By replacing just one meat-based meal with a vegetarian dish, you can save the 16 pounds of grain and 2,400 gallons of water required to produce a single pound of meat. That's more water than you'd save by not showering for six months! You can also prevent the clearing of 55 square feet of rain forest required per pound to provide grazing for cattle.
For many of us, eating meat is a habit we don't really think about. But meat consumption is taking a toll on humans, animals and the planet.
Animal activists believe that there are many reasons to reduce (or eliminate) our consumption of meat and choose more vegetarian meals:
- More than 70 percent of the grains and nearly half the water consumed in this country are used for livestock. Over 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared for livestock grazing; worldwide, farmers bulldoze the equivalent of seven football fields of land every minute for that purpose. Meanwhile, livestock overgrazing contributes to the extinction of many animals and plants.
- Farm animals in America produce 89,000 pounds of excrement per second — far more than is produced by all the humans in the United States. Not surprisingly, that pollutes our soil, water and air.
- Meat production is an inefficient use of resources. By relying on the feeding of grain to animals rather than people, it creates competition for that basic food between affluent meat eaters and the world's poor. In fact, with a diet that relies on animal products for about a quarter of a person's calories, only 3.2 billion people can be nourished on this planet. Vegetarian diets improve that number dramatically. If everyone adopted a vegan diet, the planet could nourish more than 6.3 billion people — roughly the entire current population of the world.
- Farm animals are the unhappy recipients of a great deal of abuse, particularly on factory farms. More than nine billion animals are killed each year in this country alone for food, and the Animal Welfare Act does not protect them.
The good news is that eating more vegetarian dishes does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Rather than become completely vegetarian overnight, you can start by choosing vegetarian dishes whenever you can. The more vegetarian foods you eat, and the less meat you use, the better it can be for you, animals, and the planet.
I Did This!
- Eat vegetarian dishes whenever you can! There are countless delicious recipes out there for vegetarian meals such as vegetarian chili and other tempting ideas. For vegetarian recipes, consult vegetarian websites such as VegWeb, The Vegetarian Resource Group, the Vegetarian Society, Meatless Monday and the International Vegetarian Union, or search for vegetarian dishes on cooking websites such as All Recipes and Cooks.com.
- Choose restaurants with a good selection of vegetarian meals. Listings of vegetarian-friendly restaurants can also be found at VegDining.com and HappyCow.net.
- When you're cooking, consider using substitutes for at least some of the animal products in your favorite meals, even if it doesn't make them totally vegetarian. For vegetarian substitutes, visit the Compassion Action Institute, VegSource or NoMeat.com.
- Consider starting a “Meatless Monday” campaign in your neck of the woods. It's a great way to improve health while reducing meat consumption communitywide; it's also a good reminder that eating meat-free does not have to be a full-time proposition.
- Once you've become comfortable cooking and eating vegetarian food, consider taking the vegetarian "plunge" and committing to vegetarianism full-time. Information and support for new vegetarians is available from the Vegetarian Society, EatVeg.com and GoVeg.com.