Thursday, October 21, 2004

I love David Suzuki (most of the time)

This is a letter that I wrote to U of Ottawa' student newspaper (The
Fulcrum) in response to a David Suzuki piece. I thought you might
like to read it:

Dear Fulcrum,

thanks for the insightful little piece on David Suzuki - who we all
should appreciate. I remember watching an episode of The Nature of
Things where Suzuki (and others) canoed down the Nahanni River. At
supper, he gloriously chomped away on his chicken breast. This might
not seem strange, but for an active, informed environmentalist, eating
meat is just another way humans are destroying the planet.

Raising livestock is an inherently inefficient process. As studies
have proven, it takes anywhere from five to 10 kilograms of vegetable
protein, when fed to livestock, to produce one kilogram of animal
protein. Essentially, North Americans are growing healthful,
fibre-rich grains and cycling them through animals to produce a
smaller quantity of fatty, fibre-lacking animal proteins. The
practice is akin to taking 10 litres of fresh water, pouring it down
the sewer, and then only having one litre of dirty water to drink.

Due to this inefficient process, huge amounts of natural resources are
used to produce the grains that feed the animals, and for the animals
themselves - from growing the grains, transporting the grains to the
feedlots, feeding the animals, transporting the animals to the
slaughterhouse, operating the killing floor, and trucking the meat to
the grocery stores. Fossil fuels, clean water, and land are all being
consumed at an alarming rate due to livestock production and

Consider these figures:
-To produce the meat for the diet of one North American for one day,
about 1000 litres of water is required. For a vegetarian, about 200
litres is required.
-The energy required to produce just one fast food hamburger is the
same as that required to drive a car 25 kilometres.
-Livestock animals are the single biggest polluter of our water
supplies; in North America, the total amount of excrement from these
animals is a staggering 130 times that of the population.
-In the United States, 87% of agricultural land and an incredible 45%
of total land is used for livestock production.
-The world's cattle consume the equivalent caloric needs of 8.7
billion people, more than Earth's current tally. It could thus be
argued that eating meat contributes to hunger in developing nations.

North Americans have no idea the effort required to bring a pork chop
to their table. Our society is disconnected - now more than at any
other time in our history - from how we harvest and produce our food.
The amount of resource waste and pollution is astounding.

Most people who consider themselves environmentalists will
passionately defend recycling and public transit, but will never stop
to consider how their diet affects their ecology. Eating animals is
just about the worst thing that everyday consumers do to contribute to
a polluted planet, and so I was surprised to see eco-champion David
Suzuki chowing down on his chicken. I would hope that anyone who
takes their environmental stance seriously would do their own research
on the issue.


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