Should we stop eating meat in order to save the planet?
by wr on September 14, 2016 - 10:13pm
Since a few decades, people have followed the vegetarianism movement. Many of us are now wondering why do people try vegetarianism and what benefits does it have for our planet and us. Some people do believe in animal rights and cruelty but many are also concerned about the environmental degradation of our fascinating planet that’s called ‘the earth’. While I did some research on the subject, this ethical question often distinguished itself: Should we banish the meat industry in order to save the planet? In the following lines, I will summarise and identify the moral values of each side of this debate by concluding with my personal opinion on this ethical issue.
The article I have chosen for this ethical environmental debate is called: “Save The Planet Stop Eating Meat”, Which explains in great details the meat industry’s environmental impact on our planet as well as the meat producers’ opinion about the subject. This article starts its first pages by talking about the different organizations that promote vegetarianism, such as the Ethical Vegetarian Alternative, which is probably the largest vegetarian organization in Belgium that says that if people could restrain themselves from eating meat only one day every week, it would be the same as eliminating a million cars off the road. The vegetarianism movement is gaining more attention not only in Belgium or elsewhere in Europe but also in North America and many other places around the world. The famous former Beatle and animal rights fighter, Paul McCartney founded a “Meat Free Monday Campaign”, which encouraged people to deprive themselves from eating meat once a week as well. People have fought a long way for the debate on animal cruelty but the environmental aspect of this debate is practically new and not a lot of people were concerned about this dramatic issue. According to many studies, such as a 2009 study conducted by researchers at the university of Chicago, suggest that the vegan diet is one of the most effective way of reducing our environmental impact and it is more efficient than driving a hybrid car (Engelhart and Köhler 3). Livestock accounts for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gases, more than any forms transportation combined and it is the leading cause of deforestation and water pollution, according to a report, “Livestock’s long shadow” released in 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Engelhart and Köhler 3). Many of us thought cars were the major problem for the environmental degradation of our planet but it turns out livestock is more devastating for us and yet, we have problems admitting and reducing our meat consumption. We have quintupled our consumption for the past 50 years and it is expected to double by 2050 (Engelhart and Köhler 4). This debate inevitably has two sides and the meat corporations in the US see the Meat Free Monday Campaign as a brainwash and are very sceptical of the new vegetarianism movement because of future taxes that could terribly affect the meat industry and the millions of jobs that are related to it in the US and Canada as well.
On the moral perspective of this debate, there is one side that obviously thinks that the vegetarianism movement is the solution to the environmental disaster that the meat industry causes. If we take example on a moral claim that says, “Always act for the greater good”, it would definitely go in accordance with the values of this movement. Gratitude, life and awareness are values that vegetarian people might have in common, since most of them want our planet to be healthier and certainly not degrading as it has been for the past 150 years. Life is primarily important to them, they want humans to live and take the vegetarian or vegan approach to improve the earth’s condition even though it is probably irreversible at this time. Human life is another moral claim that represent well the values of this opinion of the debate, as I mentioned in the previous lines, life is, once again, one of the values that could fit well this claim. Others, though, are more into animal rights and represent, as an example, the moral principle of doing no harm to other humans or any other forms of living species. Respect others could be a value for those who chose not to eat animals. Now on the other hand of the debate, there are those who do not necessarily believe in the vegetarianism movement and think that we have the right and possibility to eat meat. A lot more people are neither vegetarian nor vegan compare to those who are actually in the movement and it is certainly their right, including myself because I’m not a vegetarian, to be fully respected. As a personal example, I was quietly sitting in a park in Montreal and I suddenly heard a group of demonstrators who were saying, “No to abattoir” and “Go vegan”, which I thought was insulting because we have the right to eat meat as much as we want, even though we know the consequences it has on our planet. One moral principle that describes well this way of thinking would be to respect people’s autonomy, which means, in other words, “live and let live”. It encourages peace and harmony as well.
In conclusion, I have a clear and decisive opinion about this ethical debate. In my thoughts, the meat industry has already gone to far and the environmental impact it has on our planet is ridiculously shocking. I think the solution is definitely not hidden and we know exactly what to do if we want to save our environment. Becoming vegetarian might not be the easiest thing for everyone but it is surely one of the most efficient ways that will improve the earth’s environmental condition. One question that triggers my mind though is if either the whole population will be able to follow the vegetarian movement, especially in countries where the meat industry is expanding itself.
Engelhart, Katie, and Nicholas Köhler. "Save The Planet Stop Eating Meat." Maclean's 123.11/12 (2010): 56-59. Academic Search Elite. Web. 11 Sept. 2016.