OUR EATING HABITS ARE KILLING OUR PLANET
Humans have been a distinct species for at least 400,000 years. For most of those years, we were stone age nomads. Humans are omnivores, which means we are able and willing to eat almost anything. During the Neolithic era, generally speaking, men hunted animals to eat, while women and children gathered berries and other plant edibles. Finding food was full time work. It was that way up until about 12,000 years ago, when humans began to cultivate plants and live in permanent settlements.
That was the beginning of agriculture, which includes growing edibles like corn and also raising animals for their eggs, milk and meat. Agriculture didn’t have much of an impact on the planet, when it started 12,000 years ago, primarily because there were only about 4 million humans living on Earth.
Since then, agriculture has evolved into a hugely successful human institution. Our ability to feed ourselves is a primary driver behind the steady growth of our population. From those modest post-neolithic beginnings, humans have become the most successful animal species on Earth. As we near the end of year 2017, humanity has grown to 7.4 billion in number, with about 75 million more of us being added to the population very single year. Each human we add to our numbers requires food, water, shelter, and personal security.
In the world’s developed nations, the way we eat has evolved to provide abundant food at low cost. Up until about a hundred years ago, many of us were still involved in producing our own food. These days, in the U.S., we have ceded the production of our food to corporate giants. Big business has made it so very easy to feast on an incredible variety of foods at low cost.
We tend to reduce the animals we eat down to commodities like eggs, beef steak, pork cutlets, chicken breasts, etc. For most of us, the place these foods came from is out of sight and out of mind
Think for a moment about what it takes to produce cheap food for literally billions of humans. Supermarket eggs that sell for $4/dozen start out in industrial scale facilities, where billions of commodified hens – living creatures – are cruelly confined, and pumped with hormones and antibiotics to keep them laying, day after day, until they are exhausted, at which time they are killed and reduced to feed for other commodified animals.
Consider the milk and cheese we take for granted. To cheaply produce those food products, industrial diary operations keep nearly ten million cows pregnant so they will produce lots and lots of milk. When calf’s are born, they are immediately removed from their mothers, whose genetics and gestation cycles are efficiently managed to keep them producing milk for human consumption, until they are exhausted, at which time they are sent to slaughter.
In the U.S. alone, something like 56 billion cattle, hogs, sheep, and poultry are raised and slaughtered every year to provide humans with a vast variety of ribs, cutlets, drumsticks, and other cleverly packaged forms of animal protein.
We are also strip mining our seas worldwide to provide cheap fish for humans to eat. Most of the fisheries in our oceans are exhausted or economically unproductive already. If not so, they are well on their way to that point.
If you count the farmed animals we raise and slaughter along with the fish we take from our seas, the total number of living creatures that humans kill and consume every year runs into the trillions.
The scale and the efficiency with which we exploit other animal species and reduce them to supermarket commodities is mind-boggling. We love foods, especially cheap foods, that please the pallet. It is too easy to not think about how the things we eat end up on the plates in front of us.
When we mindlessly consume milk, cheese, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and every other kind of animal based food commodity, we become complicit in the endless cycles of cruelty and suffering that lie behind our eating habits.
Our daily doses of animal protein also contribute directly to climate change. The billions of animals we eat produce huge quantities of methane during their life cycles. Methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than is the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of oil and other fossil forms of energy.
We humans are on a relentless course. There are too many of us. There are not enough resources on our planet to meet our needs sustainably. That is not hyperbole. It is a fact.
We must change our ways. As individuals, the best way we can have an immediate impact is to change our eating habits. Becoming a vegan would be an awesome gesture. If that bar seems too high, consider a more modest commitment to start. Just by making a concerted effort to reduce animal protein consumption by half, each of us can begin to be part of the solution. That simple gesture, if embraced by millions of people, would have an immediate impact on the health of our planet. The science tells us that consuming less animal protein will also be very good for our personal health. Eating veggies also costs less.
Humans are the apex species on our planet. We have an obligation to take care of the Earth we all depend on. A change in diet – less meat, cheese and eggs – is the quickest and easiest way to meet that obligation. – EmanPDX
“If a slaughterhouse had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Paul McCartney
If you need more convincing, check out this video. It shows the terrible way we treat animals raised for human consumption. Warning. It is disturbing…at least for anyone with a conscience.