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The environmental benefits of vegetarianism

Meat production is not only cruel, but it also brings with it a host of threats to China’s – and the world’s – fragile ecology. If you want to go green, go veggie, writes Jiang Jingsong.

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There is no need to recount the litany of China’s environmental disasters; catastrophes such as the blue-green algae that choked Taihu Lake appear daily on our TV screens and in our newspapers. Protecting our environment may today be the biggest challenge that faces humanity.

Many will turn to science for a solution. But reality demonstrates that relying on science alone will not lead to success. Unless we change our lifestyles, scientific advances will only accelerate damage to the environment.

It would take a day to fell a large tree in the past, and it would be months or even years before that tree was turned into processed wood and used to construct buildings in a far-off city. But now the lumber industry can flatten entire forests in very little time, and have the wood converted into floors and furniture in a matter of days. We do not have the respect and awe for nature that, in other times, held what little industrial capacity there was in check. The loss of this “superstition”, combined with the driving force of capitalism, has meant nothing now restrains us from using our technology to squeeze every last drop of profit from nature.

 

In certain respects, vegetarianism is a higher moral choice. It avoids the killing and enslavement of animals, and it helps protect the environment. The converting of fodder to meat involves massive waste – any given area of land can support 20 times as many vegetarians as meat-eaters. South America’s tropical rainforests are being felled to provide pasture for livestock – and even these pastures are not used in a sustainable manner and are quickly abandoned. Every hamburger results in the loss of around 6.25 cubic metres of forest.

 

But industrialised farming doesn’t only cause suffering to animals – it also creates massive amounts of pollution. Figures show that every kilogram of beef requires 10,000 litres of water and produces 40 kilograms of excrement. More dung is produced than the environment can cope with, and since it cannot all be used as fertiliser it ends up in the natural world.

 

Industrial farming is a burden for an already fragile ecology; it has increased the numbers of cattle and the methane they produce, which is a significant contributor to global warming. It has led to the accumulation of harmful chemicals in ever-longer food chains; the appearance of pharmaceutical additives in animal fodder; and the loss of topsoil due to over-grazing.

 

History shows that our current lifestyles and values are not conducive to solving these environmental issues. Yet if we adjusted our ways, this could be done. Vegetarians, simply by resisting the temptations of meat, can avoid contributing to these problems.

 

Giving up meat may seem like a grim prospect to many, but really it is not so bad. Vegetarians are more healthy and vigorous than their meat-eating counterparts. Ten-time Olympic medal winner Carl Lewis is a vegetarian, along with many successful athletes in fields where endurance is key, such as cycling, long-distance running and swimming. In many western countries, vegetarianism is common among those who take care of their health, and it is a fashionable choice for the young.

 

Many people in China today misunderstand vegetarianism; they confuse the conscious decision to refuse meat – for the sake of the environment and animal welfare – with the enforced vegetarianism of poverty. The latter diet is, of course, unhealthy. However, this is due the inadequate, monotonous and unbalanced diet that poverty brings, rather than the lack of meat in itself. Vegetarianism as a choice, with an adequate and balanced nutritional intake, is a perfectly healthy option.

 

However, many people still find it an unpalatable option, and feel the diet cannot satisfy their taste for meat. Generations of Chinese cuisine have made meat-eating a strong part of our culture, and a vegetarian diet seems like an inferior choice. But pay a bit more attention to the culinary arts, and the flavour of vegetarian cooking is in no way second-rate. First-time diners at vegetarian restaurants are often surprised at how good a meat-free meal can taste. Vegetarian restaurants in China have a long history of producing meals designed to mimic the taste and texture of meat – a godsend for those recent converts who still lust for that meaty taste. And there is no need to be strictly vegetarian all the time; you can choose the degree and duration of your commitment as it suits your lifestyle.

