Why I became a Vegetarian (well, sort of...)
I am often asked why I became a vegetarian – and my answer is always the same: „For all reasons that exist.“ But wait a minute, I am not a real vegetarian nor am I a vegan (and many people don`t even know the difference). I am a so-called ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian. This means I don`t eat meat and sausage but fish, eggs and dairy products although I am trying to reduce my consumption of these items. And – I belong to the few men who love veggies :-). Someone has to be different, right?
I stopped eating meat in the mid-90s when Germany had its first scandals of animals being treated with antibiotics to grow faster and to produce more meat. It was very easy for me to do without meat since I had never liked it too much but I certainly appreciate that I am an exception to the rule. Most people just love meat – real carnivores so to say.
A few Facts about meat consumption
- *The average German consumes over 60 kg of meat products per year (as food, i.e. leather products not included)
- 85% of all Germans eat meat every day
- *The consumption of organic meat still is extremely low due to the rather high price
- *Men eat twice as much meat as women
- *Every year, over 60 million tons of beef and almost 180 million tons of dairy products are consumed worldwide (study oft he IPCC) – and that`s only cow products…
- *On the other hand (and this is promising), the trend towards vegetarianism in Germany (and not only here) is growing with currently approximately 8 million vegetarians and 1.3 million vegans (as per a study of the Skopos research institute)
Impressive numbers and also somehow scary (apart from the last point...). In my opinion, the following are three very strong reasons to consider a reduction in meat consumption (and unless like extreme vegans, I do not ask anyone to completely do without meat):
- Animal welfare – most people know about the incredible torture when it comes to industrial livestock farming, the long transportation to slaughterhouses (often from continent to continent and without proper food/water) and the stress for the animals before they are being killed. However, since we usually don`t see too much of this, we just block this out. Maybe there should be a photo of slaughterhouses on meat packs in supermarkets, similar to the stickers on cigarette packets.
- International scientists agree that the worldwide consumption of meat boosts global warming. With its four stomachs, a cow ejects between 150 and 250 l of methane daily. There are approximately 1 billion cows on earth so it is estimated that the ejection of methane makes up for 20% of global warming. A study of the WWF reveals that 70% of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production of meat and animal products, mainly by producing soy and using lots of water, dung and liquid manure. 80% of the soy consumed in Germany (mainly to feed cows, pigs, and poultry) comes from South America – and we all know what countries like Brasil do to have more space available for monocropping. 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down over the past 50 years to gain space for agriculture (mainly for soy cultivation and kettle breeding). Lost oxygen that we and our climate need so badly.
- Although natural, organic meat may not be unhealthy (there are different opinions about this), most of the consumed meat is processed – apart from feeding animals with antibiotics, meats are mostly highly processed after the animals have been slaughtered, i.e. treated with nitrates, preservatives, and various chemicals. That makes a big difference. And most meat is way too cheap, at least in Germany. I believe that the consumption of meat would reduce drastically if you had to pay the price it should cost.
Less Meat, less Greenhouse Gases
Whenever a German politician (mostly of the Green Party) suggests a way to reduce meat consumption, a wave of outrage goes with it. According to the WWF, just one day without meat in Germany alone would mean 9 Million tons of greenhouse gases less.
Let`s think about it. Let`s care about animal welfare – and I don`t mean just doggies and kittens. Cows, pigs, chicken &. Co. also deserve our empathy.
As for global warming, we cannot wait for the politicians to do something. We have seen how much has happened since the first summits in the early 90s – almost nothing. And the things that did happen were done by NGOs and some smart people. It`s time to do our share.
P.S. This is, of course, only one item to change our lifestyle for the sake of the environment and our climate. I will cover the other "hot potatoes" over the next months.