Posts Tagged ‘environment’

I found this article and had to share it. Sorry I’ve been a little MIA lately – I was in a wedding this weekend up in my hometown. Doggy pictures forthcoming…

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VeggiesI didn’t become a vegan overnight. I didn’t even become a vegetarian over night. Rather, it was something I thought about for a long time before I actually committed. After mulling it over for the better part of a year, I finally decided to stop eating meat all together in July of 2007. During my year of contemplation, I gradually started eliminating meat from my diet. First it was pork and beef, both of which were relatively easy for me to give up because I’d always known how unhealthy they were. I was still eating turkey and chicken, however, and wasn’t quite sure how I’d give those up–they were a pretty big part of my diet at that point. Still playing with the idea, though, I started trying to have vegetarian meals whenever I could. I really didn’t know much about a healthy vegetarian diet, so I knew I’d have to read up on it to make sure I did it right and didn’t end up gaining a bunch of weight or feeling tired or whatever (both of which can also happen on an omni-diet, obviously). As it turns out, I started to enjoy cooking – something that had never been a favorite pastime of mine. I loved the idea of making myself healthy, filling vegetarian meals, and enjoying my food so much. My taste buds seemed to change – I was liking foods I had never been particularly fond of, and it felt pretty cool.

I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone compared making a huge change in diet to getting married – you have this big day where you decide “Ok, this is it! I’m doing it!”, and then after that you just do it because you’ve committed. That made a lot of sense to me. When I was eliminating meat from my diet and learning about vegetarian cooking, I was kind of “dating” vegetarianism, until once day I decided “hey, we should get married”. Luckily, vegetarianism isn’t a person who can (and likely would) turn me down. We were partners!

It was the same thing with going vegan: I dated it for a while, and then just decided I was going to do it, and there would be no turning back. Now we’re in love…or at least I am. Let’s not worry about the details, okay?

Anyway, the point of this all is that I think baby steps are okay – in fact, they’re to be celebrated. A couple of my girlfriends (big shout out to Sarah & Becky) have both been taking their own baby steps. Sarah’s working on cutting at least some of the meat out of her diet and Becky’s a full-fledged veggie now. I am so proud of both of them, because I know what a struggle it can be, but I also know how worthwhile it is. I’ve never felt better in my life.  Sure, a lot of that is emotional because for me, eating animals just got to be kind of painful. I felt emotionally lousy every time I was doing it, to the point where it just wasn’t worth it anymore. I think that’s what psychologists might call my “conscience”, but let’s not get too fancy here. Basically, I just had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing – that was enough for me.

Whatever your reason for taking some of those baby steps (or in Becky’s case, pretty big leaps!) – health, the environment, animals – keep on steppin’! Knowing that you’re doing something good for yourself, the earth, and all those little piggies and cows and chickens will make you feel all warm & fuzzy inside.

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Not long ago I went to a presentation called “From Farm to Fork: The Environmental Impacts of Animal Agriculture” held at the Bell Museum in Minneapolis. The featured speaker was Gowri Koneswaran, Director of Animal Agricultural Impacts at the Humane Society of the United States. It was a great presentation.

During the first half of her talk, she discussed the conditions on factory farms; namely, she detailed the cruel practices that cause unspeakable pain and suffering to the animals who live on these farms. She showed photographs of egg-laying chickens crammed 6 to a battery cage, with no room to spread their wings, nest, or practice any of their natural behaviors. battery cages

There were pictures of sows forced into gestational crates so small that they could not even turn around, calves in veal crates, and animals living in their own filth because they have no other option.

Gestation crate

These were all issues I have read about and been disturbed by before.

The second half of the presentation, however, was about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. I was floored by some of the data. This site has a great map of the United States showing where factory farms are located (the Midwest is the worst!), and how much pollution has resulted because of them. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.” And while that alone is troubling, animal agriculture is also responsible for a huge percentage of the much more harmful greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, most of which comes from animal manure. After sitting through this presentation, I thought to myself, “what am I waiting for? Why don’t I just commit to being vegan?” So I did. Everything I had heard and read about seemed to all point in that direction and I really couldn’t argue with it anymore.

If you want to read more about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, I recommend checking out Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, which you can find here. It’s like 400 pages, so I haven’t read it all, but you can go through the table of contents and pick out chapters you are interested in and read those. That’s what I did, because, man, 400 pages??

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