Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

Ideas of the future

“And there are ideas of the future, of which some are already approaching realization and are obliging people to change their way of life and to struggle against the former ways: such ideas in our world as those of freeing the laborers, of giving equality to women, of ceasing to use flesh-food, and so on.” -- Count Leo Tolstoy
“The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.” -- Mohandas Gandhi

Humans are suited for a plant-based diet, but can adapt to flesh-eating if our survival depends on it. According to the American Dietetic Association, "most of mankind for most of human history has lived on vegetarian or near vegetarian diets." Meat has traditionally been a luxury which few could afford. 
How did agriculture arise? One theory, by Mark Nathan Cohen in his book The Food Crisis in Prehistory is startlingly simple: agriculture developed because the world was overpopulated. Relative to the existing hunter-gatherer technology, the environment was incapable of supporting the existing population.
'"It seems odd at first to think of the world as being overpopulated when the population was only a fraction of what it is today or to think of the world as environmentally exhausted, when it was more fertile then than it is now,'" observes author Keith Akers in A Vegetarian Sourcebook. "But we must remember that the hunter-gatherer technology is extremely inefficient with respect to land resources. It is estimated that each of the Kung bushmen (a modern hunter-gatherer society) requires over ten square kilometers of land -- more than 2,500 acres. At this rate of land use, the world could hardly have supported more than a few million hunter-gatherers."
Humanity is once again at a crossroads. The real issue isn't overpopulation, but overconsumption: our meat-centered diet. As pointed out by Canadian tennis champion and health and wellness expert Peter Burwash in A Vegetarian Primer, the world population has long since passed the point at which everyone could be comfortably fed on a meat-centered diet, so it makes sense to eat lower on the food chain, an idea popularized by Frances Moore Lappe, in her bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet. As vegan author John Robbins points out in Diet for a New America, the world's cattle alone consume enough to feed over 8.7 billion humans.
Nor can fish provide any help in alleviating global hunger. There are signs that the fishing industry (which is quite energy-intensive) has already overfished the oceans in several areas. And fish could never play a major role in the world's diet anyway: the entire global fish catch of the world, if divided among all the world's inhabitants would amount to only a few ounces of fish per person per week. Fish are now being "factory farmed." Fish are sentient beings, able to feel and experience pain, stress and anxiety.
Keith Akers writes: "Some vegetarians may be somewhat offended to find that dairy products and eggs are part of the problem." The arguments that convince meat-eaters to go vegetarian (ecological, economic, energy, environmental, ethical, health and nutrition) can be taken a step farther and convince meat-eaters and vegetarians to go vegan. In the Central Valley of California cows generate the same amount of fecal waste as a city of 21 million people, much of which goes untreated and pollutes waterways. Dairy products, like other animal products, are obtained through modern agribusiness and factory farming, and the issues of animal cruelty, the health hazards caused by eating higher rather than lower on the food chain, as well as the energy and environmental concerns are not avoided by switching from one commercially produced animal product to another.
According to World Watch: "The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future -- deforestation, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease."
Mac McDaniel writes: "We're looking at a global food crisis by 2050 and we're trying to George Lucas our way out of it with prototypes, science fiction, and undeveloped technology. With any discussion of food shortages, the 800 lb. gorilla in the room is animal agriculture. (Nearly 75) percent of all agriculture land is used to raise livestock, and a third of land used for growing crops is used for growing feed for livestock. It doesn't take a scientist to see the common sense that feeding plants to animals, and then eating the animals, is a horribly inefficient way to produce food."
Peter Singer similarly concludes: "Environmentalists are increasingly recognizing that the choice of what we eat is an environmental issue. Animals raised in sheds or on feedlots eat grains or soybeans. To convert eight or nine kilos of grain protein into a single kilo of animal protein wastes land, energy, and water. On a crowded planet with a growing human population, that is a luxury that we are becoming increasingly unable to afford. Intensive animal production is a heavy user of fossil fuels and a major source of pollution of both air and water. It releases large quantities of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We are risking unpredictable changes to the climate of our planet for the sake of more hamburgers. A diet heavy in animal products, catered to by intensive animal production, is a disaster for animals, the environment, and the health of those who eat it."
The world population is now eight billion and is expected to be ten billion by the middle of the 21st century. Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute, formerly with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) -- his activism nurtured through service in the Catholic Worker community -- is convinced the future is plant-based.
Even if shifting to a plant-based diet isn’t enough to stave off overpopulation, in light of the data showing the depletion of energy, food, fresh water, land space, raw materials and resources as well as the heavy contribution to air and water pollution, deforestation, and global warming caused by a meat-centered diet, how do proponents of population control — warning about overpopulation consuming the world’s resources — justify consuming animal products?

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