Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Monday, 14 September, 2009

The Positives of Being a Vegetarian: Help the Poor and Save the Rainforests

Many people may not really be familiar with the idea of being a vegetarian, especially if they don’t know anyone who is a vegetarian and they live in a country where there is no real movement in favor of vegetarianism.

I suspect it is in more developed countries, or countries which have a history of freedom and open- mindedness, which will have a stronger presence of vegetarianism as a ideational force.  In many Asian countries some people may be full or partially vegetarian for religious reasons, usually either Buddhist or Hindu.

There are religious as well as practical reasons to be a vegetarian.  In this case I’m looking at the practical reasons to be a vegetarian and appealing to people’s rational faculties, with a compassionate motive.

Being a vegetarian could help reduce the impact of humans on the rainforest, especially meat consumers in certain countries.  For example, meat consumers in countries like Argentina and Brazil, where rainforest is cleared to make way for cattle range, there is a strong possibility that beef consumed in those countries affects the cutting down of the rainforest.

The same link between rainforest destruction and meat consumption applies to any country which receives beef which is exported from those countries where rainforest is being cleared for cattle grazing.  I have not researched it to know all of the countries where this is occurring, but I suspect it is considerable (among multiple other causes of rainforest destruction).

Another logical reason to reduce meat consumption is that prices of many foods have risen, especially some meat and fish.  In 2008, food prices reached extremely high levels and the poor of the world were particularly hard hit.  Several commentators at the time, including the World Bank, said that the rise in food prices threatened to turn back, or repeal, advances in poverty reduction made over the past few decades.

That was before the economic recession hit.

An additional pressure on food prices which will probably expand even further in the future, is the new bio-fuels.  These bio-fuels are environmentally more friendly (in terms of carbon emissions) , but there’s one catch:  They may compete for land with that land used to grow food for humans.  That is, an energy source is now competing for limited space with the food source.  If bio-fuels had never been invented, more land would be available to grow food, which in turn would probably increase the food supply.  An increase in food supply would drive food prices down relative to a constant level of demand.  Expanding bio-fuel production means that there will be less food overall, which will generally apply upward pressure to food prices in the long- term.  This is of course in addition to expanded demand from growing population, and increasing meat consumption in many countries which are developing and having more disposable income.

So, the idea here is that if a person eats less, or no meat at all, they will be reducing the demand for meat, which will result in lower meat prices, which will reduce pressure on the poor of the world.  If many people did this, it could have an effect over the long term.

Overall, I think at this point that as a species,  humans should reduce meat and fish consumption, as one measure to restore balance with the planet, and wild ecosystems.

Well, it’s food for thought.  I wonder if any readers have any thoughts about this, and whether they would consider being a vegetarian or reducing their meat intake as a result of these reasons?

Please comment!  All thoughts are welcome.

For more information about the link between a vegetarian diet and ecofriendly, green lifestyle, see also this website:  (EarthSave International)


Responses

  1. Great article. I am a vegetarian in training although honestly not for the above reasons. Lately I cannot stand the smell taste or sight of meat…I have no clue as to why except possibly because I did a complete diet overhaul a week ago as I enter into a new wellness and fitness stage to lose fat….perhaps that has an influence?
    At any rate I want to go vegetarian only as long as I feel instinctively that it is right for me. And as long as I enjoy it. That’s it in a nutshell.
    I like learning about the rainforest and meat prices worldwide. Didn’t know that before.
    I assume you are a vegetarian then?
    lisalahey@yahoo.com

    • Lisa,

      thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear you are thinking about trying to become a vegetarian. I would say, if you only want to go vegetarian as long as it feels right for you, then it probably won’t last. There are a lot of pressures and reasons why someone will feel temptation and want to go back to eating meat. One of the main problems that I have always had is when, for example, with family and friends I go out to a restaurant, not of my choosing, which has pathetically few vegetarian choices.

      Currently I am not a pure vegetarian, as I have a had some health problems that made me feel that I wanted to eat fish, in order to have a very solid nutritional base. So currently I eat fish only. But I plan in the future to go back to being a vegetarian when my health has improved.

      Actually eating fish is also environmentally unsustainable, as there is a serious problem of overfishing in the oceans. For example, fisheries off the coast of Africa are overfished, and it is affecting the local human populations negatively, because commercial fishermen supplying the European market are overfishing there.

      I cannot prove that not eating meat would affect meat prices, but it is just common sense based on the law of supply and demand. Of course, people become vegetarians at such a slow rate that it doesn’t have any noticeable effect on meat prices. But if a large number of people became vegetarian I am convinced it would affect the price of meat.


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