is not reflected in the recent Climate Plan produced by the Irish Government.
US filmmaker Kip Andersen was astounded to learn, during the creation of his documentary Cowspiracy that livestock and their byproducts contribute to at least 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. He also discovered that the agricultural sector is responsible for at least one third of all fresh water consumption globally. Livestock or livestock feed occupy one third of the earth’s land and animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. What Kip could not understand was why this information did not seem to be acknowledged accordingly. When he searched the websites of all the major environmental organisations they all cited fossil fuels as the major contributing factor to the emission of greenhouse gases. When Kip questioned representatives of these organisations in interviews, there seemed to be a running theme of uncomfortable mutism. Evidently this was something that they were choosing to ignore.
After further research Kip learned that all these major organisations are membership based. They run on public contributions. If they challenged the habits of the general public, their benefactors, it would hurt their fundraising. People just about do their recycling and if we use energy efficient light bulbs and take quick showers we feel we are saving the world. Yes, these practices are all commendable but their effect is incomparable to the effect that consuming animal produce has. Perhaps it’s not just in the US where there is a ‘cowspiracy’.
IT’S LIKE WE DON’T CARROT ALL…
Aside from the catastrophic effects agriculture has on the environment, eating meat poses ethical uncertainties too. We are so far removed from the source of our food that we barely even associate meat with the animal it came from. If people had to hear the squeals of a pig being brought to slaughter or if they had to witness a cow being forcibly impregnated just so she would produce milk only to have her newborn calf being torn from her to be used as veal, we would undoubtedly see a considerable drop in the consumption of animals and their by-products.
MUSH-ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT…
If for no other reason, we should consider a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle for our health. In the documentary, Kip visits physician, Dr. Michael Klaper, who himself had grown up on a dairy farm but had been vegan for over thirty years. Meat and dairy is now proven to cause medical complications such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes. Dr. Klaper describes milk as ‘baby calf growth fluid’ designed by nature ‘to turn a 65 pound calf into a 400 pound cow as quick as possible’. Nothing in cow milk is required for a healthy human diet. People can get every single nutrient needed from an exclusively plant based diet, for example, alternative sources of calcium are dark leafy greens, almonds and fortified tofu. Take MMA fighter Nate Diaz, who took down our very own Conor Mc Gregor and stripped him of his undefeated reign. Diaz has been vegan for nearly 15 years and there is no deliberation over the quality of his physical health.
WE CAN BEET THIS …
Often we like to avoid making beneficial changes in our lives like choosing vegetarianism because we claim that one person cannot really make a big difference. In my view that is a cop out. Eliminating meat from our diet cuts our carbon footprint automatically in half. This is a significant contribution and by making this change we are also encouraging others to follow suit.
For more information on being a vegetarian in Ireland see http://www.vegetarian.ie or the Vegetarian Society of Ireland Facebook page. On being a vegan in Ireland see http://www.vegan.ie or http://www.irishvegan.ie or Vegan Ireland on Facebook.
Event in April can be found here