Reducing meat intake is important in efforts to protect environment
Letter to Editor
Earth Day has traditionally been the one day each year when people band together to take action for the environment. We bike to campus, we redouble our recycling efforts, and we pledge to be more conscientious about the amount of waste we produce. But did you know you could help save the planet every time you sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner? It’s true — join millions of others who are doing something to help the environment by eating more plant-based meals.
As relief organization Oxfam International notes, it takes significantly more land, water and oil to produce meat than it does to produce plant-based foods. Animals are typically fed massive amounts of grains in order to yield a comparatively small amount of meat.
So if you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint this Earth Day, start by reducing your carbon hoof print. According to a 2013 United Nations report, animal agriculture produces almost 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s one reason the Sierra Club recognizes the importance of meat reduction, stating “If Americans reduced meat consumption by just 20 percent, it would be as though we all switched from a sedan to a hybrid.”
Perhaps the easiest — and tastiest — way to help the environment is practicing the Three R’s: “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products and “refining” our diets by choosing products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards. Millions of Americans are already taking personal action to reduce their meat consumption through simple initiatives such as “Meatless Monday” or by adopting vegetarian or “flexitarian” lifestyles.
The current high levels of meat consumption in the U.S. support inhumane practices in industrial factory farms and push small family farmers out of business. Eating less meat is better for animals, creates less waste and pollution and places more value on humane and sustainable agriculture, which benefits family farmers and generates more income for rural communities.
Our present environmental problems can oftentimes seem overwhelming, so after a day of Earth Day activities, we all tend to feel good about our individual efforts. Thankfully, each of us has the power to be environmentally friendly all year long every time we sit down to eat by simply putting more vegetables and less meat on our plates.
Krystil Smith is a Food Policy Coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States.