Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Six Arguments for a Greener Diet / June Callwood

Author: Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., and the Staff of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
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This is not a "vegetarian" book, but rather a discussion of our environment, health, economy, government policies and how they are effected by our huge consumption of livestock and it's production via the agri-business culture.

I'm not sure if I am inspired or encouraged by the book; so far I am only a 3rd of the way through. But it is interesting, especially because Jacobson
does not claim to be a vegetarian. The evidence is presented in a pretty convincing way that evolving to a "greener" diet would be much better not only for our individual health and our society's health but for our planets survival as well.

Here is a sampling of comments that I have highlighted:

"Milk and cheese account for 21 percent of the saturated fat and 11 percent of the cholesterol in the American Diet. Cheese is now the single greatest source of saturated fat." pg. 44

" Grazing is better in many ways than feeding grain to cattle, but it still exacts environmental costs. Cattle that eat grass and roughage release more methane (a gas that causes global warming and is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide) than cattle on a high-energy feedlot diet, because grass-fed cattle take about 10 to 20 percent longer to reach market weight. Those longer lives also mean more manure-about 3,500 to 5,000 pounds per animal (60 pounds per day). That manure, though, is dispersed widely on pastureland, enriching the soil and nourishing the growth of plant life." pg. 12

"Feeding grain to cattle makes a bad situation worse. It takes about 7 pounds of corn to put on 1 pound of weight. That's why over 200 million acres of land are devoted to producing grains, oilseeds, pasture and hay for livestock." pg. 11

What the book does not discuss is the whys and wherefores. The questions are raised ("Why are so many animals allowed to be raised in miserable conditions?) ("Why do farmers who grow crops to feed livestock receive billions of dollars in annual subsidies, hundreds of times as much as fruit and vegetable growers receive?). It is up to us though to find the answers or justification. Jacobson offers up some assistant in the final section of the book: Making Change. He discusses changing your own diet which is a start, but then flows into "Changing Government Policies". The circle is complete at this point - suggestions are made that would not only help the general health of the population, but clean up the environment, reduce suffering of the animals we raise for our consumption, help the economy and raise the nutrition of our food.

"Getting the 'why' questions answered in a way that protects humans, animals, and the environment will require the involvement of thousands of concerned citizens, non-profit organizations, concerned farmers and the local, state and national levels." "Meanwhile, each of us can quietly do our part-in our kitchens, grocery stores, farmers' markets and backyard gardens." pg. XIV

Canada recently lost one of our most inspiring, courageous and accomplished activists - June Callwood. She was many things: kind, wise, compassionate, passionate, and she got things done (I'm sure despite the inevitable fears or the hurt incurred by her critics). I have no idea whether or not she was interested in vegetarianism. It doesn't matter. A statement attributed to her (and I am paraphrasing) was 'if you see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator, you are a participant'. She is a beacon to me of what can and should be done - of what it means to see an injustice, be moved by it, and to act.

I certainly see myself as a participant - there are injustices all around us. Those that cannot speak for themselves, the impoverished and suffering peoples of our world, the millions of animals that are denied basic care & suffer greatly in their short lives only to be slaughtered for our consumption , our battered planet. All are interrelated. I pray that I will be able to arise to my fullest potential to do what I can to make this place a better home for all of us. As June said to a CBC interviewer shortly before her death when questioned about her belief in a god, answered, "I believe in kindness". This I find encouraging.

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