Honestly, I don't like to be told anything about what I should or shouldn't eat.
I'm a firm believer in moderation, and I hate diets (which are usually bullsh*t anyway).
But I haven't eaten beef or pork in over ten years. This was originally because I did a project on factory farming—a travesty in and of itself—but lately, there's another reason why I've resolved to never eat beef ever again: It's one of the worst things you can do to the environment.
Cattle Farming: The Reason for the Fires in the Amazon
You may or may not be aware that the Amazon Rainforest is currently burning at an unprecedented rate. Many of these fires were actually started by cattle ranchers and loggers, who were looking to clear more space for their farms. As CNN succinctly put it, "The Amazon is burning because the world eats too much beef."
Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef, producing around 20% of the world's exports. Last year, it exported more beef than ever before—1.64 million tons, to be exact. If we stop consuming beef, particularly beef imported from Brazil, we take power away from companies that are burning the rainforests and destroying invaluable resources.
Here is a list of beef companies to absolutely boycott, and here are a few points to consider the next time you...crave the flesh of lesser creatures.
- If you're craving beef or red meat, you might actually be craving iron. Take an iron supplement, or try lentils, beans, fortified breakfast cereals, and more.
- Make sure you're getting enough calcium and protein, which are both things that you might miss after dropping red meat. This can be achieved through vitamin supplements and eating plenty of soy, beans, and—if you must—other kinds of meat.
- If you absolutely can't give up your summer cookout tradition, try buying from an ethical producer, and make an effort to significantly reduce your meat intake.
Ultimately, everyone should be able to cut beef out of their diets without too much effort—or at the very least, we can all significantly reduce the amount of beef we consume.
There are lots of reasons to do this. Studies have shown that beef production is 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other kind of meat, requiring 28 times more land than chicken and producing 5 times the amount of carbon emissions as any other animal product.
Plus, beef can be damaging to your health. Many studies have shown that beef can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses. Cutting or reducing your beef intake is a win-win for both your health and the environment (which have always been connected anyway).
Don't Be That Vegan
In general, we should all eat less of every kind of meat. Last year, a UN report proposed that changing our diets could contribute 20% of the effort needed to keep global temperatures from rising above two degrees, and that change in diet mostly means eating fewer animal products.
And we shouldn't stop with meat. An advocacy group for indigenous peoples of Brazil has requested that people around the world boycott all companies that invade the nation's protected areas. Other products to boycott include palm oil, almonds, cotton, and coffee that has been harvested from the Amazon. Make sure you check the sources of your purchases, and always buy local or from reputable companies whenever possible.
Still, it's important to remember that meat eating in and of itself isn't inherently bad, and no one deserves to be shamed for not being able to maintain a vegan diet. Meat is also an important part of certain cultures. Instead of criticizing meat consumption point-blank, we need to address humanity's tendency to consume far more meat than we need—and we need to take down the corporations that churn out more and more of it each year.
Before we can realistically ask everyone to go vegetarian or vegan, we also need to address the fact that healthy, organic food is often so much more expensive than mass-produced meat products, which are harvested at the expense of some of the world's most valuable natural lands.
Changing Our Diets: Helpful, but Not the Solution
While it might be tempting to think that the solution to climate change is as simple as switching to veggie burgers, that's not the case. Agriculture is a significant contributor to global warming, but the biggest cause of the earth's rising temperature is the burning of fossil fuels.
Cutting out beef might be the single most significant thing we can do to personally reduce our carbon footprints, but that pales in comparison to the importance of challenging fossil fuel corporations. That'll require massive political action. Fortunately, one half of one of the largest impediments to genuine climate change action recently died, so maybe we're on our way.
Also, if you're still torn about whether or not to go pescatarian, this video might help.
Serenading the cattle with my trombone (Lorde - Royals) www.youtube.com