Monday, 8 September 2008

Breaking news: meat is bad for the planet...still

Rajendra Pachuri, bless his stubborn self, is at it again, asking people to PLEASE EAT LESS MEAT to reduce our impact on the earth. Animal agriculture is not good for anyone, and is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gasses. I've blogged about this before, and I will do so again. Consuming meat and other animal products is worse driving an SUV, or heating your house to near-tropical temperatures if you live in the north. Not only is it unethical in that you have to imprison, torture and kill sentient animals, but it is unethical because you are trashing a planet that is not yours to trash. I really don't have much more to say on this one, other than grow up and take responsibility for your actions, people. Sheesh.

But hell, why trust me? Here are some links on climate change
David Suzuki
Climate Feedback
Royal Society

Oooh. And I also talk to The Angry Hippie about climate change on his latest podcast. Yup. I'm Science Dude.

If you're not ready or are unwilling to change to a vegan diet, try to at least eat a few vegan meals a week. While I don't think this solves any of the ethical problems with animal exploitation, it *does* have some impact on your carbon footprint. Start with breakfast. Yes, every breakfast. Then, when you're okay with that, move on to Breakfast + Dinners. Then add in lunch. If you're reading this, you've discovered that vegan food isn't boring or hard, and that there are about a bazillion vegan food blogs out there. For tips on transitioning to vegan diets, or having more vegan meals in you diet, try the PCRM site. Also awesome is Compassionate Cooks.

If at first you don't love things like soy/almond/rice milk, then think of breakfasts that don't involve them. And give it three weeks. You need time for your tastes and habits to change. A lot of how much we like a food is our percieved idea of how it "should" taste. If you're 30 years old and have been eating cereal with cows milk for 28 of those 30 years, your expectations of how your cereal "should" taste are going to be skewed to cow's milk. Give yourself a few weeks to adjust to other milks if you want to eat a vegan version of your omni breakfast. Try different plant milks. Be gentle with yourself and have fun. Maybe the transition would be easier if you had a week or two of chocolate soy milk on your cereal, or made a big batch of vegan pancakes on the weekend and then reheated them in the toaster so that breakfast is decadent. Keep in mind that you probably already eat some vegan foods (toast and jam, spaghetti with tomato sauce, curries, vegetable soups, fruit salad etc.). Make and effort to put the vegan meals that you already know and love on your table more frequently. No one is asking you to be in the least deprived. Just responsible.

Finally, if you kinda sorta wanna go vegan, or have thought about it but not done it, tell me why. Yup. Leave a comment, and if there's info you need or recipes you want, I'll post them. If you want lists of beginner cookbooks, I'll do it. If you need me to veganize your favorite comfort food for you, I'll have a go at that. If you want my top-secret soy/almond/coconut mik making method, I'll divulge. Tell me what it would take to make you more vegan than you are. C'mon. You know you want to spill the beans.


medici said...

Yes, going vegan is an unselfish and kind act on so many levels. And it is easy. I didn't believe that it would be so easy when I made the leap into veganism (and I would be vegan even if it wasn't easy) -- but IT IS EASY, and joyous, and tasty, too!!! A clear conscience does wonders for the palette.

Anonymous said...

With animals causing so much in the way of Greenhouse Gases, the best thing to do is to eliminate all animals. Becoming a vegetarian is not a bad idea except for the Earth First! loons crying for the death of all of the trees, plants and vegetables that will die in the process.

And don't forget the living rocks.

So, the best thing we can do for the earth is to kill everything and everyone and allow the earth to continue without us. That way, there is no death or killing and the Earth can live in peace.

sinead said...

Well, I'm going to assume that that anonymous comment was sarcastic. Yes. Even Vegans *have* a carbon footprint. You can't live without having any impact at all on the planet, but that doesn't mean that we should be needlessly selfish, wasteful and violent, nor does it mean that we shouldn't be here at all. I am now disabling the anonymous commments on this blog. If you want to say something, please be honest enough to at least use a name.

Brian said...

I've posted on this from a meat eater's perspective, and would like a vegan's comment.


sinead said...

Dear Brian,

I'm not sure what you mean by a 'vegan' perspective. My "vegan" perspective is that using animals is wrong for ethical reasons. My critical and science-based perspective is that animal agriculture is wasteful and unnecessary.

