IS IT NECESSARY? No – really. It’s a serious question with relevance not just to your personal tastes but the environment as well.
I’m not going to get overly in depth on this so I’ll list some of the main reasons why meat is not necessary in most modern societies.
They form the handy acronym CHEE…I jest.
Back to the topic: what is my beef, and tedious pun, in relation to eating meat? Being human should be synonymous with being kind. We are not ethical in the way we kill animals. Not only that, we are exceptionally cruel in the way we store animals and treat them before they are even slaughtered. We are horrendously cruel in the way live animals are housed, although using the word ‘housed’ hints at a place where an animal might feel relaxed and at ease. I’m not talking shepherds and subsistence farmers here, the meat industry of which you are an inescapable part of if you consume meat, commit gross injustices to various animals on an industrial scale.
How does eating meat affect the environment? Well in the case of livestock, the animals need fed and watered. The amount of grain required by cattle in order to grow and become bulky enough to slaughter is a significant amount when you times this figure by all heads of livestock from pigs to sheep. Cattle are larger therefore require more food than a chicken obviously, but the principle remains. Grains fed or used for animals could be used for human consumption. Yes, crops require water, but the harvests for animals could go to people instead.
Land is often cleared for raising cattle. Scandals have occurred like that in Brazil where rain forest has been cleared to make way for beef stocks to go in McDonalds delightful burgers: giving us greasy patties in exchange for less oxygen. Livestock also produce large amounts of methane – you wouldn’t think flatulent animals would be a genuine issue but the emissions play a part in global warming as the gases are trapped in the atmosphere. Better out than in?!
Health wise it is becoming clear that meat eating has serious implications especially in large quantities. Red meats are heavily linked to cancers. This is from decades of research, not from media friendly hot-topic studies that appear in the news one week never to be heard of again. The human digestive system is not really set up for meat either. We have long intestines typical of herbivores, while carnivores have shorter intestines which process rotting meat faster and excrete it more rapidly. Due to the length of our intestines, all foods take longer to be passed through, so meat sits in our body for a longer time than is ideal.
Additionally, meat is heavily processed, its contents are unclear especially in items like sausages and chicken nuggets. Heavily processed meats contain everything but the hooves/ beak. As a result the nutritional content becomes reduced. Actual meat content is low and additives are used to bulk up the item. Although fresh produce is often covered in pesticides, vegetables and fruit are still made up of their natural constituents (admittedly GM crops are a huge concern). Not only that there are also hormones pumped into livestock which stay in the meat and can affect the consumers body in a negative way.
Meat is expensive to raise and to eat. Raising animals is intensive and uses up a lot of resources. The alternative is crops which also use up land and need irrigated as well as the machinery to plant and harvest. But crops are not subject to months or even years of abuse. Harvests are also easier and cheaper to store and do not go off or need refrigeration, either to store it at the source of slaughter or in transport, shops or at home.
The above are just some of the issues in relation to a vegetarian vs meat argument. Perhaps it is a little lacking in focus, I tend to think of all the issues on a given topic and perhaps skip over details, but it’s food for thought (groan). Evolution would suggest that being vegetarian is an advantage not just for our health but also on a wider scale, as there would be more food available in the food chain.
Take it away carnivores and vegetarians!!!