‘If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.’ - Sir Paul McCartney

Top Ten Reasons to go Vegetarian
Bruce Friedrich, AlterNet, 19th May, 2008

Gone are the days when vegetarians were served up a plate of iceberg lettuce and a dull-as-dishwater baked potato. With the growing variety of vegetarian faux-meats like bacon and sausages and an ever-expanding variety of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants, vegetarianism has taken the world by storm. With World Vegetarian Week here, without further ado, are the Top Ten reasons to give vegetarian eating a try, starting now!

1. Helping Animals Also Helps the Global Poor. While there is ample and justified moral indignation about the diversion of 100 million tons of grain for biofuels, more than seven times as much (760 million tons) is fed to farmed animals so that people can eat meat. Is the diversion of crops to our cars a moral issue? Yes, but it’s about one-eighth the issue that meat-eating is. Care about global poverty? Try vegetarianism.

2. Eating Meat Supports Cruelty to Animals. The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories. On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems. These animals will never raise families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything else that is natural and important for them.
They won’t even get to feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter.

3. Eating Meat Is Bad for the Environment. A recent United Nations report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow concludes that eating meat is ‘one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.’ In just one example, eating meat causes almost 40 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world combined. The report concludes that the meat industry ‘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.’

4. Avoid Bird Flu. The World Health Organization says that if the avian flu virus mutates, it could be caught simply by eating undercooked chicken flesh or eggs, eating food prepared on the same cutting board as infected meat or eggs, or even touching eggshells contaminated with the disease. Other problems with factory farming – from foot-and-mouth to SARS – can be avoided with a general shift to a vegetarian diet.

5. If You Wouldn’t Eat a Dog, You Shouldn’t Eat a Chicken. . Several recent studies have shown that chickens are bright animals that are able to solve complex problems, demonstrate self-control, and worry about the future. Chickens are smarter than cats and dogs and even do some things that have not yet been seen in mammals other than primates. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behaviour and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, ‘As a trick at conferences I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I’m talking about monkeys.’

6. Heart Disease: Our Number One Killer. Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including the United States’ three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes.

7. Cancer: Our Number Two Killer. Dr. T. Colin Campbell is one of the world’s foremost epidemiological scientists and the director of what The New York Times called ‘the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.’ Dr. Campbell’s best-selling book, The China Study, is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about cancer. To summarize it, Dr. Campbell states, ‘No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.’

8. Fitting Into That Itty-Bitty Bikini. Vegetarianism is also the ultimate weight-loss diet, since vegetarians are one-third as likely to be obese as meat-eaters are, and vegans are about one-tenth as likely to be obese. Of course, there are overweight vegans, just as there are skinny meat-eaters. But on average, vegans are 10 to 20 percent lighter than meat-eaters. A vegetarian diet is the only diet that has passed peer review and taken weight off and kept it off.

9. Global Peace. Leo Tolstoy claimed that ‘vegetarianism is the taproot of humanitarianism.’ His point? For people who wish to sow the seeds of peace, we should be eating as peaceful a diet as possible. Eating meat supports killing animals, for no reason other than humans’ acquired taste for animals’ flesh. Great humanitarians from Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi to Thich Nhat Hanh have argued that a vegetarian diet is the only diet for people who want to make the world a kinder place.

10. The Joy of Vegies. As the growing range of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants shows, vegetarian foods rock. People report that when they adopt a vegetarian diet, their range of foods explodes from a centre-of-the-plate meat item to a range of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that they didn’t even know existed.

Sir Paul McCartney sums it all up, ‘If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you could do. It’s staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.’

So are you ready to give it a try?


In Australia, global warming emissions from the meat industry contribute more than all of the emissions from cars and trucks. Other research shows:

Food miles don’t feed climate change - meat does
18 April 2008, NewScientist.com news, By Ewen Callaway

That locally-produced, free-range, organic hamburger might not be as green as you think. An analysis of the environmental toll of food production concludes that transportation is a mere drop in the carbon bucket.
Foods such as beef and dairy make a far deeper impression on a consumer’s carbon footprint.

‘If you have a certain type of diet that’s indicative if the American average, you’re not going to do that much for climate while eating locally,’ says Christopher Weber, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh who led a comprehensive audit of the greenhouse gas emissions of our meals.

Gassy foods
His analysis included emissions such as transporting and producing fertiliser for crops, methane gas emitted by livestock, and food’s journey to market. All told, that final step added up to just four per cent of a food’s greenhouse emissions, on average. But some items, particularly red meat, spewed out far more greenhouse gases than other foods, Weber and his colleague Scott Matthews found. Environmentally savvy shoppers may want to take note.

‘It seems much easier to shift one day of my beef consumption a week to chicken or vegetables, than going through and eating only Jerusalem artichokes for three months in the winter,’ says Weber, a ‘vegetarian bordering on vegan.’

Every last molecule
Other researchers have quantified the greenhouse gas budget of foods, but most studies looked at a single food item, such as an apple, or ignored greenhouse gases more potent than CO2, such as methane and nitrous oxide.
Weber’s team combined statistics on greenhouse gas emissions for different foods with estimated greenhouse footprints for transport for each step in a food’s production and final delivery. Food traveled an average of 1640 km in its final trip to the grocery store, out of total of 6760 km on the road for the raw ingredients. But some foods log more kilometres than others. Red meat averaged 20,400 km – just 1800 of those from final delivery.

