We need to change the way we think about meat–before it’s too late

Addiction to meat may be more of a global threat than addiction to oil

Does anybody remember Al Gore? That champion of the earth who stood up to heaps of ridicule that far outstripped what he deserved for his somewhat snooty, somewhat clueless ivory tower ways?

Yes, he was the presidential candidate who was pounced upon for saying he invented the internet (despite the demonstrable fact that he never said that, and despite much more incendiary and outrageous claims coming down the pike every day this time around.)

But more importantly Al Gore made a little film called “An Inconvenient Truth” shortly after writing a little book of the same name.

That title has earned him no end of opprobrium from the right who, despite the man’s current political irrelevance, can’t help but lash out at his best-known creation. Who can forget the endless stream of ridicule and invective aimed at Gore for merely trying to point out how we are all killing ourselves–or to put it more accurately, how big oil is killing us all.

But there is another, lesser-known direction from which Gore took criticism, although it was much more muted–some would say it was stifled, or even suppressed.

And that is the Left. Particularly the vegetarian/animal rights left.

The reason for that criticism was because one huge source of horrific waste, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that Gore left largely unscathed is factory farm meat producers.

The environmental damage we do through our greed for meat is beyond absurd–it is without a doubt unsustainable. To wit:

• Americans ate more than 100 pounds of red meat per person in 2014.
• Global meat production has quadrupled since the 1960s; by 2050 it will increase by another 50 percent.
• Worldwide over 65 billion animals are raised each year for meat.
• Each cow produced by a factory farm requires some 48 pounds of feed per day. That’s around 450 tons per factory farm per day.
• 70 percent of all land devoted to agriculture on the planet is used for meat production.
• Animal waste, in the form of massive lagoons of urine, feces and the antibiotics and other drugs contained therein, along with the nitrogen and phosphorus they produce pose a serious threat to waterways and land.
• In the arid, drought-stricken Western US, water supplies for people are threatened by the needs of factory farms
• Then there’s the gasses. Methane emissions from manure increased by 26 percent in the United States between 1990 and 2004, according to EPA estimates, largely due to more concentrated and bigger dairy cow and swine facilities. The hog industry in North Carolina alone produces about 300 tons of ammonia each day.

All of this, without even touching on the cruelty and horror that factory farming inflicts not only on the animals, but on the workers as well.

As much as the wishful thinking of the right and those paid off by big oil would like to believe, global climate change is real. It’s real and it isn’t going anywhere but up, if we continue on our present course. The multiple evils of the factory farming system is a logical jumping-off point we need to address if we plan to leave a habitable place for our children to live.


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