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Food versus fiction

By Abi Murray, Staff Reporter

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In the United States,  approximately six to eight million adults don’t eat meat, fish, or poultry. Another several million have eliminated red meat and a whopping  2 million Americans follow a vegan diet.

In the past several years, there has been a massive shift towards a more plant based diet as the idea becomes increasingly mainstream thanks to celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Miley Cyrus. People have become more conscious of not only the damage a heavily meat based diet can do to your health, but also its contribution to pollution and animal cruelty.

While the concept of giving up a hamburger or chicken wings may seem daunting, plant based alternatives are more readily available than ever in America. Websites like Pinterest offer hundreds of cauliflower buffalo wing recipes and if you don’t enjoy the tofu substitute, you can pick anything from mushroom patties to garden burgers.

Sections dedicated to vegetarian and vegan options at the grocery store are steadily growing. 2015 saw a 66 percent increase in restaurants’ vegetarian menus. Even McDonalds has joined the movement with the addition of a  veggie burger to their menu, although it is only currently available in Europe.

The world needs to continue this gradual shift away from meat consumption. In a world where climate change is a very startling reality, the meat industry goes unnoticed as a culprit for its contribution to the problem, despite being accountable for 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas production. Factory farms produce around 500 million tons of manure each year, pumping methane, a chemical that has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, into the air.

Much of this manure also frequently ends up in local fresh water, polluting a natural resource that is already dwindling internationally. In addition to this loss of clean water  2,000 gallons are wasted in the process of producing a single pound of beef.

Not only does the meat industry damage the earth, it also hurts it’s inhabitants. Nearly 10 billion farm animals live in factory farms. That’s 99 percent of farm animals who are raised and slaughtered in deplorable conditions of constant overcrowding, build up of feces, and rampaging disease.

The atrocities committed within massive animal processing plants have been highlighted in the shell shocking documentary “Food Inc.” Documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner delved inside of the American food industry to reveal common unethical practices used to turn a farm animal into tonight’s dinner.

Is one person’s need to eat meat every single meal worth so much waste when clean water is something many struggle to have access to? Or compromising the way we treat animals that have few differences than ones we often find in our homes? Many have begun to ask questions like this and started their journey to reduce the food group from their diet.

A reducetarian is someone who aims to greatly reduce the global consumption of red meat, poultry, seafood and other animal products. Not completely removing meat from their diet, but choosing vegetarian options when they can. The Reducetarian Foundation offers cookbooks and meal plans for those getting started. They even give you ideas for what kind of reducetarian you want to be other than a straight up vegetarian or vegan. Options can include going on “Meatless Mondays” or only “Vegan Before Six”.

Whether you’ve become fed up with hearing stories of animal cruelty and want to cut cold turkey or you want to work on improving your health by eating vegetarian on weekdays, making steps to a more plant based diet world offers an endless supply of global benefits.

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