What does Vegetarianism have to do with it?

563.jpgAsk a vegetarian how they live without eating meat and pat comes the reply “ nobody in my family eats it”. Some conscious people perhaps cannot bear the cruelty meted out to animals or they simply believe in animal rights. Hardly anyone ever says that they are vegetarians in an attempt to be environment friendly. On the contrary “what does vegetarianism have to do with environment and its hazards?’ is a rather logical question. When I talk about this question, I am not talking about destroying animal species by eating them or the diseases that meat consumption can cause. Instead I am discussing the hazards such as destructive use of limited resources, deforestation, overgrazing and desertification and carbon emissions. These big words, with even bigger consequences can be directly linked to the chicken burger or pepperoni sandwich you are eating.

It is a proven fact that raising livestock is far more cumbersome on the already limited resources in the world. Maintaining poultry puts a strain on all our resources, specially land and water .The quantity of meat, egg or proteins that we get out of animal meat, is not equivalent to the resources required for their upkeep. India luckily does not face this danger posed by meat consumption as much as other developed nations. And we can only be grateful to our conservative, poor and rigid Hindu forefathers for that.

It was our ancestors who inculcated the practice of vegetarianism, and thereby allowed poultry animals to be used in means of transportation and farming, rather than only for meat. Moreover, they branded the naïve, innocent cow as “a mother figure” and therefore, an animal forbidden to eat. This is a huge blessing primarily because production of beef leads to emission of excess carbon and methane, both of which lead to the “green house effect” and eventually, is a primary source of “global warming “. Besides that, Production of a mere one pound beef requires around 2000 gallons of water. In a country like India, where water is a perennial problem, it would be impossible to keep water resources intact if we would have been a predominantly beef devouring nation.

Despite this, it is a conventional western notion that India is not sensitive towards environmental hassles. Perhaps this thought stems from our lack of enthusiasm in developing fuel-efficient cars or the fact that use of CNG was rather imposed on us. What they fail to realize is that India, at least by following vegetarianism to a great extent, is progressing on the right path.

However, the fact that most of us do not eat beef does not put India in the forefront amongst countries that are trying to reduce environmental hassles. India may be a country where meat is not a part of our staple diet, and therefore our “carbon emissions” will render lower. India, on the other hand is a country where lack of grazing grounds has resulted in cows running all over the cities. The Indian farmer, who cannot afford to feed his cattle, lets them graze at garbage dumps and subsist on poly bags. This hints to the lack of grazing grounds and the problem of overgrazing. Being an agrarian land, India requires most of its lands to be devoted to agriculture. However, large-scale production of meat and eggs through poultry farms, results in deforestation and in rendering the land useless for agriculture. In India, many lands have resulted in man-made deserts primarily because of extensive grazing.

India is not free from its own share of slaughterhouses, and poultry farms. It may not be imposing as big a threat in a global context, but we need to reduce our meat consumption all the same. India, if it turns towards vegetarianism, will apply less pressure on its diminishing resources and steer ahead of all developed countries that waste their resources trying to device all sorts of machines to validate their failure in making this change in eating habit.

Not merely poultry, India is also today depleting its fish resources. Various fish species have now become extinct and the practice of Trawling has also lead to the ruining of seabeds and the natural ecosystem of fishes. It is important that India emphasizes on vegetarianism as a big step in preventing many of the world’s chief environmental concerns. This can be one endeavour in which India already has a significant lead and can be easily successful.

Therefore, one does not even have to go out of their way to clean up their city or buy the latest environment friendly refrigerator. We can simply try to stick to a predominantly vegetarian diet. This way we allow ourselves as well as Mother nature to be healthy. Today, vegetarianism can adopt a new meaning as well as a new reason. All vegetarians do not have to pledge their support only to WWF or PETA, they can take a leap forward and instead show solidarity to the cause of environmental concerns. Instead, all the KFC lovers (including me) would perhaps prefer more conventional and viable options such as planting trees. However the knowledge that eating vegetarian food can help our environment has surely given me some “food for thought “.

Pallavi Banerjee