JUAN: Avoiding meat can benefit your health, body, mind, world
Opinions Column: Come With Lee
Sitting in my Environmental Science class last spring, scrolling through Twitter and extremely bored, my professor said something that made me listen. He was explaining the process that had to be taken in order to produce our favorite foods: chicken, steak and pork. I always knew that the production of meat was unsustainable, as well as unethical, but I never really knew what was wrong with it specifically. I am definitely not a science person, but for this one section in class, he caught my attention. Aside from the unsustainable practices of meat production, the treatment of animals is horrific. After taking this class, I made the decision to go vegetarian. Of course, I do not look down on anyone that eats meat, but I feel that everyone should know what goes on behind the scenes. Ever since becoming vegetarian, my mental and physical states have been impacted greatly.
A lot of land on our earth is used to produce food, with about 40 percent of it used for human consumption and 30 percent of that used to raise livestock. The majority of human production is livestock, and since the production of livestock is the largest, it also has the biggest impact on the environment. The support of livestock for human consumption has contributed to climate change, lack of water, pollution and coral reef destruction. These are issues that many people are concerned about, and one of the main culprits of these environmental problems is meat production. It takes a lot of water to produce meat. Instead of having to only water crops for human consumption, water has to be used to grow crops for the animals to eat, given to animals to drink and used to clean the factory farms. In the summer, the use of water can double. There is already a shortage of clean water on our earth, and a lot of this is going to meat production. Methods of fishing have destroyed the coral reefs, leaving a large portion of sea life without a home.Before-and-after images of the coral reefs are not just for show — it is really happening. Pollution is a large issue when it comes to meat production. With tons of manure being used at these farms, there are not enough places to store them, leaving them to be stored in lagoons or being sprayed onto fields. Along with tons of manure, the runoff from farms and livestock adds pollution into rivers and lakes, furthering the lack of clean water.
If you have a Netflix account, I suggest watching "Okja," a film that exposes the cruelty of the meat industry. This is not just a documentary showing disturbing images of dead animals, it is a heartwarming story about a girl and her pet pig who realize the cruel practices that are used every single day. I knew that the meat industry was not the most ethical, but I was not fully aware of the practices that went on. These tragedies are happening every single day, with chickens being forced to constantly lay eggs and eventually dying from fatigue, cows living in their own excrement and pigs being continuously impregnated and confined to small areas. These are just a small list of cruel treatments of animals, but there are infinite amounts of practices that go on. These practices will not stop just because one person becomes vegetarian, but you would have peace of mind knowing that you are not contributing to this animal cruelty.
Aside from not contributing to this animal cruelty helping me mentally, becoming vegetarian has helped with my physical health. It can be difficult eating healthy as a college student, and I found myself eating poorly. My diet consisted of a lot of fried meat, dairy and almost no vegetables. Why would I want a salad and tofu when I could be eating chicken fingers and mashed potatoes? I should have understood that making the decision to have the healthier option could bring me one step closer to living a healthy lifestyle. I made the decision to become vegetarian when I realized how much weight I gained due to the food I ate. I found myself eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, losing weight and feeling energized. My plates are more colorful, lower in calories but are still really delicious. Along with weight loss, cutting out meat from the diet can help lower the risk of heart disease, colon cancer and Type 2 diabetes. It makes me feel a lot better knowing that I am taking care of my body without having to sacrifice that much. My main concern with becoming vegetarian was the food that I ate. I found that there are so many vegetarian alternatives to my favorite foods, and there are constantly new recipes to try. Many of us are trying to better ourselves mentally and physically, so why not take a step that can help better the world?
Leona Juan is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. Her column, “Come with Lee” runs on alternate Thursdays.
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