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    [Common Ground] Thanks to the twin drivers of personal and planetary health, our hyper-carnivore culture may be taking a left turn ... Global demand for meat
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2008
      [Common Ground]

      Thanks to the twin drivers of personal and planetary health, our
      hyper-carnivore culture may be taking a left turn
      "Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by
      growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined
      animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume
      enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate
      significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of
      corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the
      destruction of vast swaths of the world's tropical rain forests."

      A peta newsletter? No — that's from the New York Times. At the start
      of this year, in a long article entitled "Rethinking the
      Meat-Guzzler," Mark Bittman, a leading food writer for the paper, laid
      out the environmental case against meat production.

      It's no secret there's a greenrush going on — a re-evaluation of the
      way our civilization works in light of certain inconvenient
      environmental truths. While real change has only just begun, this new
      perspective is circling us back to the wisdom of some of the oldest
      concepts around. I'm particularly encouraged to see environmental
      arguments for vegetarianism becoming part of mainstream conversation,
      because they are the very reasons I gave up meat nearly ten years ago.

      For millennia, vegetarianism has been an ethical matter, based on the
      idea that living beings deserve to live. In every era, in nearly every
      part of the world, the idea has percolated: imposing suffering on
      living creatures diminishes one's own life. For much of our existence,
      we've had to weigh that truth against the exigencies of living our own
      lives. Killing an occasional pig, or living by hunting, was the best
      option for generations of our ancestors.

      But our modern civilization has removed many of the constraints we
      once faced. It has, in effect, provided us with the means to transcend
      biology — to choose how we want to be in the world. And more urgently,
      the side effects of this heedless abundance will soon force us to
      choose: if we keep chewing our way through rainforest burgers, then we
      won't have rainforest for long.
      So I became a vegan. I gave up eating anything derived from animals.
      No more burgers, obviously, but also no more sushi, no more cheese, no
      more honey. I stopped buying leather (although I continued to use —
      and still use many years later — leather items I already owned).

      It was liberating! But it was also frustrating. I had no grudge to
      bear against the mass of humanity, eating meat in ignorance — perhaps
      they had not heard how damaging the stuff is, on so many levels. But
      my fellow environmentalists? I remember vividly, attending barbecues
      and seeing real environmental heroes — impeccably-credentialed Earth
      First!ers, just down from the treetops — gnawing on ribs. Bringing it
      up in those circles — "how can you call yourself an environmentalist
      and eat meat?"— was met with the same sort of defensive derision
      vegans got from the mainstream.
      After I became a vegan, a suite of changes came over me: I became
      lighter, finding a new stable weight, I felt better, my bodily systems
      worked more smoothly, and this: Simply because I had stopped being
      complicit in their slaughter, I came to see animals in a different
      way. I no longer had a need to rationalize at every meal, and I
      gradually came to see the essential truths of the ethical arguments
      for veganism: of course animals feel pain. How could they not? Of
      course they want to live, and to enjoy life. Anyone who's lived with a
      pet knows as much. But there's a difference between knowing and
      feeling, and no longer having to defend my psyche against my actions
      meant that I came to feel the reality of the animal experience.
      Vegetarianism is the New Prius

      2002 was the previous high water mark for vegetable-based diets in the
      American media. In that year, TIME magazine's cover story "Should You
      Be a Vegetarian?" laid out the personal health reasons to choose
      vegetables over meat (there are many, starting with far lower risks of
      some of the top killers in America: heart disease, cancer and
      So choosing veg is wildly optimistic: it is making ourselves into who
      we want to be, and proclaiming that conscious change on a global scale
      is something we humans just might be able to pull off. And that would
      be nothing less than an act of intentional evolution.

      Think it can be done? It starts the next time you sit down at the dinner table.

      Gregory Dicum lives in San Francisco, where he enjoys boosting demand
      for vegan entrées at fine restaurants.

      full story:

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