When you have nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, do anything but open up Netflix. By the end of it, you’d have gained 10 pounds shoving orange Doritos down your throat, and that essay of yours will still be due for tomorrow. As I was ready to start thinking of a thesis, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Effect had made its way to my ‘must watch’ list. With all that had been said about it by my friend, I decided that my essay could wait just a little longer. My bag of teriyaki Jack Link’s to my left and my Oasis apple juice to my right, I was ready to be educated; one heck of an education that was. Kip Andersen had managed in the span of 90 minutes to wake me up from my carnivorous lifestyle and spark the beginning of the new and improved Javier Amoretti-P, the vegetarian one.
With gas emissions increasing at an alarming rate every year for the past decade, with football sized land plots being cut down in the Amazonian rainforest every minute, with our seas being emptied out to a point of no return, what exactly are we doing right you might be asking yourselves.
Have no fear, COP21 is here. This UN Climate Conference held in Paris this past autumn brought a certain breath of fresh air in discussing ecological issues and the future of our planet. One major obstacle the conference was faced with before even getting started was the goal given to it; 190 countries from across the globe after these talks were supposed to come to a consensus on objectives, regulations and laws to prevent an increase of the global temperature of 2 degrees, and by doing so save the human race. With this goal in mind, I was ready to start a movement at Dawson to really make this thing heard, as I had seen how the Kyoto Protocol had been a disaster. One important point brought to the table by our own Minister of Environment & Minister of Fisheries, Catherine McKenna, was that a full-grown adult produces over 450L of CO2 a day. Problem is, with the human population exponentially increasing, those 450L quickly become a problem. As we’ve seen in the past, everything in excess causes problems, or as the SAQ would say, La modération a bien meilleur goût. Humanitarian and governmental organizations are quick to blame the production of CO2 as the main reason of climate change, but even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2 limit by 2030, all from raising animals. Let’s just do a quick factual check. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. US methane emissions from livestock and natural gas are nearly equal and that methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame. With these striking numbers brought up in Cowspiracy, I was surprised to notice that the agricultural problem was not being mentioned as much as it should have in a conference of this importance. This brought me to think… This industry is like that alcoholic uncle in the family. Everybody knows about the problem and the consequences it’s causing, yet we kind of keep it quiet and secretly wish it went away.
The way I see things, the Earth is battling with type-1 diabetes. The body’s own cells are attacking the pancreas, a vast ecosystem of enzymes. They mistakenly see it as foreign, and destroy the insulin-producing cells found within. Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter. Without insulin, there is no “key.” So the sugar stays, and builds up, in the blood. The result: the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose.
With the world population now at a staggering 7.4 billion, the agricultural industry has the biggest market at its disposition. No wonder that in the span of only 75 years, the industry exploded. Its market grew over 400% and is set to keep on growing. With high demands of cheap beef in China, the industry has started to strip naked parts of the Amazonian rain in order to graze cattle. But yet, with all the evidence right in front of us and proof that the agricultural industry is the number one cause of the growing climatic problems, why isn’t anybody openly speaking up about it? Inspired by Andersen’s documentary, I wanted to see if the local environmentalist groups were willing to answer my questions concerning this industry. With the number of calls made and emails sent, my phone bill ate up my credit limit. After realizing I was in debt due to my phone bill, I decided to do it the old fashion way. Offices were visited, as well as headquarters, time and time again. Hell, I was ready to jump on a plane to Vancouver and speak with David Suzuki directly. But by the end of all this, after asking over 8 different environmentalist groups – The David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Montreal, Oxfam Quebec, Equiterre – I experienced the same phenomena Kip did while shooting his documentary: silence.
Maybe I had spoken too soon. A week after sending 9 emails to Julia LaRose, spokesperson for Greenpeace Montreal, she returned my wish of an interview granting me 45min minutes of her time. At this moment, I felt as though I was the chosen one. Entering her office at 9:02am, I waited patiently over 35min on a chair facing the secretary. 9:37am, her door opened, and there she was. The interview could not have been going better — if the topic of my article were tar sands. Boy did she have a lot to say about tar sands. After listening and continuously nodding for 9min, I decided to go unscripted. “How about the agricultural industries Miss LaRose? Any particular thoughts on it?” Stumped, you could see with her fidgeting fingers and wide-opened eyes that she was incapable of answering my question. “I do not have sufficient data to have any particular thoughts on it” she responded with a look of destress. The interview quickly turned ugly. Without even knowing it, I was out of her office and had probably been banned to life from Greenpeace Montreal. What exactly had just happened? Why would one spokesperson of the biggest environmental group kick me out of her office just for asking about the agricultural industry? Something was simply not right.
“Their image is at risk when clearly targeting a specific group” says Maxime Bastien, coordinator of external affairs for the SPCA. He went on to say that “No matter what actions are posed in today’s world, it’s one man’s battle against the world and these groups have caught on to that. But the minute shit starts hitting the fan, environmentalist groups will be the first to embark on the denouncing meat industry train”.
