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You're Killing Yourself

by Tony Pellum

The question that we must ask ourselves as we rapidly advance in technology is: "what is more important, convenience or health?" We live in an age of automobiles and the Internet, and it seems we often scream at the microwave to hurry up. However, this information age may be missing some key links to human health. There are much more productive and effective alternatives to the way the American food industry currently operates.

Chances are, many do not want to sacrifice the convenience of animal products. Livestock production is one of the largest industries in America and, since it is so profitable and powerful, things aren't likely to change. While it is second nature to many Americans to pick up a Big Mac on a chaotic weeknight, they are unaware of the damage the livestock industry is conducting to the earth. Livestock production is the highest cause of water pollution in the United States (Robbins 366-7), while our cattle industry produces 250,000 pounds of waste per second ( htm 2). Livestock production is also sapping our land and energy. Environmentalist John Robbins found, "for each acre of American forest that is cleared to make room for parking lots, roads, houses, shopping centers, etc., seven acres of forest are being converted into land for grazing livestock and/or growing livestock feed" (Robbins 361). A study conducted by the Departments of Commerce and Interior found, "that the value of raw materials consumed to produce food from livestock is greater than the value of all oil, gas, and coal consumed in this country" and amounts for one-third of total raw material usage in the United States (Robbins 374). These statistics clearly show that our current system of food production is not the most effective, efficient, or logical way to operate. In fact, it's just the opposite.

Vegetable production is much more efficient than livestock production in both land and resource conservation. It takes 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat. To produce one pound of beef, however, it takes over 2,500 gallons of water Likewise, one acre of land can produce 20,000 potatoes, while the same acre of land can produce only 165 pounds of beef ( 1-2). How much land can we afford to waste? These drastic differences illustrate the need to eliminate, or at least radically reduce the amount of livestock production compared to vegetable production. While it is currently more convenient to live on an animal product based diet from a consumer standpoint, it is clearly more efficient to switch to vegetable based production.

The vegan diet consists of no animal products. This appears to most Americans as the epitome of inconvenience. Many questions arise concerning the consumption of only vegetable products, the most common of which concerns health. A common misconception held amongst most Americans is that animal products are necessary for survival. Meat is an excellent source of protein and vitamin B-12, while dairy products attribute to many people's calcium source. What many don't realize is that these nutrients are easy to supplement. Protein is abundant in soy products and other beans and legumes, while calcium is quite plentiful in leafy vegetables as well as soybeans. The only vitamin or mineral difficult to absorb in a vegan diet is B-12. However, with a supplement of sublingual lozenges, the vitamin B-12 dilemma is taken away.

Due to this inconvenience, consumers might question the value of switching to a vegan diet. In an ideal, pesticide-free, hormone-free world, there would be no problem with consuming animal products in moderation. However, through our rapid advancements in agriculture, we have destroyed all aspects of a healthy environment. Cattle are given massive amounts of unhealthy, hormone-ridden drugs so they can produce excessive amounts of milk, while the fields that the cattle graze on are contaminated with deadly pesticides and herbicides. While these pesticides can be virtually eliminated in the production of organic vegetables, 90% of all food-borne pesticides are found in meat and dairy products (Cause 1). Due to these insidious accumulations, the highest on the food chain suffer the most. The nations with the diets highest in animal products are also the countries with the highest rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis (Robbins 261). Statistics show that 50% of men who eat meat regularly die of heart disease, while only 4% of vegetarian men suffer the same fate ( 2). Even more frightening, 99% of nursing mothers who were meat eaters had the toxic chemical DDT in their breast milk, compared to a 8% finding in vegetarian mothers (Robbins 344-7). Why do so many American's fall into the great misconception that animal products are healthy when they prove to be so detrimental to health?

Americans eat much more meat than the rest of the world. They also have the highest rates of cancer and heart disease. Tradition has left us with the need to consume animal products. They encompass our culture. With the power of the fast-food industry and the profits of livestock production, things aren't likely to change anytime soon. However, we must not sacrifice health for convenience. As more information surfaces concerning the dangers of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, we have come to accept that these substances are dangerous. Obviously, it is too late for those who died of lung or liver disease due to lack of information. We must not allow this scenario to repeat itself. We must understand that there is a reason why 80% of USDA chicken inspectors don't eat chicken anymore (Worsham 3). We must ponder why fast-food companies don't eagerly offer nutrition ingredients. It is only a matter of time before more people will be educated of the dangers of today's corrupted animal products. Until then, we must look beyond common convenience and strive toward a much healthier alternative: an organic vegan diet.

Works Cited

"Cause For Alarm". 1. 1-3Robbins, John. "Diet For A New America: How Your Food Choice Affects Your Health,Happiness, and the Future of Life on Earth". Stillpoint Publishing. Walpole, NH. 1994. 154-377.Worsham, Michael. "Chicken Is Bad For Your Health". 1-3.