All your experts have vested economic and political interests in people eating meat, but none in mitigating climate change or in human health. Furthermore, none of them are scientific experts on climate change. They are industry leaders whose job it is to sell their product.

Animal agriculture is the single largest source of greenhouse gasses, as stated on the IPCC page that you link to from your blog. The IPCC reports are based on peer-reviewed science, which is probably the least biased source of information available on climate change. Other things also contribute to carbon footprints. In fact, the very act of being alive causes all beings to have a a non-zero carbon footprint, so pointing out that things other than animal agriculture *also* add to our carbon footprints is de facto true, but not terribly interesting.

Sorry I can't say anything more positive, but my thoughts on the ethics of consuming meat are clear from the blog entry above and on every other post on this blog where it is discussed.

sinead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sinead said...

Much of Brian's argument in his blog rested on a 1997 article suggesting that methane emissions from rice fields were likely to be important to climate change. A quick romp through the literature using Google Scholar, a tool available to anyone with an internet connection, shows that this problem is solvable (science has not stood still for the last decade). Here is an example paper, though there are many more:

This all seemed rather interesting, especially since water shortages are going to be a problem in the future. I looked through a few review articles (to get an idea of what the general trend is in that area of research instead of relying on a few particular studies that may not be representative). Developing new cultivars of rice that can grow in less water and that produce waaaay less methane is one of the proposed (partial) solutions to both both food and water shortages that are anticipated in the future. It also appears that the amount of methane generated by a rice field can be controlled by various changes and choices in the cultivation methods. By the way, this rice stuff is a good example of how research works when it works well. A decade ago, someone identified a problem (rice making methane) and then the cause of the problem was found, and now solutions are being proposed. And the solutions don't involve killing anyone.

Also, I'd just like to point out that rice is not the ONLY plant out there. One can eat a plant-based diet and replace the rice with other grains. Plant agriculture IN GENERAL is the best bang for our buck in terms of getting nutritious food with the least impact on the planet. Animal agriculture requires more water, grain, land, oil and waste disposal than plants. What do you think we feed the animals?

Jake said...

I left a comment on Brian's blog questioning some of the claims he made. I go back today to see what he answered and what do I find? Blog gone bye-bye. Huh.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha- at Jake, that's why it's no longer hyperlinked!
I'll have to second the recommendation of Compassionate Cooks; Colleen's podcast is what made me curious about veganism, and now, here I am, a vegan. She is a wonderfully intelligent arguer, a very non-threatening speaker, and she is very concious about warning the speaker when the content she is addressing is going to get graphic (which is bound to happen when you're talking animal rights). I think I really appreciated this most, because she never once tricked me into listeing to anything (no scare tactics going here), and therefore I felt respected and always wanted to hear the truths she had to offer, no matter how frightening. These podcasts touch on so many different aspects of being vegan, and are therefore a great way to start researching the topic.

Jake said...

Soy milk making recipe? I would love your soy milk making recipe.

The Joy of Cooking has a recipe that looks fairly simple but also kind of time-consuming method that involves soaking the beans, then blenderizing them with boiling water, then draining the whole mess, then reboiling the resulting liquid, and I think there may have been more steps... But the bulk store across the street has dried soy beans, so I'd love to try making soy milk.

How do you do it?

sinead said...

I invested in a soy milk maker. Otherwise, it *is* quite time consuming.

I figure that since soy milk is over £1/liter, and bulk beans are 49p-£1/kilo... it's worth the investment. I got mine in a clearance sale on ebay. But it would have been worth every penny, even if I'd paid full price.

Before I bought this, I just loaded up on soy milk when there was a sale, but it was still a lot of garbage and waste.

I basically follow this method,,
but I use 3/4 soy beans and the remaining quarter almonds and/or dry coconut. I don't bother rubbing the skins off the beans or anything. And then I add a tiny bit of baking soda (1/4 tsp) to the final milk (so it doesn't curdle in coffee) and a bit of sugar (say 1 tbs per batch), strain it through a cheesecloth, and refrigerate. The whole process takes about 20 mins, including the bit where the soy milk maker is doing it's thing and I"m doing something else entirely. I just keep soy beans soaking in the fridge pretty much all the time.

I use the okara for cooking and baking, as you may have noticed.