Have you ever thought about the impact your meat-consuming diet has on not only you but the whole world?
Many of us prefer the comfortable meat-eating diet, so why choose to leave behind this comfortable, well-adjusted lifestyle? Well, this is why. Meat consumption has numerous disadvantages - it is the leading cause of climate change, resource depletion, mass extinction of species and its impact is detrimental to our health, energy/performance levels and carbon footprint. Recent studies and documentaries have proven that the general consensus is unaware of the disastrous impact of meat consumption due to the controversial arguments hidden behind this topic. Therefore, it is crucial for us, the youth, to be aware of the multiple reasons to stop, or at least reduce our own meat consumption.
Moreover, several documentaries - including "The Game Changers" and "Cowspiracy" highlights how shielded we are from the truth; “The Game Changers” looks at the drastic rise in performance and energy levels that comes from adopting a vegan diet, using a wide range of athletes as evidence. Whereas “Cowspiracy” studies the true path to sustainability and the environmental issues in our world which are often looked over and aims to enlighten its viewers about the actual cause of degradation of our environment.
As highlighted by ‘Cowspiracy’, many of us live under the illusion that carbon dioxide produced by the energy sector is the biggest factor contributing to climate change when in reality, the production of methane gas from livestock is in fact, 86 times more destructive from carbon dioxide from vehicles. An alarming percentage of 51% of human-induced global warming is caused by meat and dairy consumption which is much more than the impact of transport, burning fossil fuels and the electricity sector combined! It has been found that 55% of nitrous oxide - a gas with global warming potential 296 times greater than CO2 per pound - is produced by raising livestock. In addition, since livestock tends to primarily consume water-intensive grains, eating just one hamburger is equivalent to two whole months of shower water! It has been estimated that even if every single human being on this planet stopped using electricity, transport or energy, we would still exceed the maximum carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
As a matter of fact, we are mere decades away from the complete destruction of the Amazon rainforest and just 28 years away from the extinction of all marine animals. Therefore, when we are facing the largest mass extinction of species in 65 million years, all because of meat consumption, why are we not changing ourselves for the better? Why is it that despite the fact that raising and grazing of livestock are responsible for 30% of the world’s water consumption and 91% of Brazilian Amazon destruction, we still continue to consume animal products without a second thought?
It is due to the fact that like everything else in this world, even our perception of the environment is altered by the media and influenced by political power. As a result of speaking up about the detrimental impacts of meat consumption, over 1100 activists in Brazil were killed in the past 20 years and uncountable lawsuits were filed forcing masses of people to stay quiet. Until a few years ago, some of the largest environmental organisations refused to address this issue because essentially, all these organisations are businesses who, to a large extent, are driven by money and corporate profits. Despite the research supporting the downsides to meat consumption being accessible to all, such businesses chose to promote small-scale ‘environmental’ acts i.e using less water and refraining from private transport to provide us with the illusion that we are serving the environment.
That is because addressing veganism unveils the cognitive dissonance that meat creates and, it can be viewed as a condemnation of a major part of our lifestyle; meat consumption. As, to put ourselves in situations to listen to “the truth”, when everything we have believed prior goes against it is highly unfavourable. Consequently, in order to ensure they have a reliable source of funding, they have refrained from attacking the biggest aspect of our daily life; our diet, due to their fear of a reduction in funds. Hence, although the hunting approach may have been suitable for the primitive stages, the population has grown dramatically since then. The entire ecosystem and environment, as a result, is at stake because of our eating habits. Therefore, before your next meal, think about the impact your food choices have on the world.
Furthermore, not only is a plant-based diet highly beneficial for the environment, but it also has remarkable effects on our health. Recently, the traditional ideas regarding protein from animal meat being vital in nutrition and athletics have been disproven. All the protein that we consume in animals, i.e cows, pigs and chickens comes from plants which have more than sufficient nutrients to provide for us all. As a matter of fact, Patrik Baboumian - the strongest man with multiple world records, also known as ‘superhuman’, is vegan. Professional athletes in various fields are restraining themselves from consuming animal-based products, claiming a vegan diet has fuelled their victories.
In addition, through a vegan diet, Scott Jurek climbed the Appalachian trail in just 46 days when it typically takes professional athletes 5-6 months to complete! Since a vegan diet has an anti-inflammatory effect, it can help more oxygen reach the muscles thus leading to better endurance and faster recovery, which ultimately results in a more consistent and energetic performance. Besides, meat consumption has a massive impact on our bodily functions; it negatively affects endothelial function (an important aspect of blood flow), increases inflammation by 70%, narrows arteries, reduces blood flow, impairs recovery, increases the risk of premature death from all causes by 75%, increases the risk of dying from most types of cancer by 500% and much more!
To reiterate, our perception of our lifestyle, our behaviour and most importantly, our diet is all heavily influenced by marketing and the media. For many centuries, there has been a global stereotype, communicating slogans such as “vegetarians are weak”, “vegans don’t get enough nutrients” and “only real men eat steak” through the use of ads and propaganda. Likewise, there are numerous myths surrounding malnutrition regarding this diet such as it resulting in iron deficiency. Yet, not only are there more than enough substitutes for such cases, Morgan Mitchell’s iron deficiency and energy levels surprisingly increased following adopting a vegan diet. Nonetheless, the recent spotlight on a vegan diet has resulted in numerous forms of expression promoting this lifestyle i.e social media. In fact, these revelations have caused numerous celebrities to turn vegan including Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, Zac Efron, Joaquin Phoenix and much more!
Additionally, like us humans, animals too have a right to live. Thus, they shouldn’t be treated as inferior to us, and they unmistakably shouldn’t be served on our plates. Imagine being crammed into merciless, intolerant cages, suffocating in the midst of stale air. Imagine that your only view of the world is through steel wires, as you wait in line to be brutally slaughtered for humans, just so they can have a wider range of food on their plates. To have no choice but to follow the footsteps destiny has chosen for you - to be slaughtered. Can you really enjoy that piece of meat knowing how it has reached your plate?
To conclude, with the world at stake, it is crucial for us as the next generation to step up and make a change. The only way to live on the planet sustainably is through this lifestyle change which is the most far-reaching form of action in terms of eliminating multiple issues including climate change! Whether it be completely changing to a meat-free diet or starting with just Meatless Mondays or a pescatarian diet, every difference you make contributes to the livelihoods of others. There are multiple substitutes for numerous non-vegetarian foods including the ‘Beyond Burger’, in which the majority of consumers have been unable to distinguish actual meat and beyond meat. Perhaps, if it suits you better, you can start by cutting off one particular meat group i.e seafood then continuing to eliminate more groups over time. Although it will seem hard at first, go at your own pace and it will begin to feel natural over time especially through the use of substitutes and infinite inspiration from us!
For more inspiration or knowledge about this topic, you can watch plant-based documentaries including Cowspiracy, Game Changers, What the Health, Forks over Knives, etc. which can all be found on Netflix. For more information about transitioning to a vegan diet, check out these Instagrams: @liveswithoutknives, @plantyou, @vegan, @healthmylifestyle, @livekindlyco, @peta, @veg2run and @veganbowls! If you need any help, have any questions or are willing to share your experience transitioning to a vegan/vegetarian diet, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember, you can change the world with your diet.
By Chandni Sacheti