Eating As Though the Earth Matters

“Livestock’s Long Shadow, the widely-cited report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimates that 18 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions are attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs, and poultry.  That amount would easily qualify livestock for a hard look indeed in the search for ways to address climate change.  But our analysis shows that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.”  — Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, World Bank environmental researchers, co-authors of “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the Key Actors in Climate Change are…Cows, Pigs, and Chickens?”, World Watch Magazine, November/December 2009

“If one cares about the environment, and if one accepts the scientific results of such sources as the U.N. (or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or the Pew Commission, or the Union of Concerned Scientists, or the Worldwatch Institute…), one must care about eating animals.  Most simply put, someone who regularly eats factory-farmed animal products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.” — Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals

What if the Key Actors in Climate Change are Cows, Pigs, and Chickens?

Since the 2006 release of Livestock’s Long Shadow, the landmark report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that detailed the environmental consequences of animal agriculture, no comprehensive discussion of climate change can ignore this challenging topic.  Based on 2002 data, the FAO attributed 18% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to animal agriculture, exceeding the output of the transportation sector by 40%.

The FAO report concluded that animal agriculture is “one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”  The 408-page indictment of animal agriculture detailed how 70 percent of the Amazon rainforests have been cut down for grazing and one-third of the planet’s arable land is now used for growing feed for livestock—the very same land and food that could be used to feed hungry people.  The FAO report specifically addressed the contribution of livestock and their byproducts to “problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”

In the November/December 2009 issue of World Watch Magazine (www.worldwatch.org), two World Bank environmental experts, Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, take the FAO report as their starting point and then calculate the impact of previously overlooked, uncounted, and misallocated animal agriculture effects not included in the FAO report.  Their startling conclusion is that animal agriculture actually accounts for more than half (51%) of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. 

Noting at the outset that “this is a strong claim that requires strong evidence,” Goodland and Anhang proceed step-by-step through their methods and data.  The largest piece of the puzzle is an additional 13% of worldwide GHG attributed to animal respiration that would not occur if tens of billions of animals were not raised for food.  Other major factors they considered are the impact of cooling meats from slaughterhouse to table (fluorocarbons needed for cooling livestock products have a global warming potential up to several thousand times higher than that of CO2), aquaculture (fish farming), undercounted methane emissions, loss of forest and other land use impacts, cooking, and disposal of liquid waste.

In addition, Goodland and Anhang note that livestock tonnage (defined to include cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs, and poultry) is 12% higher in 2009 than 2002, adding to the overall percentage of GHG from raising meat.  They also point out that the 2002 statistics used by the FAO in Livestock’s Long Shadow are extraordinarily conservative, in a number of cases coming in at less than half of numbers reported at the time by the FAO itself.  To give one example among several, “Livestock’s Long Shadow reports that 33 million tons of poultry were produced worldwide in 2002, while FAO’s Food Outlook of April 2003 reports that 72.9 million tons of poultry were produced worldwide in 2002.”

The final section of Goodland and Anhang’s article recommends a win-win approach for consumers and corporations to lower the environmental impact of raising animals for food by focusing on meat and dairy analog foods.  The authors propose that these analog foods be aggressively marketed in both developed and developing nations as a means of reversing the damaging, unsustainable environmental impacts of animal agriculture.  They see this as an area of great economic opportunity for corporations.  They also recommend that legumes, grains, and artificial meats receive greater emphasis in the diet of the future.

Making the Connection

“Now, if someone told you that a particular corporation was trashing the air, water and soil; causing more global warming than the transportation industry; consuming massive amounts of fossil fuel; unleashing the cruelest sort of suffering on innocent and sentient beings; failing to recycle its waste; and clogging our arteries in the process, how would you react?  Would you say, ‘Hey, that’s personal?’  Probably not.  It’s more likely that you’d frame the matter as a dire political issue in need of a dire political response.  Vegetarianism is not only the most powerful political response we can make to industrialized food.  It’s a necessary prerequisite to reforming it.” – James E.  McWilliams, Ph.D., Texas State University, author of Just Food

“There’s a saying, ‘We haven’t inherited this planet from our parents, we’ve borrowed it from our children.’  When you borrow, you plan to pay back.  We’ve been stealing and stealing and stealing.  And it’s about time we got together and started paying back.” — Jane Goodall

The unprecedented environmental crisis we find ourselves approaching is, in many ways, the result of our disconnection from the consequences of the choices we’ve been making.  For many of us, all our lives we’ve been making unconscious choices based on the “Coca-Coma” — a collective, corporate-induced illusion of what’s good for us.  But the time to awaken is now.  It’s time to become conscious, caring consumers and conservers of our planet’s future.  We are the ancestors of the future, and our choices now affect the wellbeing of our children and all life on our planet.  With every choice you make, please ask yourself, “Is this choice the best way to care for myself and the planet?”

