With celebrities like Natalie Portman, Woody Harrelson, and Alanis Morrissette going vegan, people are taking much more notice of veganism these days – not just as a dietary choice, but also as an environmental one. While there are many health reasons for choosing a vegan diet – for example, Morrissette reports losing 20 pounds within just a few months of going vegan, and Harrelson’s acne cleared up within days of cutting out dairy, there are several environmental issues when it comes to using animals for our food. As Portman writes in a May 2011 Huffington Post article, “The human cost of factory farming — both the compromised welfare of slaughterhouse workers and, even more, the environmental effects of the mass production of animals — is staggering.”As humans, our consumption of meat has tremendous repercussions on our environment,to a degree that we’re not yet totally aware of. The Union of Concerned Scientists states that animal agriculture is second only to the burning of fossil fuels when it comes to the greatest environmental threat facing our world today.
The World Watch Institute has recently issued a report stating at least 51 per cent of world-wide greenhouse gas emissions are created by livestock – more than those produced by the entire transportation sector. When we consider the world’s food and water supply, it takes 16pounds of vegetation-based cattle feed for a single cow to gain a pound of meat. Animal agriculture requires more than half the United States’ daily water supply just to function properly. At this moment, 45 per cent of the United States’ landscape is being used to
grow animals for human consumption. Two-hundred- and-sixty million acres of forest have already been leveled to grow feed crops for livestock, while animal agriculture has contributed to 85 per cent of soil erosion in the United States. The quantity of food the world’s cattle population consumes each day could feed up to 8.7 billion humans. In other words, if we didn’t need to raise so many cows for food, everyone in the world would have more than enough to eat.
Have you been considering your personal consumption of meat, dairy, and animal products, and how it affects the planet? Have you been wondering where to start and what you can possibly do to help? The prospect of cutting back on your meat intake does not have to be overwhelming, nor do you need to become a full-fledged vegetarian or vegan overnight. Often it’s the little changes that people make in their daily lives that can make a big difference. Even just going meatless two or three days a week can take some pressure off the industry. The good news is that vegan and vegetarian recipes can actually be quite appetizing. There are plenty of easy vegan meals, delicious vegan recipes, and vegetarian healthy food recipes available online that can help get you well on your way.
If you’re concerned about protein, you needn’t worry. There are lots of tasty meat substitutes that are high in protein and nutritional value. For legumes, a cup of lentils has17 grams of protein and a cup of black beans yields more than 15 grams. For grains,cooked quinoa has up to 8 grams of protein per cup, and cooked buckwheat berries contain 10 grams. Even veggies are a good source of protein. Peas have 9 grams of protein per cup and asparagus has more than 4 grams. You may also want to include nuts and seeds in your diet. Just a quarter of a cup of walnuts, for example, yields up to 5grams of protein, and those tiny hemp seeds? They pack a huge protein punch with 10grams per quarter cup. These are just a few protein ideas to help supplement vegan and vegetarian diets. When it comes to replacing dairy, there are plenty of options as well.You could try making hummus – a creamy spread made from pureed chickpeas, garlic,olive oil, and a few other choice ingredients. Hummus is loaded with protein and makes an excellent vegetable dip. You can also use nutritional yeast instead of cheese as a tasty topping for popcorn, salads, and soups.
When we eat less meat, we immediately start feeling better. We shed excess weight, have more energy, and feel genuinely good about ourselves. We start to realize how much truth there is in the old adage, “we are what we eat.” When we’re eating more plant-based food, we naturally feel more loving and compassionate towards all life. There is a sort of selflessness that goes along with a meat-free diet, and there’s a huge relief for our conscience as well. We’re eating happy food, not food produced from suffering.It can be very empowering to know that our diets have a significant impact on the world around us. When it takes over 660 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger and900 gallons of water to produce a pound of cheese, you can feel good about every cheeseburger you trade for a veggie, bean, or nut burger - they taste just as good, if not better, and have just as much nutritional value, if not more. According to a recent academic article published by David Tilman and Michael Clark, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase another 80 per cent by 2050 if we continue on the dietary track we’re currently on, but with every day we remove meat from our menu, we can help save our planet and help prove them wrong.*
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