The Beginning of the End of Meat and Dairy?

I was surprised to see an article the other day reporting that the United Nations is now recommending that…

A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger… and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today… As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.

My partner Sally and I have been vegans for nearly 20 years. We were initially motivated by personal health reasons, but soon after adopting this diet I read John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America, which presented a lot of other reasons for we humans to move down the food chain to a plant-based diet.

The most compelling reason to me is the arithmetic that it takes seven to ten pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. With some seven billion people currently alive on Earth, and maybe one billion of them adopting an American-style meat & dairy based diet, our planet can barely grow the food to feed everybody. But as population increases and more people in the world adopt a meat & dairy based diet we are getting to a point where, put bluntly, some people will be starving so others can eat as they have become accustomed.

This not to mention the environmental impact of all the literal shit produced by billions of cows, pigs and chickens that are consuming all that grain that could be eaten by humans instead. Much more than apparently can be converted to use as agricultural fertilizer.

So imbued with this Malthusian logic, I continue to try to gently make the case for a vegan diet to other people in my circle.

I have found that I don’t respond well to other people telling me how to conduct my life, but I am always interested in hearing how other people may be conducting theirs in ways that are different from my own. So given that and applying the Golden Rule (my main ethical and theological principle), I find it is most respectful (and effective) to tell people that I’ve been a vegan for two decades and that this way of eating works well for me. Then if they ask me what motivated me, I say health initially, but then I share the problematic arithmetic of grain to meat.

Not that I can boast many converts in twenty years of trying, but I am hoping I can be one of the “hundred monkeys” that will eventually create a critical mass for change. But seeing this announcement from the UNEP may be an indication that the requisite number of primates may be significantly closer at hand.

I’m sure that the United Nations announcement will be met with a lot of denial. Most likely my fellow Americans on the political right will roll their eyes and say that this is yet another case where this world body is trying to interfere with our liberty to lead our lives as we wish. Or maybe that our best scientific experts can find ways to significantly increase crop yields beyond what has been managed already with ever increasing use of fertilizers (which apparently depletes the soil). Or finally that the world needs to lower its population anyway so some starvation is unfortunately part of bringing the planet back into balance.

But if you can get beyond denial and the divine right to consume animals and their products, there is a healthful life-sustaining (at both the micro and macro level) diet for you. Maybe you’ll be that hundredth monkey!

2 replies on “The Beginning of the End of Meat and Dairy?”

  1. I have been trying for YEARS just to get my husband to become a vegetarian – nevermind a vegan. It feels like if I can’t even convert him, how will I get anyone else? I wish I knew a good approach – but like you said, I also don’t take well to people telling me what I should do 😉

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