Throughout history, animals have been a staple in the human diet. However, in recent years many studies have been done showing the negative impact it is having on our world. Eating a plant-based diet has shown to have a positive impact on the environment and health of many people. It reduces the number of toxic greenhouse gasses in the environment, provides more food for humans and is overall more environmentally friendly. These factors lead to the reason switching to a plant-based diet is better.
Michiel Korthalis, author of Emotions, Truths, and Meanings Regarding Cattle: Should We Eat Meat? Argues that issues will arise if we cut out the consumption of meat altogether, she believes it is important to find a balance because leaning too far, either way, will lead to issues with the environment whether we realize it or not. “When our meat-eating reduces to zero, the environmental impact becomes negative because food residues cannot anymore be eaten away by animals and there would be no organic fertilizer, so farmers should use more chemical fertilizers (and produce more greenhouse gasses).” (Korthalis) Not only does this balance out the consumption of what we eat but meat is also a staple food in many people’s lives, it is a big moneymaker for many companies and has been known to be one of the biggest sources of protein.
While it may seem to be impossible at this point to cut meat out, there are plenty of other resources that can be used as meat substitutes, that are less harmful. Studies and research have been done proving the negative effects too much meat has on the environment. Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and well-respected author, publisher, and journalist wrote “The Only Way to Have a Cow” , in hopes more people would consider the ethical aspects of consuming meat, and the effect it has on the environment. McKibben says, “The biggest change anyone could make in their own lifestyle to help the environment would be to become vegetarian.” (230, McKibben) At first, this to be a strong prediction, however, it’s true. The number of resources, time, money, and effort that was put into factory-farmed meat reproduction is growing exponentially and is destroying the environment. Methane gas releases from cows causing Global warming to quicken, at the current rate it is rising by 2050 humans will be in critical survival mode.
In Jonathan A. Foley’s essay “Can We Feed the World and Sustain the planet? Foley, a contributor to the sustainability of our biosphere says that “By clearing tropical rainforests, farming marginal lands, intensifying industrial farming insensitive to landscapes and watershed, humankind has made agriculture the planet’s dominant environmental threats.” (297, Foley) The cause behind most of this is to provide more farmland in order to increase livestock. If the production decreased rather then increased, by more people taking on a plant-based diet the plant will suffer less. Rather then the earth being turned into farmland it will be able to be home to animals which will create fertile soil to produce more fruits and vegetable, causing less stress on the environment. This puts humans and living creatures in a detrimental situation. With such a crisis at stake for our environment, it is essential something is done to preserve it.
Along with animal consumption being a problematic issue for the environment, it is important to also realize that the way many of the animals are treated is unethical and cruel. Yuval Noah Harari, a well-respected writer, proud vegan, and believer of ethical eating talks about the cruel reality of animal production. He talks about what makes the lifestyle domesticated animals so cruel, one of the first points he makes is the fact that many people are more concerned about getting inexpensive food on their tables rather than know where and how that food is made or where it comes from. He states that “Farmers routinely ignore these needs without paying any economic price. They lock animals in tiny cages, mutilate their horns and tails, separate mothers from offspring, and selectively breed monstrosities. The animals suffer greatly, yet they live on and multiply” (235, Harari) Animal cruelty is something many people don’t acknowledge as an issue. However, this is a big reason many people have already moved towards in becoming vegetarian, the idea of animals feeling pain and being severely neglected especially in the food industry touches on a soft spot for some. If these animals were thought about in a domesticated manner, the likelihood of intentional neglect would decrease. In the article Animal Pain: What is it and why does it matter written by Bernard E. Rollin discusses the moral obligation humans have to an entity and that what is done matters to it. He states, “the ability to experience pain is a sufficient condition (As the utilitarians pointed out) for a being to be morally considerable. Pain is an invaluable biological tool for survival” (no page, Rollin) if this is the case, why are animals treated so terribly? this goes back to the fact that when people become greedy their moral obligations go out the window. This causing people to be blinded by the fact that locking thousands on chicken, pigs, cows or whatever it might be up in tinny dark spaces for the purpose of becoming food to someone one day is animal abuse.
Rollin also argues an interesting point, that is typically not taken into consideration. “Indeed, an adequate morality towards animals would include a full range of possible matterings unique to each kind of animal. In my account of animal ethics, I have argued that the basis of our obligations to animals under our aegis is the animal’s nature, what I, following Aristotle, call ‘‘telos”. This is the unique set of traits and powers that make the animal what it is—the ‘‘pigness’’ of the pig, the ‘‘dogness’’ of the dog” (Rollin). These factors are associated with animals living habits and when they are taken away the characteristics that make them their own animal are no longer there. If one must ask why it is important to care for the way animals are treated, they have lost sight of their moral obligations to treat others with respect. By eating a plant-based diet, the room for harm being done to animals decreases because the need for it is no longer necessary.
When looking at the impact eating a plant-based diet has the people in comparison to people who consume meat regularly, there are a few main factors that stick out, first most, as the world population increases so do starvation rates. “Right now about one billion people suffer from chronic hunger. The world’s farmers grow enough food to feed them, but it is not properly distributed and, even if it were, many can’t afford it, because prices are escalating.” (297, Foley) This is due to approximately only 60 percent of the worlds crop going to humans while the other 40 percent is used to feed animals and produce biofuels. Foley says that the biggest issue is meat, “Even with the most efficient meat and dairy system, feeding crops to animals reduces the worlds potential food supply.” (299) The amount of water, food and other resources it takes to support the livestock we consume could be given to people that are starving for much cheaper and at greater amounts. By doing so, these animals will be able to feed on grasses and plants they would normally eat, when not put in between metal bars and fed hormones and grain. This going back to treating animals with care and having moral obligations to do that right things. By decreasing the extremely large amount of meats and eating more of a plant-based diet or going full plant based starvation rates will decrease due the other 35 percent of crop now going towards food that humans consume rather than food for animals that does no good for them.
While meat has been a staple food in many homes and is something that humans have become dependent on through time there are many more options to choose from today, such as tofo which is derived from soybeans, nuts, seeds etc. Meat is known for all the good proteins but with all the over pasteurization there have been studies that show it negatively influences mothers and babies. The hormones that are put into cows for example can have an effect on the mother’s hormone balance, which can lead to problems with the fetus. Not only does it affect hormone balance but over processed meats raise cholesterol as well, which can lead to dangerous outcomes such as heart failures, if not taken care of.
Overall, eating a plant-based diet is better for the environment and human population. It also benefits animals in an ethical aspect, which creates a stable environment, not overpopulated with animals. The earth will survive longer because global warming will slow down, also making the environment more stable. Eating more plant-based has a more positive effect overall then consuming meat therefore being the reason people should switch to a plant-based diet.