Over the weekend I read an interesting post by Eric Marcus at Vegan.com. He writes that it is very important for the vegan community to be accurate when talking to meat eaters about why they should go veggie. He is specifically talking about the environmental impacts of eating meat. We’ve certainly been on that bandwagon… we’ve written about eating vegan for the environment on a few occasions already. Marcus wrote his post after reading an article by John Harris in The Guardian which discusses how people are converting to vegetarianism as a way to end human hunger. The current food crisis is underlining how inefficient it is to use grain to feed animals, which in turn produces a smaller amount of meat for human consumption, instead of using that grain to feed humans directly. (Not to mention the issues of water usage, environmental pollution, land usage, etc. also directly related to feeding humans.)
However, what I learned in reading Marcus’ post is that information (regarding the inefficiencies of producing meat versus producing vegetables), which we have also shared with people, is not entirely correct. Apparently raising chickens has the same impact to the environment as raising vegetables:
…I’d be surprised if producing a calorie of chicken requires greater land use than that required for a calorie of vegetables. I worry that if people buy into the argument laid out by Harris without understanding that chicken(s) are ridiculously efficient compared to other farmed animals, there will be a backlash against vegetarianism down the road when people realize that this is the case. We can’t afford to trick people into going veggie, and that means not only giving people pro-veggie info, but also the information we wish wasn’t true.
I do agree with Marcus. People should be given all the facts, and be allowed to make their own decisions. However, when you throw in the argument as to how horrifically chickens are raised, and this includes the “free range” chickens as well, there is no excuse to eat poultry or eggs, efficient or not. Of course, in this time and place, that is your choice. It is not a crime for chickens to be treated the way they are (even if it should be), nor is a crime to eat poultry or eggs.
But what I found most interesting in all this is the idea John Harris presented, that we vegans could use “human benefit” as an argument to eat vegan. It’s happened to most of us at one time or another — when discussing veganism with an omnivore, we’ve been challenged. Why do we care so much about animal rights when horrific things are being done to humans? There is a clearcut answer to that argument. 850 million people are starving. People are starving so that other people can eat meat. If we all ate vegan, far fewer people would starve.