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June - July 2006


Lifestyle

A Vegetarian Diet and Environmental Change

by Nitin Mehta


It seems Albert Einstein made another great contribution to the Human race when he said: ‘Nothing will improve the chance of survival of the Earth as a step towards a Vegetarian life style.’ Meat production indeed is a single most cause for the sorry state of our planet. The rainforests of South America—the lungs of the planet will disappear if present trends continue, by 2030. Beef production and Soya cultivation are the two main causes of destruction of the rain forests. The Soya is produced to feed the animals not humans. Deforestation is responsible for 20% of all carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere. 20% of all methane gas emissions are due to farm animals and animal manure releases ammonia causing acid rain which kills fish, trees and poisons water. There are 15.4 billion chickens, 1 billion pigs and 1.3 billion cattle at any time in the world.

These animals produce 1 billion tones of waste which further pollute our rivers and water ways. The total number of animals raised and killed for meat every year is a stag erring 55 billion---our planet is simply not big enough to sustain these numbers. Almost 80% of worlds water resources are used up in meat production—a criminal waste in an already thirsty world. Soil erosion is another victim of meat production (due to overgrazing )—top soil is essential for human survival—entire civilizations have disappeared due to loss of top soil.

Such is our insatiable desire for meat that developing countries are using up precious land to grow fodder for animals raised for meat in the West. India uses 37% of its arable land to grow animal fodder for animals raised and killed for export. The growing middle classes in China and India are also consuming more and more meat—the result is that China which was net exporter of wheat is now an importer—as the crop is diverted to feed animals for meat. Almost 4 billion people could be fed by the amount of grains fed to animals. Almost 50% of Maize which is a staple diet of most of Africa is fed to animals. The human population is set to grow by 2.5 billion to almost 9 billion by 2010—mass starvation is inevitable unless grains are rediverted to feed humans rather then animals. Our craving for so called, sea-food is destroying the ecosystems of the Oceans. Deep sea fishing is destroying all marine life from turtles to dolphins. Mangrove forests which can act as buffers in a Tsunami like situation are being cleared away in South East Asia and Latin America. Fish waste, antibiotics and pesticide further pollute our rivers and oceans.

According to Ed Ayers the editorial director of the prestigious Washington based environmental body, ‘World Watch Institute’, ‘ in the long run we can lose our memory of eating animals and we will discover the intrinsic satisfaction of a diverse plant based diet as millions of people already have’. Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘let us be the change we seek in the world’. Each one of us should make that change for the sake of our planet and future generations.

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