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Why I Became a Vegetarian

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Why I Became a Vegetarian

by Julian Solano

Have you ever thought about how being vegetarian is good for the earth and yourself? In 2006 the United Nations published a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, in which they stated that, “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

One way that meat-eating can contribute to global warming is through the livestock’s land use. According to the UN’s report, “Ranching-induced deforestation is one of the main causes of … carbon release in the atmosphere.” Deforestation is responsible for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and over 50% of all forests worldwide have been cleared for livestock. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) agrees, saying that “Expanding livestock production is one of the main drivers of the destruction of tropical rain forests in Latin America, which is causing serious environmental degradation in the region.” For example, 70% of the former Amazon rainforest is used for livestock, and most of the remainder is used for the crops to FEED the livestock. The same livestock takes up 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of ALL the Earth’s land surface.

Another big problem with a meat-eating diet is the amount of fossil fuel used to produce meat. “Livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse-gas emissions as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent,” reports the FAO. This includes 9% of all CO2 emissions, 37% of methane, and 65% of nitrous oxide. Altogether, that's more than the emissions caused by all transportation worldwide. Fossil fuel is used for the pumping of water and cultivation of crops for cattle, transportation of cattle, processing the meat, and running the slaughterhouses. Producing one calorie of meat protein means burning more than 10 times as much fossil fuels than producing 1 calorie of vegetable protein. According to an article in Environmental Health Perspectives, the typical feedlot raising of cattle requires an input of 35,000 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1,000 calories of food energy in beef, a lot more than needed to produce 1,000 calories of grains or veggies. Researchers at the University of Chicago compared the global warming impact of meat eaters with that of vegetarians and found that the average American diet results in the annual production of an extra 1.5 tons of CO2-equivalent (in the form of all greenhouse gases) compared to a no-meat diet.

So think about that. Would you change your ways? Would you, if you could? Well, you can. Even taking a little bit of meat out of your diet can make a big difference. And, if every American was to eat one meat-free meal a week -- just one -- it would be equivalent to taking half a million cars off the road. Think about this all and know, for a fact, that you, yes YOU, can make a change.

Julian Solano is a 12 year old environmentalist,budding ornithologist and nephew of The Maine Woods editor, and residies in Pacifica, California.

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