A common misconception is that the type of food you buy isn’t as important as how far it traveled to get to your plate.  Little could be further from the truth.  In an article published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal that has won the award for “Best Paper on Environmental Policy of 2008,” researchers Christopher Weber and H.  Scott Matthews reported that eating vegetarian just one day per week reduces your GHG emissions the same amount as driving 1,000 miles less per year.  Taking that a step further, they state that going entirely vegan would reduce the same amount of emissions as driving 8,000 miles less per year.  When you “put your money where your mouth is,” you’ll choose to invest in foods that truly help the environment — plant-based foods.

In her wonderful new cookbook, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, Robin Robertson suggests seven steps to a plant-based diet.  She suggests starting with a list of the meals you currently eat, then “become familiar with beans, seitan, and other plant-based protein and substitute them for meat in your favorite stews, chili, and soups.”  By adding beans and/or grains to vegetable dishes, you’ll create a more filling meal, and by switching to soy milk, soy yogurt and soy sour cream, plus whole grain bread and pasta, you’ll enhance the nutrition in your diet.

You’ll find a multitude of delicious vegan recipes online and in bestselling cookbooks in your local bookstore.  Here’s the link to the Humane Society’s favorite recipes: www.humanesociety.org/issues/eating/recipes/recipes.html, and here are links to other great recipe websites: www.chooseveg.com, www.meatlessmonday.com, www.compassionatecooks.com, www.theppk.com, www.globalvegankitchen.com, and www.vegcooking.com.  For a vegetarian starter kit, go to www.tryveg.com, www.goveg.com, www.pcrm.org, www.mercyforanimals.org, or www.veganoutreach.org.

EARTH- AND ANIMAL-FRIENDLY RECIPES

PEAR-CRANBERRY CRISP

You can use this all-purpose vegan crisp topping in combination with any seasonal fruit.  Try substituting peaches and blueberries in the summer, apples and raisins in the winter, or strawberries and rhubarb in the spring.

INGREDIENTS:

For the Filling:

3 pounds pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup apple or pear juice
3 to 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Topping:

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or almonds or walnuts)
1/3 cup light sesame oil or canola oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2.  To make the filling, toss together in a large bowl the pears, cranberries, apple juice, maple syrup, arrowroot, vanilla, ginger, and salt.
3.  To make the topping, combine the oats, flour, pecans, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt in a separate bowl and mix well.
4.  Pour the fruit into a 2-quart baking dish and cover with the topping.  Cover the dish with foil (shiny side down).
5.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 15 minutes more, or until the topping is crisp and golden and the fruits bubbling.
6.  Serve warm.

Yield: 6 servings

Serving suggestion: Serve the crisp with SoyaToo soy whipped topping or a scoop of Purely Decadent non-dairy frozen dessert.

Recipe from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, courtesy of author Peter Berley

BARBECUE-FLAVORED ROASTED TEMPEH AND VEGETABLES
A tasty and nutritious main dish

INGREDIENTS:
Two 8-ounce packages tempeh, any variety
1 green bell pepper, cut into wide strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into wide strips
1 cup baby carrots
1 medium zucchini, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced, rings separated
1 cup small whole baby bella or crimini mushrooms, optional
1 cup natural barbecue sauce, or as needed to coat ingredients

DIRECTIONS:
1.  Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
2.  Cut the tempeh in half lengthwise, then crosswise into short, 1/2-inch-thick strips.
3.  Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, then transfer to a foil-lined and lightly oiled roasting pan.
4.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender, stirring after the first 10 minutes, then serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Adapted from Vegan Express by Nava Atlas

Ideas and Recipes for a Changing Diet

By Beth Lily Redwood

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