 

China’s tradition of Buddhism means vegetarianism once had a strong following. But today we have a lower percentage of vegetarians than western countries. There are many reasons for this, one being the low-level of education about the environmental benefits of meat-free living, another being the general lack of ecological awareness. However, Peking University founded its Vegetarian Society in 2000, and a number of leading universities now have groups advocating the rejection of meat. Vegetarianism is an up-and-coming youth movement in China, promoted by those with a sense of social and environmental responsibility. It has a bright future, and people who care about the environment should pay attention – and maybe even join us.

Homepage photo by mac_vegetarian

 
 

Jiang Jingsong, Doctor of Philosophy, Tsinghua University Institute of Science, Technology and Society.

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

减少食肉,有益健康

我十分赞同本文关于素食者是人道的,有助于大量减少能源消耗及解决环境问题.我最近已经将吃肉的数量减为每周一次,我并不觉得有什么不妥.中国作为一个发展中国家,她需要经过这么一个过程才能使她的人民意识到将全世界的利益放在个人利益之前的重要性.有很多证据可以说明这一点.当一部分人首先富起来后,大多数都先考虑到满足个人的利益需求.其中包括消费以前消费不起的珍贵食物,甚至包括一些稀有濒危动物.所以希望人们为保护环境减少对肉类的消费还需要一个长期缓慢的过程才能实现.但如果以高知名度的专家以科学证据来宣传少吃肉对健康的益处,恐怕人们更愿意相信和听从.

Consume less Meat for your health

I agree with your article that vegetarianism is very humane, and could help to reduce energy consumption greatly and help out the environment. I have recently reduced the amount of meat that I consume, and I only eat meat about once a week now, and I feel good about it.
I think that China as a developing country needs to go through a cycle before its people reaches the state that they start to think in terms of the world at large as a whole instead of putting their own welfare first. This is evident in many ways they behave in public. As part of the population is becoming very wealthy, most of these people are first going to fulfill their personal desires first. Some of these includes consuming rare and exotic foods they or their parents could not afford previously, and unfortunately some of these foods even include endangered animal species. So it will be a slow process to get people to consume less meat for the sake of the environment. However, if you promote health as the reason to eat less meat, with scientific evidence from highly reputable experts, people are more likely to listen because they would be directly affected by the outcome.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

有点意思-我完全赞同

在我的Western大学,除了遵从指令,实践技能是得不到嘉奖的。我得到的建议是吃好、把精力放到书本上。事实上,地球要求我们自己种植食物并想方设法降低消费。就像前面针对非必要生产的评论说的,我也认为不买那么多肉我也可以一样开心。本

Interesting - I agree entirely

At my Western University, practical skills are not rewarded apart from following instructions. I am advised to eat well and focus on books. In reality, the planet demands that I grow my own food and find ways of consuming less. Just like the previous comment pointed to unnecessary production, I agree that I can be happy without buying lots of meat.
Ben

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

吃素

可以提倡健康饮食,少吃肉对人有好处.

Vegetarianism

It is good to advocate healthy food; eating meat less can bring many benefits. - Reader

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

中国需要更多的素食者

非常同意蒋先生的观点,不仅如此,我还是2年多素食的实践者。
如果您一旦长期素食,会发现肉食这种依赖其实是:1)大可不必,你会发现肉食其实很难吃;2)素食的利益不仅仅是环境,对自己的利益更大。
所以,素食是应该大大提倡的。
如果说到腐败和大吃大喝,以及个别寺庙出家人的事情,我觉得这个和提倡素食是两回事,我们不要转移话题。
素食看来只是一个小习惯,其实它关乎我们的地球未来,关乎环境保护,关乎身体健康,关乎长治久安。

China needs more vegetarians

I can't agree more with Mr. Jiang. What's more, I've been a vegetarian practitioner myself for more than two years. If you ever experience being a long-term vegetarian, you will know that the dependence on meat is in fact: 1)unnecessary, you won't find meat tasty anymore; 2)beneficial to not only the environment, but your own health. Therefore, the vegetarian lifestyle should be highly recommended. When we refer to corruption, wining and dining, and what some monks do in the temples, I think they are completely different from the promotion of vegetarian. We shouldn't mix them up. Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle, which is related to the future of the planet Earth, to environmental protection, to our own health, and to the peace and stability in the long term.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

