Editorial: The case for and against vegetables
11/3/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Alan Choate
In case you missed it, October was Vegetarian Awareness Month. Also, Friday was World Vegan Day, which is for people who do not consume animal products and not dedicated to celebrating residency in Las Vegas, which is about as anti-vegan a town as you will find.
I did not join in any of this vegetarian/vegan awareness other than being aware that those diets are an option that can be healthier than the ones us carnivores follow.
The commentary accompanying these events, though, provides something to consider. As tasty as the chicken breasts marinating in my refrigerator are going to be, that deliciousness has a cost that we pretty much don't see.
Now, don't freak out, but this is from a study compiled as part of a global United Nations project. Here's what the researchers found - more than two-thirds of agricultural land is used to grow feed for livestock, while only 8 percent grows food for direct human consumption.
The researchers were looking long-term. Population growth means increased meat consumption, and they're skeptical we have the land to accommodate it. Alternatives such as lab-grown meat are far off, and livestock operations use water, consume forests and grasslands, and pollute because of animal waste and fertilizer runoff. Ever driven by a feedlot, aka Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)? That's what cheap beef smells like.
The point of stunts like Vegetarian Awareness Month is to get people thinking about their big marketing strategy, Meatless Mondays, which calls for people to pick vegetarian options one day a week.
The point of research like the U.N.'s project is to guide policy, or at least provide input on it.
The point of this column is not to get anyone to go full veggie, something I couldn't convince myself to do on my most socially responsible days. I'm just saying that, thankfully, there are some people out there engaged with Big Ideas, because right now our public life is bereft of them despite our obvious need.
Our infrastructure is outdated. A sizeable portion of our populace is functionally illiterate. We spend freely on wars but argue over whether health care and food assistance should be a priority, and our federally elected so-called "leaders" are so wrapped up in political point-scoring that they can't even pass a budget.
That's just mind-boggling. These people aren't first-graders trying to organize a bake sale; they somehow got elected to Congress but are failing Government 101.
Their last adventure in foolishness only managed to slow down the ticking clock. Funding was extended through Jan. 15 and borrowing can continue through Feb. 7, and in the meantime the elected suits are supposed to come to a meeting of the minds on spending, which didn't work last time and probably won't this time either.
I have a sinking feeling that we're going to meet the New Year, and it'll be the same as the old year.
But one can hope. So, here's to having a public life with more meat to chew on and fewer servings of over-hyped junk. And if the D.C. gang screws it up again, please don't call them vegetables.
After all, vegetables are good for you.