Friday, June 27, 2008

Locavores and Vegetarians

I went to a meeting last night. (For some reason, having just rewatched Casablanca for the umpteenth time, I’m thinking “I’ve heard a lot of stories in my time. ... ‘Mister, I met a man once, they’d always begin.’”) This meeting was on the subject of the impact of food on one’s carbon footprint, and being a locavore.

At some point, the speaker referred to “vegetarians and animal rights people” as twisting statistics. When he was finished I asked, “As a vegetarian and animal rights person, I didn’t catch exactly what you’re disputing.” And honestly, I’m still not sure. I’m not very good at quick comprehension and intelligent conversation; I’m more of a reader and writer.

I think what he had in mind was the effect it would have on world greenhouse gases if Americans stopped eating meat. Or maybe just beef in particular since he mentioned the US only having 7% of the world’s cattle, and he is or was a beef producer (talk about an incentive to twist statistics!) Of course, the US imports and exports plenty of the stuff as well so the number of cattle who happen to live here seems irrelevant. And he may just have been talking about the amount of gas produced by the animals rather than how much energy is wasted producing a cow vs. feeding the grains directly to people.

I stopped by The Nature Conservancy’s website this morning to use their carbon footprint calculator again. I have an old friend who works for TNC who happens to be a vegetarian and animal rights person, but the organization is not by any means an AR group. In fact, they’re one of the most conservative environmental groups.

And yet, when I plug in “never” in reply to their question of how often I include meat in my diet, I drop 78% below the US average for carbon production in the food and diet category. Almost as much as my 81% below average in the driving/flying category. In fact almost 80% of my carbon footprint comes completely from average home energy use in the state I happen to live in. Though my total greenhouse gas emissions are substantially lower than the US average, they’re also three times the world average. So I think I can safely say I’m doing a better job at this than a meat-eating locavore, and that none of it really matters until the basic unsustainable American way of life collapses. At that point there will be a lot less people and eating locally will be the only option.

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with why I don’t eat animals. I don’t eat animals because of the feel of a pig snout on my hand and the look in the eye of a cow and the movement of the llama who knocked off my hat to smell my hair. I don’t eat animals because of the young raccoons and squirrels I’ve held while feeding them. I don’t eat animals because when I’m hiking I’d rather see a deer running or staring at me than find a pile of her entrails. I don’t eat animals because of the way the cat comes running into the bedroom in the morning when he hears the old futon frame creaking as I get up, and the way he’s waiting at the door when I come home. I don’t eat animals because I don’t need to, and because I choose not to be the type of person who abuses beings at my mercy.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful last paragraph.

greentangle said...

Thank you, anon.

Stephanie said...

So lovely there at the end. :)

I am consistently baffled and irritated by the sometimes outright antagonism toward "animal rights people" and veg*ns from others in the progressive community, particularly the greenies and slow- and local-food people, as if veg*n ways of living don't fit in perfectly with their philosophies, as if most of us don't share their philosophies, or at least the philosophies that don't pertain to continuing to eat and exploit animals.

greentangle said...

Don't you just love a happy ending?

I haven't had much experience with the specific groups you mentioned but certainly found that mainstream liberals have no interest in animal issues. Too much of a challenge to their own lives, or they're too busy telling you people have more important problems.

I would think that the more radical folks who challenge the whole system (as opposed to "Vote Democrat") would be more open to these issues but it too rarely seems to be true.

I was exploring the Treehugger website's forum a few days ago and found one person asking why there are so many vegetarian intentional communities but she couldn't find any vegetarian ecovillage type groups. Clearly someone who shares our belief that the two should go hand in hand. The only responder jumped on her along the lines of why would there be, elitist, diversity is better, etc. Ticked me off almost enough to join just to reply but decided I had better things to do with my time.

Lisa J. said...

I'm happy to be considered an elitist if that's what being an "animal rights person" makes me.

I'm secure in who I am to most times shrug of disparaging comments. I'm elitist only because I know my lifestyle choices are the right ones. Not just for me but for the planet.

I don't eat animals because it's the right thing to do.