减少肉食确实等于减少痛苦

素食或者减少肉食对于减少屠宰过程中造成的动物痛苦很有作用。这是每一个人都可以做的事情,不必等政府机构都做好了大家才作,实际上,如果大家都很注意帮助动物减少痛苦,减少肉食,政府机构还大吃大喝会遭到民众的鄙视。同时,大家减少肉食还充分保护了生态,政府机构还好意思我行我素么?社会变化会带来政府的变化,有好的人民一定会有好的政府。蒋老师提倡大家都来尝试素食或者减少肉食,是很好的意思呀。荒漠之风

To reduce meat-eating is indeed equivalent to reduce suffering

Vegetarianism or to reduce meat-eating are actually very much helpful in reducing the pain of animals during slaughtering process. This can be done by every one of us, not necessary to wait until it has been implemented by government. In fact, if we pay attention to reduction of meat-eating and suffering of those animals, eating and dining using public fund will be despised by the public. Moreover, we can protect our ecosystem by reducing meat-eating, do you think the government sector still be comfortable to persist in their way? The change of society will lead to the change of government behavior; good citizens definitely will have good government. Professor Jiang's encouraging vegetarianism or reduction of meat-eating is a good idea indeed. Wind of hungriness

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

我们是肉食动物

我们是肉食动物,几万年来情况都是如此。并且,要多少蔬菜才可以向70亿人提供所需的卡路里、蛋白质和营养物质?而数量相对少的肉类就可以做到。一些发贴人指出米是“神奇食品”,亚洲人吃米要比西方人吃肉食好,但是,这米是干燥的米还是水稻田里种出来的?而且,诸如玉米和食糖这类蔬菜需要大量水来种植、大量能耗来收割。

We are a meat eating species

And have been for millions of years. Additionally, how much vegetation would it take to supply 7 billion people with the calories, protein and nutrients provided by smaller portions of meat? Some posters have pointed out rice as a "miracle food" and how Asians consuming rice is superior to Westerners consuming meat, but is that rice the dry kind or the kind that requires flooded rice paddies? Also, vegetables like corn and sugar require large amounts of water to grow and a lot of energy to harvest.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

素食与环境保护没有直接关系

如果认为肉食是残忍的,那么素食同样也是残忍的。

在中国,做个素食者消耗的资源恐怕比肉食者更多!另外,必须指出,动物蛋白并非完全可以替代的,素食不应大范围提倡。

非素食者

No direct connection in between being vegetarian and environmental protection

If creophagism is consider as a cruel attitude, being vegetarian is the same. In China, perhaps resources consumed by vegetarians are more than that consumed being creophagy! Despite, one must highlight that animal protein cannot be completely substituted, hence, we shouldn’t widely promote practicing vegetarian. Non-vegetarian.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

提倡但不强迫

我已经素食近3年,觉得对环境也许有好处,也许危害更大,但是有一点可以明确:对某些人来说,素食是非常利己的事情。
我的体重从3年前的96KG降到现在的87KG,不痛苦。素食以后脑子清醒一些,神经衰弱大为好转。
同时发现自己不知不觉变换了生活的方式和习惯;过去吃饭吃什么,怎么吃,对我来说十分重要,花钱花精力,而现在却朴素自在多了。
就我个人而言,减少了大量的食物方面的开支,我也认为一定减少了对环境的索取。

encouraging but not forcing

I have been a vegetarian for nearly 3 years. I think it may be beneficial to the environment,or maybe harm will outweigh benefit,but one thing is for sure: to some people, being a vegetarian is really good to their health. My weight has been reduced form 96KG three years ago to 87KG, and the process is pain-free. Since I have been a vegetarian, I can think better and suffer much less from neurosis. In addition, I changed my habits and lifestyle unnoticeable. In the past, I had to spend time in thinking about where and what to eat , but now I am more care-free when it comes to food. Personally speaking, I think being a vegetarian costs less and ask for less from the environment.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

