Food for thought: Veganism isn't only a personal pursuit?it just might save the planet

Posted by Eva Hagan

"You ask people why they have deer heads on the wall. They always say, ‘because it's such a beautiful animal.' There you go. I think my mother's attractive, but I have photographs of her." –Ellen DeGeneres

It seems like these days we're plagued by a thousand different environmental calamities in our backyard, each asking for its own solution. And who are we to pick and choose which matter and which don't? At times I find myself so overwhelmed that all I want to do is go hide in a tent in the North Woods.

But I don't. I've decided to take a step forward in reducing my carbon footprint, one bigger than canvas shopping bags or shutting the lights off (though these are important, too!). I've chosen to reject the meat, egg, dairy, leather and wool industries and instead invest my consumer dollars elsewhere. I've chosen veganism.

In 2006, the U.N. found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all of the transportation industry combined. Cattle are, in fact, the largest source of methane emissions, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — something certainly not helped by the largely corn-based diet we insist on feeding cows in this country.

Beyond greenhouse gases, the runoff from livestock yards and other industries presents a large problem for water quality. Manure from meat and dairy cows contains nitrates, phosphates, antibiotics and other unpleasant things, which affects water quality in a variety of different ways such as algal blooms, which can cause eutrophication and essentially kill a particular ecosystem.

It's also paramount to move our food system back to one that is locally based. Rather than letting the things on your plate travel thousands of miles, buying vegetables from farmers' markets and growing your own make a significant difference by reducing the fossil fuels necessary to transport them. Who's to say you can't be local AND vegan? Simultaneously rejecting the resource-intensive processes of dairy and egg farming and the travel of one's tomatoes from South America is an important choice.

This article is only a brief introduction to veganism with some food for thought. And even if such an abstemious diet isn't for you, being equipped to make informed decisions and reducing your consumption of factory-farmed meat, eggs, dairy, wool and leather are important as well.

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