This interview not only led me to reconsider my opinion on these environmentalist groups, but also ask this question to myself; why exactly do we eat meat? To my surprise, this question is to this day unresolved. Many anthropologists have spent their entire careers trying to figure out what exactly our ancestors ate. Some depict the diet of our ancestors as being meaty with the occasional gathering of berries here and there while the more liberal ones depict their diet as being rich in fruits, nuts and legumes. One important aspect in figuring out what our Homo erectus cousins ate is to analyze their
guts. Instead of taking the quickest way from point A to point B, your gut zigzags from A through points C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K before finally reaching B. I was always told that humans were carnivores. We are meat eaters and we are supposed to be doing this. When looking closely at the organs that make up our gut, for example our stomach, it behaves almost exactly like the stomachs of herbivores. The stomach of a cow is a kind of giant fermenter in which bacteria produce huge quantities of specific fatty acids the cow can easily use or store; sound familiar? If I decided to plop a human and ape gut side by side in front of you right now, trust me, you would not be able to differentiate both. We are designed to be herbivorous. Our large intestine is humongous – about 7 to 13 times the length of our torso – compared to a carnivorous intestine which is about 3 to 6 times the length of their torso. Carnivorous intestines are designed to quickly push through decaying and rotting animal flesh, animal proteins, cholesterol and saturated fats. It is impossible for this reason, and I mean impossible for a genuine meat eater to ever clog their arteries.
We don’t pant like dogs and lions to cool ourselves, we sweat though our pores. We possess carbohydrates digestive enzymes in our saliva to be able to break down tones of carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables. If we truly were carnivorous, why don’t we rush towards that squirrel in the park, shove it down our mouth and eat everything. Carnivores do not pick and choose what they eat. “But wait, dude” you might say, “you haven’t considered the fact that without an early diet that included generous amounts of animal protein, we wouldn’t even have become human”. Ok, I got to give to you, that’s true. Being an herbivore 2.6 million years ago was all nice and dandy, but you didn’t know when the next meal would come. It could have been in a couple of hours, like it could have been in a couple of months. That’s when meat came into effect. Root foods such as beets and potatoes were packed with nutritional goodness but were not very tasty (at least raw) and required a lot of energy to be chewed and churned. Meat on the other hand provided a much more calorie-rich meal with much less chewing than root foods. It was a win-win
situation. Meat is the reason we have been able to create IPhones, “The Office” and sweatpants, all crucial to modern society. But we can’t simply continue on eating meat just because it made who we are as species today. If Darwin was still alive, I’m pretty sure he would want us to revise his work and apply it to where we stand today. Saying no to meat does not mean we are neglecting our past; it’s simply a question on whether or not we want to thrive as species. The agricultural industry releases over 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. By eating products originating from this industry, we are technically supporting climate change. So why would it be so hard for us to go back at eating what was designed for us to be eaten? Every vitamin, nutrient, protein have a natural source. Everything our body possibly needs originates from that soil in our backyard. When we’re born, young and growing up, we’re all born vegan. We have acquired a taste for meats, cheeses, dairies and eggs after they were forced down our throat during childhood. Why would it be so hard to simply go back to our herbivorous Neanderthal diets?
Change, that’s what.
We have been napping for far too long, and now, that pork roast we had put in the stove has burned half of our house down and we are starting to smell the smoke. It’s not only that people fear change, it’s the fact that we genuinely believe that if something has been done for some time, it must undoubtedly be good. What I’m trying to say here is that, yes our global population is going to continue growing, yes the agricultural industry is Goliath and I am David, and yes, I am aware that you are probably going to have an Angus burger after reading this article, but concrete actions and questionings need to happen now. No one is to blame for where we stand today, but it is up to us to decide where we will stand tomorrow.
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Effect. Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn. DVD. 26 June 2014.
- Cañete, Miguel Arias. “Paris Is Much More Than The Deal”. Vital Speeches Of The Day 82.2 (2016): 40-42. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.
- Dunn, Rob. “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians”. Scientific American. p. 23 July 2012.
- Halvorson, Heidi Grant. “Explained: Why We Don’t Like Change”. Huffington Post. p. 5 November 2011.
- Kluger, Jeffrey. “Sorry Vegans: Here’s How Meat-Eating Made Us Human”. N.p. 9 March 2016.
- Mills, Milton R. “The Comparative Anatomy of Eating”. N.p. 21 November 2009.
- Robertson, Joshua. “Dangerous global warming will happen sooner than thought – study”. The Guardian. p. 9 March 2016.
- Sterbenz, Christina. “7 Reasons Why I Refuse To Stop Eating Meat”. Business Insider. p. 30 September 2013.
- Unknown Author. “The Natural Human Diet”. N.p.