吃素十年的感受

本人吃素已经十年了。
之所以选择素食主义的生活方式,理由有三:
一、健身
吃素之后,感觉神清气爽,一身轻松,身体没有了污浊感。许多人误以为不吃就营养不良,但本人体重已从10年前的不足120斤增至目前的160斤,身体健康,只要搭配合理,完全可以避免营养不良!
二、净心
慈悲心得到保护,对他人及动物的痛苦敏感。始终坚持人与人之间互助互爱、和平相处的原则,反对虐待动物。
三、环保
人类为了吃肉,养了大量动物,不仅人为地破坏原有的生态平衡,草场过载造成沙漠化加剧,动物排泄物更会增加温室气体排放、污染水源,造成各种环境问题。

My feeling of being a vegetarian for 10 years

I have been a vegetarian for 10 years. I chose vegetarianism for the following 3 reasons: Firstly, health. Since I have been a vegetarian, I feel refreshed and relaxed. Many people have this misconception that vegetarianism will lead to malnutrition; however, my weigh has increased from less than 60KG to 80KG, and I am really healthy. If the diet is balanced, malnutrition can be avoided! Secondly, circumcise the mind. Stay merciful and sensitive to the pain of others and animals. Stick to the principle of mutual help/care and peaceful coexistence. Against mistreatment of animals. Thirdly, people breed animals to meet the need of meat consumption. This leads to the ecological unbalance and exacerbation of desertification, and excretion of animals will increase the emission of green house gases, pollute water resource and cause all sorts of environmental problems.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

素食与非素食的区别

1、素食制作过程和烹调方法都很简单,能源消耗非常少。
2、肉食容易腐烂,常常需要使用冷冻设备,耗电量之大可想而知。
3、肉食气味难闻,对健康不利。因摄入过多动物性食品而引发高血压等疾病。
4、现代饲养动物时,经常使用激素等生长剂、以及各种药品,食用后对人体不利。
5、受农药的蔬菜相对受污染的肉类来说,危害程度小,可预防程度高。
6、许多动物疫病因食肉而传染给人类,难以治愈。
7、在中国,因利益驱动,动物食品加工制作中存在的安全卫生问题相当严重,不容忽视。
8、中国素食者少,肉食者众,动物权利普遍不受认同,虐待、虐杀动物的现象普遍存在,与之相应的是,人与人之间的关系冷漠,缺乏基本的信任与相互关爱。

欢迎光临本人创建的公益组织交流平台——公益慈善论坛www.loongzone.com

The difference between vegetarian diet and non-vegitarian diet

1. The way of producing and cooking vegetarian food is very easy and the whole process costs very limited energy. 2. As meat vulnerable to be rotten must be frozen in refrigerators, it's easy to imagine how much electricity it will consume in the process. 3. The reak of meat is harmful to health. In addition, it will cause high-blood diseases if people have too much meat. 4. In the modern animal feeding, growth hormone and other kinds of medicines are often used, which will harm people's health if the meat is eaten. 5. Vegetables contaminated by pestcide are less harmful than polluted meat and it's easier to prevent the contamination of vegetables than that of meat. 6. The plague infected to human from eating meat is hard to cure. 7. The safety and sanitation problems in the food prodution process are still too serious to be ignored on China's mainland. 8. In a country with a large population of meat eaters like China, we are still facing problems concerning animal rights and interpersonal relations. The phenomena such as maltreating animals are common, which implies that the animal rights aren't widely knowledged and respected. Meanwhile, people are lack of the least mutual confidence and cares, which signfies the indifferent interpersonal relations in our society.