For me, it means that I understand the horrible truths about the farming industry, and I’m refusing to support it. I watched a gut-wrenching video about how animals are treated from birth until death in industrial farms, with actual footage from actual farms, and I saw images that I’ll never be able to forget. After my gruesome enlightenment, I committed myself to using my consumer power to support farms that raise animals the right way, and I became a humaneitarian.
I only eat meat products that are organic, Certified Humane, or both, because I can trust that these products came from farms where animals are free-range and cage-free, fed a proper diet, not injected with hormones (which are unhealthy for both the animals and us), and cared for properly. I also eat meat that has been hunted, like venison, because that animal was never influenced by humans until the day it was killed by a hunter. When these products are unavailable, which is often, I simply don’t eat meat. So, for a large percentage of my time, I’m a vegetarian, and I often describe myself as such to make the explanation simpler. Fortunately, organic and Certified Humane products are becoming more readily available all the time as consumer demand increases and the public becomes more conscientious about where their food comes from. Consumer power is a real force, and it’s working right now.
I know how annoying “militant” vegetarians can be (trust me, I’ve had run-ins with a few). I am not a militant vegetarian, nor am I asking you to become a vegetarian for this week’s Green Challenge. Vegetarianism is very much a lifestyle, and it’s a choice you have to make for yourself, not one that someone else can make for you.
For this week’s “Green Challenge”, I want to introduce you to two concepts: buying local and “Meatless Mondays.”
Not only can a diet rich in meats be unhealthy for you, but the meat industry is actually very unsustainable. Producing meat uses up natural resources. We have to take some of our produce, and instead of putting it on people’s plates, put it back into feeding and raising livestock. It can take up to 18,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Amazingly, the meat industry is responsible for one fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that plague our world. This is partially because of the transportation required to get meats onto the market.
Buying local can help you cut out that wasteful middle man that is transportation. Not only do farmers sell their goods at local farmers markets, but many sell their produce right on their farms. Until they changed location, my mother and I would take a short trip out to a local farm and buy meat directly from there. This, of course, was after the farmer took us on a tour so I could see for my own eyes how the animals were treated. We would buy in bulk to avoid making constant trips out to the farm. We all agreed that the meat tasted better than store-bought. Mom and I are currently in the process of finding a new farm to buy from. Fortunately, we have several options in our area.
Not only is buying local good for the environment, but it keeps the money in your area so it can support your economy. Food from local farms, whether it’s meat or produce, tastes better because it’s fresher, and because it’s fresher, it has more nutrients to support your health. Another benefit: food purchased locally requires less packaging. Here’s a big one: local food preserves open space. Who doesn’t enjoy the beautiful scenery of the countryside, where you see lush fields, meadows of wildflowers, postcard-worthy barns, and pastures full of grazing animals? Our treasured agricultural landscape, so full of American heritage, can only survive when farms are financially fit. If you support your local farm, you’re increasing the value of the land to the farmer and making development less likely. (Warning, incoming personal rant) I hate that the process of urbanization is called “development”… how is destroying the natural land to replace it with buildings and parking lots a development? The word development implies improvement, and in my opinion that is the opposite of improvement.
Picture courtesy of: http://www.123rf.com/photo_15007359_jersey-cows-on-pasture-westland-new-zealand.html
Now that I’ve explained the benefits of buying locally, what is “Meatless Monday?” Meatless Monday is a growing movement based in the United States and spreading across the world that advocates the benefits of going without meat for one day of the week. What exactly are the benefits?
Eating less meat is good for your health. Going meatless once a week has the ability to reduce your risk for deadly chronic diseases. Many studies show evidence that meat eaters have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A recent study at Harvard University demonstrated that substituting foods high in polyunsaturated fat (i.e. nuts and avocados) for foods high in saturated fat (animal products) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%.
Eating less meat is good for your weight. Vegetarians and people who eat less meat have lower body weights than those who eat meat on a daily basis. A study demonstrated that meat consumption is associated with weight gain in both men and women regardless of age, physical activity, current weight, and smoking. I can personally attest to weight loss- when I first became a humaneitarian I lost a noticeable amount of weight, and not in an unhealthy manner. When you cut meat out of your diet, you have to learn healthy ways to obtain protein and nutrients typically associated with meat, and when you are more conscientious about what you’re eating, you invariably become healthier.
Eating less meat is good for the environment. I’ve already touched on this: the meat industry is responsible for one fifth of the global man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Eating less meat is better for your wallet. This should be an obvious one: anyone who shops knows meat is expensive. The most expensive things on the menu at restaurants are strip steak and prime rib. Have you ever seen a $20-$30 salad? I haven’t. Avoiding meat for one day a week will benefit your budget.
Eating less meat will save animals… duh. The average person eats thirty-one animals each year, and about 2,400 in a lifetime. If everyone in the United States participated in Meatless Mondays, approximately 1.4 billion animals could be spared annually. As I’ve already mentioned, factory farming is horrifically cruel. I would go into gruesome detail, but like vegetarianism, I feel that that is something you should find out for yourself. The truth is violent and gory, and I will not subject you to images that you may be uncomfortable with. Vomit-inducing videos can easily be found with a quick Google search. It’s there for you to find if you want to see it.
Picture courtesy of: http://meanderingsabound.com/2012/06/14/summer-salad-with-blueberry-vinagrette/
Check out this article about Meatless Monday.
How did your week without wasteful products (Challenge #5) go? Are you going to continue the challenge beyond one week? Viridorari wants to know! Leave a comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Encourage Humane Certified foods to become more available! Print out this product request form, sign it, and turn it in to your local grocer. Don’t forget to have your friends fill one out too! Power in numbers!
Picture courtesy of: http://www.greenerchoices.org/eco-labels/labelLogo.cfm
Animal of the Month Update
Picture courtesy of: http://tigertribe.net/snow-leopard-a-highly-secretive-cat/
The snow leopard's mountainous habitat places them between 5,900 and 18,000 feet above sea level. Snow leopards typically have light green or gray eyes, which is unusual for wild cats. Most species of big cats have yellow or gold eyes. Female snow leopards are usually about 30% smaller than males.
Picture courtesy of: http://fuckyeahsnowleopards.tumblr.com/