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Opinion: Vegetarian Awareness Month

A peach bowl filled with lettuce, tomatoes and onions on a tan background
Graphic by Aminah Jenkins

It is 2022, and if you think about it, you or someone you know is vegetarian or vegan. The trend of meat free eating has gotten bigger over the years and made it easier for people to convert. As the wave has gotten bigger, people have dedicated themselves to teaching others the benefits of the lifestyle change, specifically how it helps the planet.

In 1977, the North American Vegetarian Society proclaimed Oct. 1 as World Vegetarian Day and it has been celebrated every year since. Today, it has grown into Vegetarian Awareness Month, which starts on World Vegetarian Day and goes until Nov. 1 on World Vegan Day.

Before explaining whether it is actually better for the environment or not, I should explain what a vegetarian and vegan are. A vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat or seafood while a vegan is someone who does not eat meat, seafood, eggs or dairy products.

There are multiple reasons why someone would change to this lifestyle. Some religions prohibit eating meat, including Hinduism and Buddhism, while other people choose not to eat meat for health, ethical or environmental reasons.

Environmental reasons are a big part of what people focus on when advocating for the change, but does it actually help the planet?

A big part of our carbon footprints come from meat and other animal products. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, they project moving to a plant-based diet would reduce greenhouse gasses by 70%. Cows and other livestock animals produce carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that is released when they go to the bathroom, significantly raising greenhouse gas.

Our earth has already been decimated over the years by our actions and making the lifestyle change would move from continuing the decimation to regrowing the earth. According to Our World Data, 77% of global farming land is used for growing crops for animal feed and for grazing livestock. While meat and dairy make up a small part of one's daily caloric intake, it takes up over three-fourths of our land. Moving our resources from taking care of animals that will just be killed to growing crops for human consumption would significantly heightened how much food we make for our growing population.

Eliminating raising livestock just for them to be killed would significantly improve our earth, not only by cutting down on greenhouse gasses and helping with climate change but also reducing the killing of helpless animals.

According to the animal clock, 36,163,973 cattle and 8,127,632,113 chickens are killed annually in the U.S. So far, over 42 billion animals have been killed for food. To put this in perspective, that’s 128 times the U.S. population.

Can you imagine killing our entire population 128 times every year? Wouldn't it be easier to just eliminate the needless killing?

These animals feel pain and they are treated horribly in slaughterhouses. Their entire lives are just about being raised as quickly as possible in tiny environments to just be killed for people's cravings. They watch their siblings day in and day out be slaughtered in front of them to just wait and ask themselves when it will happen to them. If you wouldn't want to live this empty existence, why would you do it to someone else?

It is not only about the needless killing and how much room it takes up on earth, but how we could rejuvenate the earth by the change. The land that has been ruined by animal runoff and waste could be regrown into crops, grass, and trees. Instead of stretches of decimated lands, we could have a green earth again.

Not only land is taken up by growing livestock, but massive amounts of water is used. According to an article written in Advancing Earth and Space Science, 41% of total agricultural water is used for livestock. Livestock takes up major amounts of water, water that could go to populations that are already facing water shortages.

Not only would the earth be in a better place, but changing your lifestyle would also lead to health benefits. A big thing that these slaughterhouses lead to is the creation and spread of diseases and pathogens that our society is exposed to. Furthermore, eliminating meat lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, along with boosting your immune system, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and helps in maintaining a healthy weight.

Changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet would lower the amount of water usage, land usage and needless killing along with producing more food for our growing population and creating a more healthy population.

By Riley Heeb, Contributing Writer


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