Omnivores fuel forest fires

Alysa Tarrant

An article, “Vegan-elitism disparages indigenous culture” recently came to my attention that, although starting out discussing the Amazon, ended as a “shame on you” to vegans for “disparage [ing]indigenous cultures.” As a lifelong vegetarian, six-year vegan and someone who is writing their I.S. on veganism, there are a few things I’d like to address. 

First: the Amazon, which is up in flames. The reason this forest, which produces up to 30 percent of the world’s oxygen is on fire, is to make grazing land for more beef cattle. That juicy steak you eat to celebrate turning in I.S. must come from somewhere. In fact, 60 percent of the world’s agriculture land is used to produce beef cattle. Cornell ecologist Pimentel estimates that we could feed nearly 800 million people if all the grain for livestock in the U.S. was used to feed humans.

Second: indigenous cultures. As far as I am aware, animals aren’t raised in mass amounts for mass slaughter in indigenous cultures. Unless I’m mistaken, male chicks aren’t tossed into a grinder shortly after hatching because they won’t lay eggs. Furthermore, let’s discuss the land theft from native peoples. In the U.S., 40 percent of the landmass is used for agriculture. Of that, 80 percent is used for animal farming. Now, because humans do not (are not forced to) consume as much as chickens, pigs and cows, imagine what we could do if even half of that land was used to grow food for humans. Think how much we could give back to indigenous peoples. I have never once personally met a vegan who said that indigenous people shouldn’t continue their traditions. But I have met omnivores who justify meat eating because our “ancestors” used to do it. There were a lot of things our ancestors did that really should not be repeated.

Third: “climate change won’t be reversed by the actions of individuals.” If that’s the argument, why should I bother recycling at all? Heck, why even have a vote? What about Mother Teresa, M.L.K., Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, just to name a few of the people who stood up for change. The reason change happens is because of individuals. As the quote goes, “‘It’s only one straw,’ said six billion people.” The same applies to climate change. Everyone who participates in Meatless Mondays, who picks up a can out of the trash, who avoids plastic: your actions matter, now more than ever. When people show that there’s a demand for sustainable and ethical alternatives, change happens (from the capitalists). That’s the reason why Burger King has a vegan burger and why KFC is trialing vegan wings. One person can make a difference.

According to researchers at the University of Oxford, “A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to eight million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion.”

My actions make a difference. By being vegan, I not only reduce my food related carbon emissions by nearly half per day compared to meat-eaters, but I also decrease the demand for animal flesh by nearly 400 animals a year. Shouldn’t empathy be motivation enough? If it’s not, I also save over an estimated 200,000 gallons of water a year. Or you could skip about 11,627 showers. Seems easier to skip the meat though.

Finally, the idea of “preachy vegans.” This is a response article. I didn’t fire the first shots, and if it were up to me, there would be no shots, grinders or cattle prods fired up at all.