Vegetarianism: An Argument For The Environment

Are you one of those people who grimace when someone tells you they're a vegetarian because of a cute, innocent baby lamb's face? So am I, because no matter how many lamb chop dishes I skip out on, I'm pretty sure that baby lamb is still going to become someone else's meal.

The baby face argument may or may not be legitimate, but I recently was reminded of an argument that did make me feel a pang of guilt when I thought of cutting into some juicy lamb chops. This week, I was invited to sit in the audience of Anderson Cooper's daytime TV show Anderson Live as their guest blogger, and I had the chance to watch Anderson Cooper and Christie Brinkley cook with Food Network star Aaron McCargo Jr. They were making bacon-wrapped and crab-stuffed zucchini, and while Cooper worked away on the bacon ones, Brinkley (the in-house vegetarian), worked on carrot-wrapped stuffed zucchini sans the crabmeat.

I had my eye on the bacon-wrapped zucchinis, but Brinkley wasn't shy about telling the audience how delicious her carrot-wrapped one was. "[It's] good for you, and the environment," she stated with enthusiasm. The comment was quickly brushed over and they moved onto another segment, but later in the show, Brinkley had a chance to mention again how good vegetarianism is for the environment.

Meat consumption and its impact on the environment is an argument that won't make me grimace, and because I hadn't heard it in a while, I did some reading on the subject after the show. I'm happy that Brinkley reminded me of this discussion because it made me remember that just because I turn my lights off when I'm not home, I'm still hurting the environment every time I go to sear a steak. To pay the deed forward, here are a few important points on the subject that I can remind you of:

  • The land, food, and energy used to produce and sell meat products accounts for 9 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions with human-related activities.
  • In other words, raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all of the cars and trucks in the world combined. 
  • Along with its carbon dioxide emissions, the production of meat is the largest source of another detrimental greenhouse gas, methane.  
  • As methane is one of the most important non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases, and animals are the largest source of it, reducing the production and consumption of them is by far the easiest way to improve the status of our environment.
  • Along with its impact on the health of our environment, raising livestock destroys ecosystems around the world.
  • The scientists at the Smithsonian Institution state that every minute, seven football fields' worth of land is destroyed to create more room for farmed animals, and the crops that feed them. 

These points may surprise you, but they should definitely get you thinking. I'm a meat-eater, and boy do I love it, but these environmental arguments have quite an impact on my taste buds. I'm not saying I'll be giving up meat forever, but because of Brinkley on Anderson Live, I'm going to try to eat a little less (maybe a Lenten promise?). 

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce