By Jenna Bower, Co-Founder
In 6 years of being a vegetarian: I have saved 1,730,500 gallons of water, saved the lives of 1,212 animals, didn’t consume 1,170 lbs of meat, as the average American did, and saved 9,653 lbs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
I became a vegetarian my junior year of high school, like many others, after watching undercover video footage of slaughterhouses.
Everything that I have learned about the animal agriculture industry since that fateful day has only affirmed my choice in lifestyle, if not pushed me closer and closer to veganism.
As non-meat eaters, we have to realize that carnivores are not always moved to dietary change with pictures of baby cows in a flowery field or gruesome slaughterhouse footage.
In our culture, eating meat is the ‘manly’ thing to do. As technology has evolved, we still have not been able to escape our hunter-gatherer ancestry. Although there are many people that hunt and fish and garden, how many of us rely on our own hands to feed ourselves?
The majority of us don’t have vegetable gardens that can sustain our families; we rely on the grocery store to provide our bounty. Most of us aren’t equipped with the knowledge or skill to hunt or catch our own meat; we rely on the grocery store for that too. We buy pre-packaged and pre-picked.
We aren’t hunters or gatherers anymore.
So why does grilling up burgers and hot dogs in the backyard with the boys seem so reminiscent of tribal men celebrating after a successful day of hunting?
There is no pride in going to the grocery store to purchase carcasess that were slaughtered on a monoculture industrial farming complex.
It is tradition and habit that drive continue to drive our addiction.
And if we refuse to break from tradition, as many will continue to do, then we will suffer from our own stubbornness.
Traditions are meant to be passed down, cherished and shared with family as the tree grows ever upward.
But burgers and hot dogs on the 4th of July is not a sustainable tradition. Thanksgiving turkey is not a sustainable tradition. Eating a seafood feast on New Years Eve is not sustainable.
The ways in which we harvest meat, through water- and land-intensive mass production, is not a tradition that we can afford to pass down. If we maintain the current level of slaughter, there will be no more fish to catch; there will be no more land to farm the corn that feeds the cows; there will be no more water to grow the soy to feed the cows; there will be no more land to graze the cows; there will be nothing left for our progeny.
When eating a 1lb burger equates to the water use of one person showing for 6 months, you can see that we have a problem. When it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1lb of beef, you can see that we need a massive reallocation of water resources. When it takes that much water to produce that little amount of meat, you have to ask, is it worth it?
And as non-meat eaters, this is the narrative that we need to be projecting.
We need to move beyond slaughter practices and talk about the horrifying implications of meat production on the environment.
In 2000, agriculture accounted for 70% of global water use, while in the same year billions of people died because they didn’t have access to safe drinking water.
Today, people consume 8-80 gallons per person per day for domestic purposes, while it takes over 800 gallons per day to grow their food.
Producing one pound of beef uses: almost fifty times more water than growing a pound of vegetables, about forty times more water than potatoes and other root crops and about nine times more water than grain.
Today, worldwide, three-fourths of all agricultural land, including pasture, is used to produce animal products. But from all this, what do we get? Just 17 percent of our calories. About half the world’s calories from crops don’t even go to people. Instead they go primarily to feed livestock—which consume a third of the world’s grain and 85% of soy.
Worldwide, converting just half of crops fed to livestock into crops for humans could yield enough food for two billion people, or be converted from farmland back into carbon-storing forests.
We need to live by the 5R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot.
The most important of which in our right as consumers to refuse products that don’t align with our values. And as a culture, we really need to rethink our values.
We need to start creating sustainable traditions that we can be proud of. And this generation needs to actively start changing our world in order to leave it better than how we found it.
The first step is recognizing that we have a problem. The next step is up to you.