Vegetarian…from Granny Green Genes


On Sunday, December 10th of last year, the environment editor
of U.K.'s Independent Online posted a report from the United
Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), asserting that
"the world's top destroyer of the environment is not the car,
or the plane, or even George Bush: it is the cow".
According to the report, the world's rapidly growing herds of
cattle have been identified as the greatest threat to the climate,
and wildlife. And they have been blamed for a host of other
environmentalcrimes, from acid rain to the introduction of
alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in
the oceans,from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying
coral reefs.
The 400-page report by the FAO, entitled "Livestock's Long
Shadow",also surveys the damage done by sheep, chickens, pigs
and goats. But in almost every case, the world's 1.5 billion
cattle are most to blame. Livestock are responsible for 18 percent
of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars,
planes and all other forms of transport put together.
Burning fuel to produce fertilizer to grow feed, to produce
meat,and to transport it--and clearing vegetation for grazing--
produces 9 percent of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the most
common greenhouse gas. And their wind and manure emit more than
one-third of emissions of another, methane, which warms the world
20 times faster than carbon dioxide.
Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gases,
including more than two-thirds of the world's emissions of ammonia,
one of the main causes of acid rain.
Ranching, the report adds, is "the major driver of deforestation"
worldwide, and overgrazing is turning a fifth of all pastures and
ranges into desert. Cows soak up vast amounts of water: it takes a
staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.
Wastes from feedlots and fertilizers used to grow their feed
overnourish water, causing weeds to choke out all other life. And
the pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used to treat them get into
drinking water and endanger human health.
The pollution washes down to the sea, killing coral reefs and
creating "dead zones" devoid of life. One is up to 21,000 sq. km.,
in the Gulf of Mexico, where much of the waste from U.S. beef
production is carried down the Mississippi.
The report concludes that, unless drastic changes are made,
the massive damage done by livestock will more than double by 2050,
as demand for meat increases.
That's the bad news. The good news is that reducing our
consumption of food derived from animals happens one meal at
a time and that it is well within the power of each of us to
make changes, however incremental, in our food choices!
I'm a firm believer that one can stay low on the food chain
and still enjoy life. As a mostly vegan vegetarian, I know I am
looking out for my health and the health of the animals I choose
not to eat. And now,as it turns out, I'm saving the planet as well!
(And what about not wanting to eat the products of cloned or
genetically engineered animals? Another reason to go vegan!)
So get a grip on global warming by resolving to lessen your
dependence on animals for food in 2007.
Martha Devine

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