Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Greener and cleaner for all generations

If our animals are healthy, we will be too

By Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff
Feasting during the holiday season is a tradition that many of us share. We look forward to having special foods that are only made this time of year. My grandma’s Julekage (Christmas bread) is one such delicacy I look forward to every Christmas.

Holiday feasting also creates some anxiety for me. Being the environmentalist that I am, I am very concerned about the farming practices used to grow our food and the ingredients used to make our food. I am the strictest about the type of meat I eat because I just don’t see how it can be healthy to eat an animal raised in unhealthy conditions: think confinements that force dense populations of chickens, pigs, or young cattle into cages, crates, or tight pens to more efficiently utilize farm space. This is common practice. The pretty pictures we see of cows living in a lush, green pasture with a nice red barn in the background are a form of deceptive advertising. The majority of our meat comes from animals raised in confinements.

Raising animals in such poor conditions also does a number on the surrounding ecosystem. According to the World Watch Institute, “73 percent of emerging human diseases are derived from animals. Raising farm animals in constant close contact has led to bacterial resistance and other health concerns. Concentrated animal waste can pollute waterways with high nitrogen and phosphorus loads, and both manure and livestock release methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.” The animal waste pollutes the streams and groundwater, creating problems for other living beings, and the smell can be overpowering. Again, how can animals raised in these conditions be healthy?

I don’t like to be rude at parties or family gatherings, so most often I end up saying that I am a vegetarian. At first I got weird looks and teased a little, especially within my family. Many people thought I had something against eating meat, and maybe that I was putting them down for eating it, but that is not what I intended or intend to do.

While I value the health and environmental benefits of eating a vegetarian meal, I do think humans were made it eat meat. Other animals do, so why not us? I just want to make sure that the animal that gave its life for my meal was treated humanely while it was alive. Not only is that the proper way to treat another living being, but it also makes for a meal that is healthy for me and better for the environment.