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Our Diets Killing Haitians

Until now, I had always thought vegetarianism was simply a health fad, or a strange attachment to cows. In light of the Haiti food riots, I'm starting to see things differently.

Four impending crises are casting an ominous shadow on the globe today: world hunger, the depletion of fresh water resources, global warming, and disappearing fossil fuel reserves.

Scary huh? Did you know that you could help?

The developed world's meat-based diet is sending shockwaves around the world. By indulging in the meat that cattlemen make widely available, we're indirectly starving and dehydrating Third World nations abroad.

In order to provide you with beef, the meat factories have to raise cattle. Most cows are slaughtered at two years, but do you know how much they consume before then? Tons of grain and water are funneled into livestock daily, reverting necessary resources to the rich man's diet rather than helping the starving in Haiti, Yemen, Egypt, and more.

Here are the raw facts:


+ The USDA has released that it takes 16 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of beef (including water weight). Let's grossly exaggerate and say a serving of grains is 1 cup (where 1 cup is actually more than enough for an adult, let alone a child when cooked). That means that with roughly four cups to a pound, those two steaks could have provided 64 meals in a Third World country. Let's again grossly exaggerate and say that poor Haitians are getting 3 meals a day. That means that that 1 pound of steak you split with your wife could have fed one Haiti citizen for a little over 21 days. 

+ The gallons of water per pound of beef figure is much more controversial. Most sources agree that it's in the thousands range, but we'll be kind and go with the figure released by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association itself, 435 gallons of water per pound of beef. Let's see how long this could hydrate, say, an American citizen. The recommended amount of water per day is 8 cups. At 16 cups/gallon, one pound of beef not produced could have left 6960 cups of fresh water free for human consumption. That's enough to fully hydrate one person for 870 days, or a little over 2 years.

+ According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), livestock agriculture is contributing heavily to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the report, livestock is responsible for 18% carbon dioxide emissions, 37% methane, and 65% nitrous oxide. Whether or not global warming is actually occurring, this massive pollution cannot be healthy. 

+ According to a report released by Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell University, it takes 54 kilocalories of fossil fuel to produce 1 kilocalorie of beef protein suitable for human consumption. Complaining about gas prices while eating that Quarter Pounder with cheese? Think again. 

+ The severe negative health effects of red meat have been widely publicized and distributed. Chicken and pork are also accompanied with health risks. Rather than type an essay, I shall refer you to Google.

The world is following the rich countries' example of massive meat consumption, and we need to reverse this trend. A massive cutback on meat, even beef alone, will help these crises in the short term by improving the reputation of the United States, and in the long term by ultimately improving the current status of impending world crises. If we cut back on meat, especially beef, that will eventually start to put pressure on the meat companies. As demand goes down, supply will eventually go down as well. As supply goes down, crucial resources are funneled into the hands that need them.

So in this time of world crises, when hunger incites violence in Haiti, spurs political unrest around the world, and threatens our global stability, will you take a stand?

Become a vegetarian for at least 30 days. Too extreme for you? Then just take beef out of your diet. Let's put pressure on this wasteful business, and give relief to those that need it. By simply changing our eating habits, we can change the world. After 30 days, I ask you to seriously deliberate before going back to meat. Remember, some nations really can't afford it.

Please guys, it's not just about Bessie anymore.

P.S. If you want to take the challenge and get some support, or just support others, feel free to join us.

Posted by Leilani Kelley on 4/29/2008
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