Why I Don’t Eat Meat: An Explanation by Ryann Fineberg
I get asked frequently why I leave meat off my plate.
I hear the typical, overused excuses: “I could never quit meat, bacon is just so good”, or “we are a part of the food chain, so eating meat is a part of the life cycle”. Another favourite seems to be, simply: “I don’t care”. Hearing these unsubstantiated arguments make me wonder about the level of misinformation in society and the prejudice that comes along with it.
In this piece, I will explore the various reasons to consider ditching meat, ranging from animal welfare to sustainability and everything in between. I will also discuss the misconstrued beliefs of society and how we can create change for the better.
For the Animals
Although this piece will have a heavier focus on the environment, I think it makes sense to begin with the most debated issue.
Animals are undoubtedly the most oppressed beings on Earth. We kill trillions of them every year for not just food, but also fashion, testing, and much more.
We are raised to believe that animals grow up on beautiful, large pastures with luscious, green grass. This is simply not the case. For food, animals are raised in factory farms. They're crammed together with not even enough space to turn around, and they're provided little to no light. Although I won't go into the details, let's just say that animals are put through an immense amount of suffering and pain before being slaughtered. Not to mention, they are killed at a fraction of their life expectancy.
Some people are aware of this, yet they still choose to ignore it. To not think about it. I mean, who wants to hear about this issue while eating a burger? But the truth is, it's important to talk about and take action. Not only for the animals but our environment as well.
Image Credit: peta.org
For the Environment
The next reason I'll discuss, and one of the most important, is the environment.
Many people I know try to help stop climate change by minimizing plastic use, walking instead of driving, or turning off the lights when they leave a room. Although these are, of course, crucial to keep in mind, they are far from the most effective steps that can be taken.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatons CO2e limit by 2030. This means that even if we all drove electric cars, used more natural light, and used eco-friendly HVAC systems, climate change still cannot be stopped. Why, you may ask? Because of animal agriculture.
Researchers at the University of Oxford found that the meat industry is the single largest contributor to climate change. This is the case for multiple reasons, one being the high levels of methane that cows and sheep produce. According to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, methane, a greenhouse gas, is up to 34 times more potent than CO2. The more demand there is for meat, the more animals are bred, meaning more methane is released into the atmosphere.
What's more, animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. It also plays a large part in deforestation, as forests are cleared so that livestock and the crops grown to feed them can continue to adequately supply the entire human population.
Image Credit: ciwf.org.uk
But, is it even doing that?
Poverty and Hunger
Well, the simple answer is no. According to Cornell University, the U.S. alone could feed 800 million people with the grain livestock consume. That is almost the 815 million people that the United Nations says suffer from chronic undernourishment.
According to a 2013 study, we currently produce enough calories to feed 10-11 billion people. However, the majority of this food goes to feed livestock, rather than people. By decreasing our meat consumption, we can "cut the middle-man" out of this situation and help stop world hunger.
Besides the three benefits I just mentioned to quitting meat, there is one more that I haven't yet discussed.
Not consuming meat is extremely beneficial for your health. It lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and much more. It can also increase your life expectancy by 5-10 years, depending on demographic factors.
Image Credit: goodhousekeeping.com
Meatless foods are rich in all of the nutrients necessary for a healthy diet, such as protein, iron, and vitamins. This claim is supported by many health institutions such as The Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, and the WHO. These organizations agree that reducing or cutting meat from your diet has a protective effect on your health. Not to mention, meatless foods and meat substitutes are absolutely delicious!
With all of these benefits I just mentioned, why not try to give up meat? You'll be making an immensely positive impact on animals, the environment, and yourself.
Of course, going "cold-turkey" (or "cold-tofu", if you will), is not always feasible for everyone. Everyone's situation is different, but even easing into it or simply cutting out meat whenever you can is beneficial. So, why not give it a go?
I can assure you, it's easier than you think.
About the author: Hello! My name is Ryann Fineberg and I am a longtime supporter of the animal rights movement. I have given speeches and held fundraisers for this cause, and feel it is important to educate others about it. If you have any questions about me or anything I discussed in this article, please feel free to send me a DM on Instagram @ryann.fineberg!