>Christian Reasons for Vegetarianism: Part III

Posted: 10/10/2009 in Christian living, environment, food

>Part III

In the last blog, I explained some universally held Christian beliefs. While it may not seem that these important practices connect to vegetarianism, I think after explaining some realities of the world it will be a little bit clear.

When discussing food, especially meat, we need to ask where it comes from. No, I don’t mean Ralph’s and Costco.

The Energy Pyramid

There’s one thing we all learned in high school biology called the energy pyramid. Basically, there is a certain amount of energy that comes from the sun. It is continuous and inexhaustible, but only comes in at a constant steady rate. This energy in turn helps produce plants, which provide energy for herbivores, which are then eaten by predators and so on up the food chain.

What results is a loss of energy at each link on that chain. It works like this: the sun makes a plant grow. This plant has certain amount of potential nourishment for a mouse. The mouse eats some of the plant, and then uses that nourishment to move about, dig holes, squeak, etc. The mouse is now potential nourishment for the snake. Because the mouse used some of the energy from the plant, it now has less potential energy to give to the snake. Likewise, once the snake eats a few mice, it then uses some of that nourishment stored in them. So the snake provides even less nourishment to the hawk. At each step, the total energy that first came from the sun is lost. This is one reason why there are more mice in the world than hawks and more plants than mice.

”Growing Beef”

Agriculture is no exception to this reality. Growing a large land mammal like a cow for purpose of steaks is something that heavily taxes the resources of the planet. Cows eat quite a bit and they also need quite a bit of water to survive. It takes the equivalent of twelve loaves of bread to produce one pound of beef. Beef is one of the most extreme examples of this kind of resource consumption, but the same principle applies to chicken, pork, or fish.

Twelve loaves of bread could go further than a hamburger. Maybe this isn’t such a problem though. After all, the population of hawks still survive even though they eating snakes. This is certainly true, but Americans –who eat meat with nearly every meal- must understand how much they are consuming. There is not enough fertile farmland on the planet for everyone in it to eat like an American. According to the UN, if all United States citizens abstained from meat just two days a week, we’d be doing the world a huge favor.

The consequences of this issue are put best a scholar wise than myself:

12.9 pounds of grain could have been converted to 12.9 loaves of bread that could have, in turn, been fed to world’s starving poor. Instead, that grain/bread is wasted, just so people in affluent nations can eat meat and other animal products. There is no way around it: Whenever one purchases a pound of beef, one is supporting a system of agriculture that effectively squanders 12.9 pounds of grain for every pound of beef produced.*

The point then is clear. You can probably already imagine where I am going with this in my final blog. Eating is wasteful. My last final blog will explain how abstaining from meat, given everything I have said here, connects with the things that Christians already believe. Then, I will offer a few practical suggestions to cut back on our meat consumption.

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*This quote comes from Mylan Engel, Jr. in his 2003 article “Hunger, Duty, and Ecology: On What we Owe Starving Humans”

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Comments
  1. Q says:

    >Yes, but… =)I can see where you are going with this, and for the most part, I agree with what you've said. However, while I do think some responsibility has to be put on the consumer, the problem also lies with the supplier, perhaps even moreso. But the problem is also way more complex than that. But specifically regarding vegetarianism, why the extreme? If Americans moderated their meat consumption (as you argued in this post), the problem would get exponentially better. It doesn't require the extreme of completely remove meat from one's diet to solve this problem. And I realize you are arguing for fasting on certain days rather than completely eliminating meat from one's diet, but in that case, I'd say your title is a misnomer. The argument would be for fasting from meat for parts of one diet rather than completely eliminating meat from one's diet.

  2. Biomusician says:

    >So, what you're saying is, "If there is waste, then we should refrain, or at least cut back."This argument could be applied to other "pleasure" industries as well: cinema, music, clothing, etc. Throwing out an "ends justify means" argument means we might broaden the application to "convenience" items like computers, cars, electricity, etc.You argue that producing meat is wasteful, ergo eating it is also wasteful. Christians should not be wasteful, ergo we should not eat meat. This brings up the following question: If wasting is wrong, is wasting less a morally acceptable alternative? To proceed further in this discussion, "waste" needs to be better-defined in your argument.In the article "Fat of the Land," by Alan B. Durning, the grain cost of producing beef is 4.9 lbs grain/soy, with values of 7, 2.8 and 0.1 for pork, chickens and milk, respectively. I wonder why there's such a disparity in the numbers, especially since the article I'm referencing was published in 1993, and yours in 2003. It hardly seems likely that production has become half as efficient as it was before.

  3. Jin-roh says:

    >Thanks for posting guys. I will probably address these in the last blog, which probably won't be up for several days.Biomusicain, your comments on cinema, movies, computers etc are kind of a red herring. Such things I probably can't address in a blog about food ethics.

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