Ever since since Miley came out as vegan and the federal government started recommending plant-based diets, we’ve been wondering whether it’s worth trying to cut back on the meat -- especially today, World Vegetarian Day, which kicks off October's World Vegetarian Month.
We did some research and learned some pretty shocking things about farm animals and the meat industry:
The animals we eat are more similar to our pets than we thought -- and some of them are actually smarter.
Studies have shown that cows have best friends, and that they get stressed out when they get separated. They've also found that cows worry when they don’t understand something and may have “eureka moments” when they solve difficult puzzles.
Abuses are unfortunately common at factory farms.
The factory farming industry has some serious problems with widespread animal cruelty. Undercover footage documenting animals being kicked, punched, thrown and otherwise abused at facilities nationwide has been well documented, and a number of popular books have tackled the subject.
Americans eat more meat per capita than almost any other people on Earth.
The average American consumes about 200 pounds of meat per year, according to The Washington Post -- significantly more than most people elsewhere on the planet. Americans also have some of the world's highest rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity -- at least some of which is attributed to our dietary choices.
The average American will consume 7,000 animals in their lifetime.
Yes, that’s per person. USA Today reports that in our lifetimes, the average American will eat 11 cows, 27 pigs, 2,400 chickens, 80 turkeys, 20 sheep and 4,500 fish.
Meat production threatens wild animal species, too.
Over 4,000 plant and animal species worldwide are threatened by habitat loss due to agriculture, the vast majority of which is used for meat production. According to Time, "Some 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed ... And the vast majority of that land — about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat."
Meat production is a leading cause of climate change.
Producing meat is a leading creator of CO2 emissions, nitrous oxide and ammonia, which contributes to acid rain. Experts have said that cutting back red meat consumption is a better way to cut carbon emissions than giving up your car.
It's also a leading source of global water consumption.
According to the Huffington Post, it takes 1,847 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, 718 gallons to produce one pound of pork and 518 gallons to produce one pound of chicken, whereas it only takes 34 gallons of water to produce a pound of broccoli, 26 gallons for a pound of tomatoes and 302 gallons for a pound of tofu.
John Robbins, the vegan diet-advocating son of Irv Robbins (who co-founded the ice cream company Baskin-Robbins), points out in his book The Food Revolution that you can save more water by eating one fewer pound of beef than you could by not showering for an entire six months.
Lots of our tax money goes toward subsidizing the meat and dairy industries.
"Every year, American taxpayers dish out $38 billion to subsidize meat, fish, eggs and dairy," author David Robinson writes in his 2013 book Meatonomics. The Washington Post has also reported that "taxpayers heavily subsidize corn and soy, two crops that facilitate the meat and processed food we’re supposed to eat less of, and do almost nothing for the fruits and vegetables we’re supposed to eat more of."
Which is weird, since the FDA constantly urges us to eat more fruits and vegetables.
The meat industry is full of sh*t.
Literally. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, "Most factory farms store animal waste in open lagoons as large as several football fields. Lagoons routinely burst, sending millions of gallons of manure into waterways and spreading microbes that can cause gastroenteritis, fevers, kidney failure, and death."
The NRDC also reports that spillage from the tremendous amounts of poo pollution generated by factory farming "seriously threatens humans, fish and ecosystems."