Your Diet is not Just Killing You, it’s Killing the Planet.

Anna Juarez, Senior Journalist

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Today people around the world are consuming Animals Products in their daily diet. Animal products include any substance derived from the body of an animal. Examples of the products are fat, flesh, milk, and eggs. Lesser known items hide in diets too, like rennet, which is the curdled milk collected from the stomach of an unweaned calf, often used in puddings and for curdling milk for cheeses. Putting animal cruelty aside, consuming animal products has extreme consequences on the environment and the health of people blatantly doing so.

The World Health Organization has established that at least 30% of all cancers, in the Western World, are due to dietary choices. When this information was first being recognized, studies analyzing the links between diet and cancer, found that people who avoid meat are 40% less likely to develop cancer compared to those who did eat meat. It may come as a shock to some to learn that eating animal products can do more harm than good when it comes to your health. To name an example, an article written by Harvard University concluded that dairy products, such as cheese and milk, contain high amounts of sodium, cholesterol, and estrogen- a hormone linked to prostate and ovarian cancer. While it has not been proved that dairy products are not safe for intake, the risks associated with consumption speak for themselves. These products may provide a source of calcium, however many plant products such as hemp seed, lentils, quinoa, kale, and spirulina provide adequate amounts of protein that one could need.
It should also be noted that along with dairy, meat products often contain hormone byproducts, which in addition to prostate cancer, can cause breast cancer. High cholesterol levels are a familiar common characteristic in those with heart disease, a disease associated with hypertension, strokes, and heart attacks. High cholesterol clings to blood vessels walls, and if it builds up over time, it clings to other cholesterol molecules forming large blockades of plaque. When there is limited space for blood to maneuver through the vessels, blood pressure increases causing the heart to work overtime. If one of these plaque vessels happens to be on the heart, such as the pulmonary vein and artery, or aorta, it puts one at a fatal risk for heart attacks, strokes, or even heart failure.
Like dairy,and common meat products such as pork, chicken, and beef, consumption of seafood poses a significant health risk. A common defense for eating these products is that they are good sources of protein. In addition to following a plant-based diet to obtain the same amount of protein, plants do not contain hormone byproducts, and generally, do not have the same toxins. In fish farms, fish can be raised in such crowded spaces causing them to quickly contract diseases and infestations of sea lice. To treat this, they are given pellets with fungicides and antibiotics, loaded with toxins. Livestock on large commercial farms can be raised in similar crowded conditions and are also prescribed similar treatment plans. Foodborne illnesses like E. Coli can be associated with plant products, however, this example of bacteria is not naturally found in plants. It gets transferred to the surface of plants or soil in many ways, but all stemming from animal contamination. That being said, plants are not entirely innocent of containing pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers or other chemicals that may be harmful, but organic options can be found in most stores.
Aside from a small glimpse above into the health risks associated with eating animal products, the processes that put these products an on grocery store shelves have many negative impacts on the environment. To break it down, the production, transportation, packaging, and marketing of animal products require more than double of the same resources that plant products require. To elaborate, raising livestock uses a significantly higher amount of water than growing most plant products. To produce one pound of beef requires roughly 1,800 gallons of water; a pound of pork needs about 576 gallons. To put this issue into perspective, the same weight of soy is produced using 216 gallons, and corn around 108. This is because large animals need high amounts of water to live and the slaughter process needs water. To add to this issue, livestock – including pigs, cows, goats, sheep, chicken etc. all have to eat. They are commonly fed cornmeal and fish meal. In fact, the majority of the corn that is grown, not just in the United State, but on every continent, is grown for the purpose of animal feed. Fish meal is no better. With the world population only growing, resources will become less abundant, and hunger more common. Therefore wasting resources, as shown in the previous example, is unacceptable
Not only is animal feed a waste of resources, but it can eliminate biodiversity. Products like corn are often grown as a mono-crop, meaning they are the only crop being planted. When a single plant is grown, and efforts are made to prevent others from growing, the naturally biodiverse space is depleted. This can cause soil erosion which makes it difficult to grow more crops in the seasons to come.
Transporting and storing any kind of food will require resources. But plant products tend to require less. Almost every animal product requires refrigeration, in grocery stores, the home, and in transportation. Most electricity is derived from natural gas, and when burned, the byproduct is a mixture of gases, including greenhouse gases. The gasoline required to transport animals is greater because they require more space and packaging (also bad for the environment, still not excluded from plant products) to prevent cross-contamination and the spoiling of products. The more space is taken, the more transportation is required, therefore more gasoline is burned, pumping carbon into the atmosphere.
Referring back to raising livestock, all of these animals produce methane gas. The leading contributor is cattle. Digestive processes in these animals create methane gas which has to be released. When the animals belch or pass flatus through the rectum, this gas is released into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas approximately 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. *
The food choices we make every day affect not only our health but the health of our environment. Following fully plant-based diets can not only sustain one’s health but improve it and while doing so. This type of diet can decrease the risk for Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and many other troublesome diseases. One also decreases their ecological footprint by promoting biodiversity, slowing climate change, and ultimately putting less, harmful substances into the environment. Because we all live on this environment dietary choices do not just affect us, they affect everyone around us.

Corrections needs are highlighted in RED.  *Not only do the cattle release methane, but the pastures developed for them to graze on in South America are built at the expense of the rain forest, causing a double environmental catastophe. 

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