I was walking to work one day and a young man standing in front of a community college handed me a flier. It, and I assume he, was full of vegan propaganda. Perhaps you haven’t heard the joke before:
How do you know someone is vegan [and/or into crossfit]? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.
I said “thanks” and kept walking, thumbing through the papers looking for typical arguments that meat is murder and I will enjoy tofu as much as an In-n-Out burger: obviously a lie, peddled by anti-Americans raised in some communist country.
But instead I encountered a rather balanced and realistic approach. “Cows are hard on our environment and health. Consider minimizing your use of them.” I was taken aback.
Rather than be confronted with zealotry, the statement was honest and reasonable. After all, I think most of us know that if we’re not going to absolutely reduce less-than-terrific habits like alcohol consumption that we learn how to achieve a sustainable balance.
Whether you get your news from NPR or Breitbart, you’ll face the hard reality that cows actually beat out cars for greenhouse gas emissions. Breaking news today shows promise that by adding a tiny amount of seaweed to a cow’s diet, methane emissions can be cut by 99%.
Skipping over to more immediate concerns, antibiotics used in cattle are definitively linked to human diseases that are antibiotic resistant. Put bluntly, the contemporary way our society raises cattle is killing people. From the WHO:
…there is clear evidence of adverse human health consequences due to resistant organisms resulting from non-human usage of antimicrobials.
And let’s unpack “adverse human health” a bit of clarity from the CDC:
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Now of course we can’t lay 100% of the blame of antibiotic resistant deaths at the hooves of cattle production. But it’s clearly a significant cause as outlined in this Frontline documentary.
Tracing this all back to the nice vegan man handing out fliers, I’ve found that like alcohol, pot, and staying up late watching shitty movies the point is not to remove these things entirely from your life (less you become an absolute bore).
I’ve removed most of the beef from my diet by asking a simple question:
Do I actually want to eat beef right now or am I just hungry?
If I’m going to In-N-Out, I’m happily participating in the wholesale murder of cows with a smile on my face. But if I’m just scarfing some food down in a hurry, I’ll toss some Boca spicy “chicken” patties in a pan.
Before I grab a beer, I ask myself if I really want a beer or if I’m actually just thirsty and want some water. Trust me: most of the time I want the beer.
I would posit that most of our daily habits are not consciously planned out. They look mysteriously like what we did yesterday and the week before, and also echo how our parents raised us. But it’s a brave new world out there and there’s new information to contend with.
If you want to do things that aren’t so great for you, me, or the environment that’s fine: we all do things like that. But perhaps consider regulating it a bit. It’s one thing to be a little selfish because you’re too lazy to stock your shopping cart with something better. It’s entirely different to be selfish when your teeth sink into a wonderful juicy burger. in the latter example, selfishness never tasted so good.