HOLEY: Society should shift to be more vegetarian

Opinion Column: The Breaking Point

This weekend, I was plagued with a constant sneezing which reached a point that it almost felt rude for me to sneeze a fourth time after my friends had said “God bless you” three times before. Never in my life had I received such a bad case of sneezing. In fact, I had rarely sneezed up until this emerging spring. Now it is part of my daily lifestyle. I had not planned on writing about it, but while researching topics for my opinion editorial I came across the finding that climate change may be prolonging the allergy season. It was quite dreadful news. 

Although this editorial is not actually about the effects of climate change, it is about a lifestyle change you can adopt to reduce your environmental impact: embracing vegetarianism. “Agriculture and land-use generates more greenhouse gas emissions than power generation,“ said former Energy Secretary Steven Chu. We dedicate significant amounts of food raising livestock in order to be consumed by humans. It is incredibly wasteful in comparison to just eating plant-based foods ourselves. 

Not to mention that these animals then take up valuable land space in inhumane factory farms, and they release harmful methane gas into the environment. To put it into a simple summary,  meat and dairy provide 18 percent of food calories and take up 83 percent of farmland use. Avoiding meat and dairy would be the greatest single action you could take to reduce your environmental impact.

If you remain unconvinced, then it is important next to take into account the matter of health. The American diet is terrible. We fill our diet with foods that are full of fat, sugar and grease. There is a reason why nearly 40 percent of Americans are obese, and it is not just a matter of natural causes. Many people may be under the false impression that it is easy to work off all the weight gained by unhealthy foods, but that is fundamentally false.

In reality, having a healthy diet and consuming less calories is far more important than working out to burn calories. As in turns out, vegetarians naturally consume less calories than those who eat meat. This is partly due to the fact that vegetables generally have a large array of different nutrients, including fiber, which end up creating a feeling of fullness. In addition, there are less calories in a cup of vegetables than there are in a cup of meat. If all Americans made a shift away from their unhealthy diets with an imbalanced amount of meat, fat, grease and sugar, then perhaps we would see a reduction in obesity and an increase in people living more healthy lifestyles with more nutrients and balance. 

Finally, there is the moral case for vegetarianism. To the average person an animal life will be worth far less than a human life, but people may be able to agree that the killing of any life is less ideal than the preservation of all life. We have chosen a select few species of animals to be raised for death. But our use of livestock is no longer necessary. 

We have easy access to all the nutrients we need. Not to mention the fact that we have taken the humanity out of our meat consumption. Nowadays livestock is processed and killed mostly in factory farms where there is no care for life. If we each raised a chicken or cow on a farm and grew up with these animals our whole lives, would we be able to kill them as easily? Would we be able to kill a dog or a cat the way we slaughter a cow or chicken? Why are dogs and cats more valuable than the rest?

Throughout our human history, we have gradually heard people spread the message that we must take responsibility for nature and humbly interact with the earth. In Christianity, God created all life on earth and yet modern Christians seek to defile the creations of an all-loving God in order to fulfill their own gluttony. 

Does God not love all of his creations? Why would God create animals who experience pain if He wanted them to die cruelly in a factory farm where life is not cherished or cared for? In this life where we do not need to kill in order to sustain ourselves, then why should we kill at all? Surely, the all-loving Christian God would prefer life to be living in harmony without death.

It is a gradual process and a philosophical discussion that should happen throughout society. A lot of people feel the pressure to become vegetarian immediately, but in reality it is just a matter of changing your lifestyle as much as you are able to. University students do not have complete control over their diets, thus they may have a harder time getting the nutrients they need if they switch to only eating vegetables. 

Oftentimes there are those family parties you go to in which they only cook barbeque food and barely have any vegetables around. It is fine if someone cannot make a full transition, but being able to even make a few lifestyle changes can have a significant impact overall.

Michael Holey is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "The Breaking Point," runs on alternate Mondays.


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