Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

Veganism Is Direct Action!

"A diet that can lead to heart attacks, cancer, and numerous other diseases cannot be a natural diet," writes Keith Akers in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983). "A diet that pillages our resources of land, water, forests, and energy cannot be a natural diet. A diet that causes the unnecessary suffering and death of billions of animals each year cannot be a natural diet."
 
"It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second-and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the overpopulation of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat."
 
--Jeremy Rifkin, pro-life and pro-animal author, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, and president of the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation
 
A pamphlet put out by Compassion Over Killing says raising animals for food is one of the leading causes of both pollution and resource depletion today. According to the 2006 United Nations report, Livestock's Long Shadow, raising chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other animals for food causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks and other forms of transportation combined. Researchers from the University of Chicago similarly concluded that a vegetarian diet is the most energy efficient, and the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by not eating animal products than by switching to a hybrid car.
 
"Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation." 
 
--Union Nations Food and Agriculture Association
 
Nearly 75% of the grain grown and 50% of the water consumed in the U.S. are used by the meat industry. (Audubon Society)
 
Over 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to grow grain for livestock. (Greenpeace)
 
It takes nearly one gallon of fossil fuel and 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of conventionally fed beef. (Mother Jones)
 
Farmed animals produce an estimated 1.4 billion tons of fecal waste each year in the U.S. Much of this untreated waste pollutes the land and water.
 
The following points and facts are excerpted from Please Don't Eat the Animals (2007) by the mother-daughter writing team of Jennifer Horsman and Jaime Flowers:
 
"A reduction in beef and other meat consumption is the most potent single act you can take to halt the destruction of our environment and preserve our natural resources. Our choices do matter: what's healthiest for each of us personally is also healthiest for the life support system of our precious, but wounded planet."
 
--John Robbins, author, Diet for a New America, and President, EarthSave Foundation
 
One study puts animal waste in the United States to between 2.4 trillion to 3.9 trillion pounds per year. The United states produces fifteen thousand pounds of manure per person. This is 130 times the amount of waste produced by the entire human population of the United States. A thousand-cow dairy can produce approximately 120,000 pounds of waste per day. This is the functional equivalent of the amount of sanitary waste produced by a city of twenty thousand people. A 20,000-chicken factory produces about 2.4 million pounds of manure a year. Poultry factories are one of the fastest growing industries throughout Asia. One pig excretes nearly three gallons of waste per day, or 2.5 times the average human's daily total.  One hog farm with fifty thousand pigs in France produces more waste than the entire city of Los Angeles, and some pig farms are much larger.
 
Factory farm pollution is the primary source of damage to coastal waters in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Scientists report that over sixty percent of the coastal waters in the United States are moderately to severely degraded from factory farm nutrient pollution. This pollution creates oxygen-depleted dead zones, which are huge areas of ocean devoid of aquatic life. The World Conservation Union lists over a thousand different fish species that are threatened or endangered. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimate, over sixty percent of the world's fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. Commercial fish populations of cod, hake, haddock, and flounder have fallen by as much as 95 percent in the north Atlantic.
 
Meat production causes deforestation, which then contributes to global warming. Trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, and the destruction of forests around the globe to make room for grazing cattle furthers the greenhouse effect. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations reports that the annual rate of tropical deforestation has increased from nine million hectares in 1980 to 16.8 million hectares in 1990, and unfortunately, this destruction has accelerated since then. By 1994, a staggering two hundred million hectares of rainforest had been destroyed in South America just for cattle. 
 
Agricultural meat production generates air pollution. As manure decomposes, it releases over four hundred volatile organic compounds, many of which are extremely harmful to human health.  Nitrogen, a major by-product of animal wastes, changes to ammonia as it escapes into the air, and this is a major source of acid rain. Worldwide, livestock produce over thirty million tons of ammonia. Hydrogen sulfide, another chemical released from animal waste, can cause irreversible neurological damage, even at low levels.
 
Livestock production affects a startling 72 to 85 percent of the land area of the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union. That includes the public and private rangeland used for grazing, as well as the land used to produce the crops that feed the animals. By comparison, urbanization only affects three percent of the United States land area, slightly larger for the European Union and the United Kingdom. Meat production consumes the world's land resources.
 
The United States and Europe lose several billion tons of topsoil each year from cropland and grazing land, and 84 percent of this erosion is caused by livestock agriculture. While this soil is theoretically a renewable resource, we are losing soil at a much faster rate than we are able to replace it. It takes one hundred to five hundred years to produce one inch of topsoil, but due to livestock grazing and feeding, farming areas can lose up to six inches of topsoil a year.
 
The United States government spends ten million dollars each year to kill an estimated one hundred thousand wild animals, including coyotes, foxes, bobcats, badgers, bears, and mountain lions just to placate ranchers who don't want these animals killing their livestock. The cost far outweighs the damage to livestock that these predators cause.
 
"The impact of countless hooves and mouths over the years has done more to alter the type of vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water projects, strip mines, power plants, freeways, and sub-division developments combined."
 
--Philip Fradkin, in Audubon, National Audubon Society, New York
 
Thirty-three percent of our nation's raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter. In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.
 
"Carl Pope could probably affect the world more by being a vegetarian than through his job as president of the Sierra Club," quipped Jennifer Horsman.
 
Half of all fresh water worldwide is used for thirsty livestock. Producing eight ounces of beef requires an unimaginable 25,000 liters of water, or the water necessary for one pound of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year. The Worldwatch Institute estimates one pound of steak from a steer raised in a feedlot costs: five pounds of grain, a whopping 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about 34 pounds of topsoil.
 
Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, similarly said in the February 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future (a peace and justice periodical on the religious left): "...the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging--to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer." 
 
Veganism is direct action. The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, thirty times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and five hundred times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds.
 
Les Brown of the Overseas Development Council calculates that if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only ten percent per year, it would free at least twelve million tons of grain for human consumption -- or enough to feed sixty million people.

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