Thu. Aug 11th, 2022

In the last few decades, vegetarian and vegan diets have gained momentum and increased in popularity. These diets are promoted by multiple celebrity endorsements and widespread media coverage. This new high profile status is due, to the most part, to the efforts of animal rights groups like PETA and The Humane Society. These groups have sought for years to equate animal cruelty with eating meat. Recently, though, they have changed tactics to associate the meat industry with the destruction of the environment. While the meat industry does create pollution, PETA has applied some clever tactics to skew statistics and studies to try to make the meat industry’s pollution appear worse than it actually is. As PETA’s literature states, “A 2006 U.N. report found that the meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the world combined.”

The problem is that this study included animal waste and gas as part of that pollution. This seems fair until you consider the fact that all animal life on Earth produces waste. Most mammals also pass gas. That would mean the elimination of waste- producing mammals all over the world would help stop global warming, not just those raised on farms. Using that logic, killing any mammal, including humans, could be considered part of the environmental effort.

PETA also likes to point out that we are losing the rainforest due to farmers clearing land to raise animals. They claim that “more than 90 percent of all Amazon rainforest land cleared since 1970 is used for meat production.”

This is problematic because it brings in three other very complex issues. First, these mostly impoverished people need these animals for food. This is not to help Burger King to make a quadruple burger, but to help feed local villages and towns where food can be scarce or lack variety. Second, many of these people come from poor countries where they cannot take advantage of new technologies, which would reduce the amount of land needed or help them better incorporate rain forestland with farm land. Third, many of these groups provide a very clear and troubling counter-argument to one of PETA’s long held beliefs, which is that people are not meant to eat meat.

This belief is proven wrong on almost every level by scientific evidence and common sense. People have been eating meat for thousands of years and these South American villages are carrying on long-standing practices of farming and eating meat. Humans, like many of our primate relatives, are omnivores. We eat both meat and plants. We can digest and utilize either effectively in a healthy diet. A balance between different foods leads to the healthiest diet. Some of the very studies PETA cherry-picks to quote from back this up.

PETA quotes the American Dietetic Association, saying, “Vegetarians have a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease and various types of cancer. Considering the proven health benefits of a vegetarian diet, there’s no excuse for eating meat.”

This is weird considering the American Dietetic Association has recently touted the huge benefits of a diet heavy in fish and Omega-3 fatty acids. They cite a study, which noted lower coronary disease in the Eskimo population. They cite that the lowered risk of this disease “was related to their dietary habits, particularly the consumption of fish oils and high intake of omega-3 fatty acids.” What PETA seems to be unwilling to concede is that there are proven health benefits to humans who eat meat.

The point is whether you choose to eat meat or avoid it all together; it is up to you. Do not let someone else’s bias decide what you eat. When reading propaganda, stop and think about what they are saying and if it makes sense. PETA has lead some great campaigns to reform the way people feel about animal cruelty and they deserve great praise for their efforts. That being said, they should not cross into the realm of radical extremist groups that will say anything to try to convince people of their stance.

Ted Trevorrow is a third-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at ET666499@wcupa.edu.

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