About Keith Akers
Vegetarianism, World Peace, and Justice
By moving toward vegetarianism, can we help avoid some of the
reasons for fighting?
We find ourselves in a world of conflict and war. Why do
people fight? Some conflict is driven by a desire to impose a value system, some
by intolerance, and some by pure greed and quest for power. The struggle to
obtain resources to support life is another important source of conflict; all
creatures have a drive to live and sustain themselves. In 1980, Richard J.
Barnet, director of the Institute for Policy Studies, warned that by the end of
the 20th century, anger and despair of hungry people could lead to
terrorist acts and economic class war [Staten Island Advance, Susan Fogy,
July 14, 1980, p.1].
Developed nations are the largest polluters in the world;
according to Mother Jones (March/April 1997, http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/MA97/hawken2.html), for example, Americans,
"have the largest material requirements in the world ... each directly or
indirectly [using] an average of 125 pounds of material every day ... Americans
waste more than 1 million pounds per person per year ... less than 5 percent of
the total waste ... gets recycled". In the US, we make up 6% of the world's
population, but consume 30% of its resources [http://www.enough.org.uk/enough02.htm].
Relatively affluent countries are 15% of the world’s population, but consume
73% of the world’s output, while 78% of the world, in developing nations,
consume 16% of the output [The New Field Guide to the U. S. Economy,
Nancy Folbre, 2000, 10.11; www.fguide.org].
The Union of Concerned Scientists identifies meat production as causing
the single largest impact of all human activities on land habitat
alteration, and second only to driving as biggest impact on environment
Vegetarianism isn’t a panacea, but is a solid step toward
making the world a better place in which to live. People move toward a
vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons. Increasing medical evidence suggests
that consumption of any animal protein is a significant health problem
(in fact, along with light exercise and meditation, a pure vegan diet is the
only way proven to reverse heart disease [Journal of the American Medical
Association 274(1995):894]). In addition to ethical and nonviolence
arguments, reduction of world hunger is another compelling basis for
adopting a vegetarian diet. Only 4 billion of the world’s 5.6 billion [in
1989] are properly nourished; if we all became vegan, current vegetarian food
production could nourish 7 billion (of course, there would still be distribution
problems) [R.W. Kates et.al., The Hunger Report. Providence: Brown Univ.
Hunger Project, 1988 & 1989 Update]). Vegetarianism promotes protection of
the environment and efficient use of resources. Each 4-ounce
hamburger made from imported beef, for example, requires the destruction of 55
square feet of tropical forest to create grazing and pasture lands that do not
regenerate [http:// schwartz. enviroweb. org/ jenviro.html]. If in the US we
switched to a vegetarian diet, we would cut our imported oil requirements by
60% [Vegetarian Times, April 1990] - without drilling in the Alaskan
Wildlife Refuge! Vegetarianism is good for human health, good for the
environment, and reduces resource requirements for water, petroleum, and
other energy sources – thus reducing a major source of conflict in the
Choosing vegetarianism is the most important thing one
can do for the environment
Here are a few reasons environmentalists and those seeking economic and
social justice should consider vegetarianism:
One-half of the Earth's land mass is grazed by livestock1
Between 19 and 22% of all threatened and endangered species are
harmed by livestock grazing2
Manure produced by all farm animals in the US annually is app. 130
times the waste produced by the human population3
Factory farms are the biggest contributors to polluted rivers and
streams in the US4
Resources used in the production of livestock: 33% of the world's
fish catch5; 38% of the world's6, 60% of Brazil's7,
70% of the US grain harvest 8; 80% of the US corn harvest
9; almost half of all energy expended in US agriculture10
It takes 10-30 pounds of grain to make 1 pound beef11;
only 35-40% of a steer’s body weight becomes beef for people12
Eating a plant-based diet would save 90% of the energy used in
 Brown, Lester , et al., Vital Signs 1994, Worldwatch Institute,
1994, pg. 32.
 Losos, et al., The Living Landscape, Wilderness Society and
Environmental Defense Fund, 1993, pg. 20.
 US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, Animal
Waste Pollution in America: An Emerging Problem, Dec. 1997.
 EPA workgroup report 1994, cited in Mason, Jim. "Fowling the
Waters," E Magazine, Sep/Oct 1995, pg. 33.
 Brown, Lester and Gary Gardner, State of the World 1996,W.W.
Norton & Company, New York, 1996 pg. 93.
 Lappe, Frances Moore, Diet for a Small Planet, 10th
Anniversary edition (New York: Ballantine Books, 1982), pg. 69.
 Brown, Lenssen and Kane, Vital Signs 1995, Worldwatch Institute,
1995, pg. 137.
 USDA, Economic Research Service, "World Agric. Supply and Demand
Estimates, WASD-256," July 11, 1991, tables 256,-7, -16, -19, -23.
 USDA, Agricultural Statistics 1989; pg. 31, table 40, "Corn: Supply
and Disappearance US, 1974-1988".
 Source , pg. 17.
 Michael Baker, "For Livestock Farmers", American
Agriculturist no. 15, Aug. 1995. [cited in source , pg. 164]
 Ray Herren, The Science of Animal Agriculture. Albany: Delmar
Publishers, 1994, p.76. [cited in source , pg. 164]
 Marcus, Erik. Vegan: The New Ethics for Eating, 1997.
"We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in
killing any living creature." -Rachel Carson
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Added December 13, 2001