Confessions of an Ex-Carn

02.02.2006

Confessions of an Ex-Carn

Here's a great article written by our friend, Darcy Turrene.

As a child, I was always praised for finishing my steak. Comments like "we love our little carnivore!" ring clearly in my mind. If I was being fussy I'd often be told "you don't have to eat it all, just finish the meat." Meat was a staple in my diet as a child. It was something to bond over, something to marvel. It was always there. Needless to say, when I became a vegetarian, my family went into shock. There was turmoil and guilt trips, a disconnect created between myself and my loved ones. It was a hard transition letting go of something so engrained into my life, but there was one thing that drove me to cut the bonds between the ritualistic family worship of eating meat and my own food choices: the environment.
The natural environment acts as a life blood to human beings. The healthier our environment is, the healthier we can be. We are in constant equilibrium with our natural environment and the actions we take in our food consumption have countless direct and indirect impacts on our surroundings. The devastating environmental effects associated with animal production jeopardize our planet's capacity to sustain life. An animal based diet is a recipe for environmental and ecological disaster…this is something my stomach and my brain cannot deny.

The production and consumption of farmed animals eats away at natural resources, pollutes the environment, and contributes to global climate change at a much faster pace than with a plant-based diet. For example, to produce 1 pound of farmed salmon it takes 4 pounds of wild fish meal; to produce 1 pound of pork it takes 4 pounds of corn feed; and to produce 1 pound of beef it takes over 9 pounds of grain.

In order to provide the large amount of food and area necessary to raise our animal friends, considerable amounts of land must be cleared. In Central America, home to some of the world's most ecologically precious and biologically diverse forests, roughly 55 square feet of tropical rain forest are destroyed for every pound of hamburger made. For each 55 square foot piece of forest lost, approximately 25 plant species become extinct, not to mention the thousands of insects, birds, and mammals that rely on them.

The causal chain only continues…waste creation from animal production poses serious threats to our planet's well being. Animal farming and waste lagoons release over 400 volatile organic compounds, including antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, heavy metals, and disinfectants, into surrounding ground and surface waters at any given time. As a result, the leached compounds fill water systems with an overabundance of nutrients that cause algal blooms and eutrophication. All aquatic life is then rendered helpless and choked to death by the excess plant growth in the water.

Global warming is also accelerated by animal production. Approximately 40% of the Earth's methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is produced by the digestive processes of livestock. In addition, carbon dioxide and ammonia, a main contributor to acid rain, are expelled at extremely high rates by the metabolic processes of farm animals. The quickening pace of the greenhouse effect is not only leading to more frequent natural disasters like hurricanes and drought, it poses serious threats to the planet's biodiversity. Desertification and changing ocean currents and temperatures put pressure on many wild animal species leading to changed migration patterns and even extinction.

As a person who's physical, mental, and spiritual well-being relies on spending time in nature and being able to play outdoors, these facts are hard for me to stomach. I must admit, it's not a nice feeling to look at a slice of bacon and in my head see a tree being cut down and a waste lagoon taking its place. I am also disturbed by the idea of a living, thinking being slaughtered and served for breakfast with eggs, orange juice, and a side of hash browns. But now I cannot think otherwise.

Sure, since I switched to a plant-based diet family dinners are sometimes awkward, but the favor I am doing for the environment and its ecological maintenance, integrity, and sustainability is worth the perplexed looks I get at supper as I happily eat my organic salad and tofu slices!

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Darcy is a 20 year old professional downhill mountain bike racer from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. She is a two time member of the Canadian National Team and has raced throughout Europe and North America. When the snow starts to fly she is also an extreme freeskier. Right now she isfinishing a degree in geography and environmental studies at the University of Victoria.