The November Green Bag Discussion Series featured an excellent presentation by Dr. Mark Causey, Philosophy & Liberal Studies professor. Dr. Causey talked about the economic, environmental, and health impacts of eating animals, as well as the ethical issues we typically ignore when choosing to consume meat, fish, and dairy products.
A key environmental impact of eating animals, especially cows, is the tremendous production of greenhouse gasses, not just carbon dioxide, but especially methane and nitrous oxide. Along with this comes severe deforestation and land degradation, as well as water pollution and resource depletion.
Over 30% of the Earth’s land area is dedicated to animal agriculture, and 80% of the land in the US is used to make meat and dairy products. Seventy percent of all grain produced in the world is fed to animals, but that brings on several inefficiencies, as it takes 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of meat!
Several students contributed their experiences with vegetarian diets, including a talk about where on campus to get a decent vegetarian lunch. Dr. Causey, a long-time vegan, shared ideas about protein, vitamin B12, and food politics. We learned that Patrik Baboumian, one of the strongest humans in the world, lives entirely off a vegan diet.
Dr. Causey concluded the discussion with a conversation on how to approach people who act defensive when someone declares themselves to be a vegetarian or vegan. “To eat meat is a conscious choice,” said Dr. Causey. “But people living in the mainstream don’t have to explain their decision to consume sentient living beings, and they assume that they are in the right.”