A green livestock industry is possible without giving up meat

As I read last Thursday's news article, "Vegan activist talks about living without meat, rescuing animals from farms," I couldn't help but think of Ron Swanson, a character from the NBC show "Parks and Recreation."
The man is obsessed with meat. Describing his dinner, he once said, "I call this the turf 'n' turf. It's a 16 oz. T-bone and 24 oz. porterhouse. Also, whisky and a cigar. I am going to consume all of this at the same time because I am a free American."

He would be disgusted by veganism, a strict form of vegetarianism that excludes all meat and animal products.
That means no grilled cheese on Thursdays, no buffalo mash and no chocolate chip Campus Cookies. Gene Baur, the man interviewed for the article, became a vegan when he was 23 because he realized that, while he claimed to love animals, he was still eating them.
Now, we may not all be as intense as Ron Swanson when it comes to our steak dinners, but meat deserves a little respect. After all, when the pilgrims and American Indians ate together on the first Thanksgiving, they celebrated with turkey and deer meat, not steamed broccoli.
Baur mostly argued that the meat industry is causing more trouble than it's worth: "The livestock industry actually contributes more to climate change than the transportation industry." It's true that processing meat burns fossil fuels and raising cattle on a certain diet releases methane into the atmosphere, but that's a problem with the process, not the product.
I agree with Baur in one respect: The livestock industry does need to change. Like many other industries, it needs to find a way to "go green," and we should be focusing more on creating a way to make the processes safer for the environment than trying to kill the industry altogether.
Besides, plant-eating has its environmental consequences, too. Many farms still use pesticides to protect their fruits and vegetables, which can leak into water supplies and harm humans and animals alike. If we gave up meat and ate vegetables on a massive scale, it would require vast amounts of water, possibly causing shortages and drought.
And, as far as methane goes, we could eliminate it by decreasing the cattle population, but the human body's inability to process the carbohydrates in vegetables causes vegans and vegetarians to be much gassier than meat eaters.
So, not only would we be miserably eating salads every day, but we'd also be suffering that rather embarrassing consequence as well.
Then, there's the moral argument in the article: One of Farm Sanctuary's current campaigns "is to stop the use of injured animals ... in human food." There are multiple organizations dedicated to making sure humane practices occur when killing animals.
For example, the American Humane Association offers certificates to any farms that practice humane processing techniques.
It's realistic to believe we can make the meat industry more environmentally friendly and humane. What's unrealistic is to believe that one day, we will stop eating animals altogether. Meat is engrained in American society.
What would a Fourth of July barbecue be without hamburgers and hot dogs? Are we expected to celebrate our independence with a garden salad?
In defense of the free Americans like Ron Swanson who just want to eat their steaks in peace, veganism isn't a necessary evil.
It's possible to decrease the environmental and moral consequences of meat-processing while still enjoying a bowl of buffalo mash from Southern Bistro.
Jessica Williams is a sophomore English and writing, rhetoric and technical communication double major.
Contact Jessica at willi2jn@dukes.jmu.edu.

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If we gave up meat and ate vegetables on a massive scale, it would require vast amounts of water, possibly causing shortages and drought. - i'd like to challenge you on this statement. do you know how much water is needed to produce one ounce of meat?

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