Accounting for greenhouse gas emissions made those contrasts even starker. Final delivery ‘food-miles’ make up just one per cent of the greenhouse emissions of red meat, and eleven per cent for fruits and vegetables. To drive his point home, Weber calculated that a completely local diet would reduce a household’s greenhouse emissions by an amount equivalent to driving a car 1600 km fewer per year. He assumed the car travels 10.6 km per litre of petrol. Switching from red meat to veggies just one day per week would spare 1860 km of driving. ‘The differences between eating habits are very, very striking,’ Weber says.

Carbon grocery list
Edgar Hertwich, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, agrees that the obsession with food miles can obscure more significant environmental impacts of our food.

‘Why not focus on what actually happens on the field and how much fertilizer we use,’ he says. Whatever the source of greenhouse gas emissions from food, many are now calling for labeling that lets shoppers know how much carbon went into their goods. In the UK, the government-supported Carbon Trust offers a voluntary carbon label, and a proposed California law aims to regulate such labeling, much like organic food standards.

‘Our goal is to get the most accurate information that’s available in the hands of consumer so they can make informed purchasing decisions,’ says Matthew Perry, head of Carbon Label California. But based on Weber’s study, consumers will face decisions tougher than buying local well water over bottles shipped from Fiji.
‘If you’re interested in the hamburger you’re not going to switch to tofu, but you might switch to a chicken
burger,’ Perry says.

Journal reference:
Environmental Science and Technology (DOI: 10.1021/es702969f )

Weblinks:
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, US. http://www.cmu.edu/index.shtml
Carbon Trust. http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/default.ct
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim. http://www.ntnu.no/english


It’s better to green your diet than your car
New Scientist, 17 December 2005, p. 19, issue 2530

Thinking of helping the planet by buying an eco-friendly car? You could do more by going vegan, say Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago.

They compared the amount of fossil fuel needed to cultivate and process various foods, including running agricultural machinery, providing food for livestock and irrigating crops. They also factored in emissions of methane and nitrous oxide produced by cows, sheep and manure treatment.

The typical US diet, about 28 per cent of which comes from animal sources, generates the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tonnes more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet with the same number of calories, say the researchers, who presented their results at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week. By comparison, the difference in annual emissions between driving a typical saloon car and a hybrid car, which runs off a rechargeable battery and gasoline, is just over 1 tonne. If you don’t want to go vegan, choosing less-processed animal products and poultry instead of red meat can help reduce the greenhouse load.


Meat is murder on the environment
18 July 2007, NewScientist.com news, By Daniele Fanelli

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on back home. This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification, eutrophication, and energy consumption.

The team looked at calf production, focusing on animal management and the effects of producing and transporting feed. By combining this information with data from their earlier studies on the impact of beef fattening systems, the researchers were able to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef.
Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilizing compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy (Animal Science Journal, DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-0929.2007.00457.x).

In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. The calculations, which are based on standard industrial methods of meat production in Japan, did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is higher than the study suggests. Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are in the form of methane released from the animals’ digestive systems, while the acid and fertilizing substances come primarily from their waste.

Over two-thirds of the energy goes towards producing and transporting the animals’ feed. Possible interventions, the authors suggest, include better waste management and shortening the interval between calving by one month. This latter measure could reduce the total environmental load by nearly 6 per cent. A Swedish study in 2003 suggested that organic beef, raised on grass rather than concentrated feed, emits 40 per cent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 per cent less energy.

‘Methane emissions from beef cattle are declining, thanks to innovations in feeding practices,’ says Karen Batra of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Centennial, Colorado. ‘Everybody is trying
to come up with different ways to reduce carbon footprints,’ says Su Taylor of the Vegetarian Society in the UK: ‘But one of the easiest things you can do is to stop eating meat.’

Saving the Planet - One Bite at a Time
How modern diets are contributing to climate change.

Vegetarian Tasmania invites you to a presentation and vegetarian banquet.
Saturday 16th August, 6pm
St Georges Church Hall, 30 Cromwell Street, Battery Point
Cost $25/$18 concession. Family rates available.
RSVP by Thursday 14th August to: mobile 0400 177 361 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
For more information about Vegetarian Tasmania http://www.tasveg.org

Jon Sumby

Jon Sumby

The typical US diet, about 28 per cent of which comes from animal sources, generates the equivalent of nearly 1.5 tonnes more carbon dioxide per person per year than a vegan diet with the same number of calories, say the researchers, who presented their results at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last week. By comparison, the difference in annual emissions between driving a typical saloon car and a hybrid car, which runs off a rechargeable battery and gasoline, is just over 1 tonne. If you don’t want to go vegan, choosing less-processed animal products and poultry instead of red meat can help reduce the greenhouse load.

Vegetarian Tasmania invites you to a presentation and vegetarian banquet.
Saturday 16th August, 6pm

Read a collection of articles on why going veg helps the planet here: