Can You Eat Meat and Still Be an Environmentalist?

If you asked former rancher and author Howard Lyman that question, the answer would be a resounding no. Speaking at day one of Chicago's Green Festival, Lyman addressed the audience as a reformed rancher -- who went from an operation 7,000 cattle strong to following a strict vegetarian lifestyle and encouraging others to do the same. He says he once viewed himself as the Donald Trump of agriculture and didn't meet a chemical he didn't like. But things are different now.

The point of acknowledging his former belief in "better living through chemistry"? If someone like that can change, there's hope for the rest of us. Lyman questions those who claim to be environmentalists while chowing down on burgers and wings, and it's a point well-taken, although I wouldn't go so far as he does, saying a meat-eating environmentalist is "like a philanthropist who won't give to charity." A strict vegetarian diet can be difficult to follow and for many people reasons such as money and access prevent them from reaping all the benefits. But making a strong start is easy, whether it's cutting out red meat to limiting how often you include meat in your meals.

A few reasons going veg is a good idea

  • As much water as you can save using low flow shower heads, dual flush toilets and aerators...it means nothing compared to how much water goes into sustaining a meat-eater's diet. Vegetarians are unsung water conservationists.
  • 80 percent of our grain supplies go to feeding the animals we eat.
  • It takes 16 lbs. of grain to make 1 lb. of meat, the former could feed 32 people.
  • Cow burps are a big contributor to global warming.

Check out Lyman's website or read "Mad Cowboy" and "No More Bull" to find out more about what he has to say.

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