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The Cost of Meat Eating Vs The Benefits of Vegetarianism

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As a child, my family and I loved going to petting zoos. We would go up to the animals stuck in their 1 metre by 1 metre cages, and pet them for hours. So naturally, we would all go home just to see one of their relatives on my dinner plate that night. Plant-based lifestyles are constantly in the spotlight, and are a growing trend in the media. Personally, through internal debates regarding the morality of eating meat, one and a half years ago, I decided to change my lifestyle and become vegetarian. Although this decision started off because of my personal morals, it turned into something so much more thsn that. As time has gone by and I have learned more about the lifestyle, I have realized how big of an impact everyone can make by being vegetarian. In fact, by participating in a plant-based lifestyle, people have the ability to reduce climate change, improve animal welfare and even ebnefit their own personal health; thus proving how just one small lifestyle change can produce substancial results.

The biggest thing we can do inour lives to stop climate change is to immediately stop eating animals. In fact, the use of animals for food is one of the most destructive technologies on Earth. The main reason for this is due to the fact that the livestock industry is responsible for 14.5% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. It is a well known fact that global warming is a major issue affecting us all, and with the demand for meat expected to double by 2050, we need to do something about it soon. The impatcs of the meat industry on the environment are so prevelent that if we stay on our present course through 2050, feeding the plant will entail clearing more of the world’s remaining forests, wiping out thousands of species, and releasing GHG emissions to exceed the 1.5C and 2C warming targets enshrined by the Paris agreement- even if emissions from all other human activities were entirely eliminated. But, not only does the meat industry have a major role in climate change, it also contributed to large amounts of pollution and excessive water usage. As the demand for meat increases, the demand for freshwater does the same. In a 2013 study, it was found that farming used up to 92% of our freshwater, with nearly one third of that related director to animal products. The meat industry is not only using up all of our freshwater, but it is polluting the valuable amount we gave left with various fertilizers, pesticides, organic matter, pathogens and emerging pollutants. When consuming meat does so much to negatively impact the environment, humans need to decide if their next hamburger is really worth the effects.

Not only does the meat industry have tremendous effects in the environment, it can also have substantial negative effects on health. It is more or less commonly known that eating meat not only increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer, but it can do so much more to your health. In fact, eating meat can become very dangerous. Due to the use of antibiotics that are routinely mixed into pig and cattle feed to protect and fatten them, this can promote antibiotic resistance in humans, which is projected to cause ten million deaths a year by 2050. In addition, bacterial infections such as salmonella and campylobacter can be transmitted to humans and spread through large farms, allowing pathogens to enter the environment around farms and creating serious worry for humans. The fact that we can get our dietary needs and protein in other ways, yet people still eat meat is incredible. Many people believe that plant-based lifestyles are unsustainable and difficult to maintain, but that just simply is not true. Scientists and engineers have been researching for years and have created many plant based options that taste and act nearly identical to meat and they are just getting more and more accurate. The two largest corporations doing this right now are Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. These companies are considerably coming out with new, affordable and easily accessible products for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Just because humans have eaten meat for many years, does not mean we have to any longer.

Additionally, eating meat can have negative impacts in animal welfare. Many people have seen saddening videos and images of animal cruelty in Facebook or instagram, but few people really know the whole story of how animals are treated in slaughterhouses, and just how their food gets to their plate. Although some states in the US have laws ‘protecting’ animals grown for consumption, they often are extremely flexible and not followed strictly. Most cases or animal abuse in slaughterhouses go unreported, and unnoticed, leaving these poor animals to struggle even more leading to their death. According to the US department of Agricultrue, inspectors are supposed to regularly go to slaughterhouses to check the conditions of its animals, but since they are so short staffed, they can only inspect a small number of cows and pigs just before they are put to death. Ur to this lack of supervision, animals are treated unfairly and abused far too often and are in their own from the moment they are born, until just before they are put to death. These animals that are bred for consumptions spend 4-5 years in crates and fed growth promoting drugs to weigh double what they would in the wild, but lack any rule of muscular strength that would allow them to waddle, walk or fly. Animals will never touch grass or see the light of day until the day they are slaughtered. Their vibes are so brittle that they often snap underneath them and leave them unable to help themselves back up (Solotaroff). The treatment of these animals is inexcusable, and can be completely avoided by following a plant based diet. However, many people are unaware of how their consumption of meat contributes directly to allowing these companies do what they do, which is why we as a society need to reevaluate our eating habits and make educated choices based off of what we know.

All things considered, by participating in a plant- based lifestyle, humans can reduce climate change, improve animal welfare and benefit their own personal health. By eating meat, we are directly effected the environment through pollution, excessive water usage and of course the GHG emissions related to the livestock industry. Furthermore, eating meat can have negative impacts related to human health including cardiovascular disease and resistance to antibiotics. Not only that, but eating meat also directly supports companies that breed livestock for eating, the same companies that are abusing their animals and giving them an extremely poor quality of life. Living a plant based lifestyle is such a small change, but can make a tremendous difference for the environment, yourself, and the animals alike. So next time you go to order your hamburger, make sure to ask yourself “is it really worth it?”  

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