Opinion OPINION: Democrats Discuss — Beyond your burger By Chloe Ruffennach Posted on October 7, 2019 10 min read 0 0 187 Chloe Ruffennach, a junior studying strategic communication, is the communication director of the Ohio University College Democrats. The following article reflects the opinions of the author and does not reflect the thoughts of the Ohio University College Democrats. This is a submitted column. Please note that these opinions do not reflect those of The New Political. Nothing screams “America” quite like a barbecue. Beef patties and charred hotdogs are in our country’s DNA. So, it comes as no surprise that Americans are tough to sway when it comes to giving up meat. The hesitancy comes from both a fear of the unknown and consumers’ resistance toward giving up something that they love. That is completely understandable. When I first made the switch over to vegetarianism, the thought of having to give up breaded chicken and bacon was paralyzing. For a while, this was enough to make me yo-yo between continuing to eat meat and becoming a vegetarian. However, when people think about switching to a plant-based diet, they often think about what they will lose rather than what they will gain. Going vegetarian often implies lower-calorie meals, lower cholesterol, overall healthier food, less environmental impact and, not to mention, the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from not devouring a dead animal. With increasing alternative options like the Impossible Whopper and the endless array of black bean concoctions on menus, it is truly the most convenient time to make the switch. To put it in the simplest terms possible, the meat industry is one of the leading causes of climate change. According to The New York Times, if every American switched to a vegetarian diet, “we’d save 330 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.” Making the switch to a plant-based diet presents one of the simplest opportunities to make a difference every day. The meat industry also uses an absurd amount of land and water. In fact, the meat industry accounts for 41 percent of land use in the U.S. This is a wasteful allocation of one of our most finite resources. This land could be used for numerous, more beneficial purposes, but unfortunately, it will continue to be excessively distributed to the meat industry unless the demand for meat declines. The amount of water needed to produce meat is also absurd. According to foodtank.com, it takes 1,799 gallons of water for one pound of beef and it takes 576 gallons of water to make one pound of pork. With water being a vital resource, these gallons are wasted in the production of a food source that is both produced immorally and easily replaceable. It is crucial that those who are concerned about our climate crisis and the allocation of our resources consider these wasteful expenses the next time they refuse to order their pasta without meatballs or their salad without chicken. It is also not as healthy as commonly thought. Meat, especially red meat, has been linked to numerous heart problems and even cancer. A vegetarian diet is an easy way to cut calories as well. While there are, of course, unhealthy vegetarian snacks and meals to indulge in, for the most part, vegetarian alternatives slash several calories out of the equation. It is important to note that while there are health concerns where eating animal products is necessary, eating meat when it is not a necessity has the potential to expose you to other health issues. Not only does eating animals come at a cost to the environment, but it also costs you your health as well. I don’t think I need to go into the immorality of eating animals. There are few instances of humanely raised animals, but for the most part, your average deli is not adhering to these standards. Even then, these animals are still being killed prematurely for our consumption. If you’ve ever seen a viral slaughterhouse video then you know that the conditions these animals endure are inhumane, more often than not. If you can’t bear to watch the video, you shouldn’t support that abuse through your daily eating habits. Amazing replacements like Gardein and Morningstar bring delicious alternatives to your home. When eating out, vegetarian burgers are dominating restaurants with the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burgers which are both creating delicious alternatives to one of America’s favorite meals. With so many options, it’s hard to make excuses not to at least try to occasionally swap out meat for these alternatives. While veganism is, of course, the healthiest and most environmentally sound diet, I won’t pretend that this is an easy lifestyle switch. While I strive to eat vegan myself, I often do fall prey to the limitations of Athens’s vegan options and end up ordering something that is merely vegetarian instead. However, cutting out meat is becoming increasingly easier and, therefore, striving towards plant-based eating habits should be at the forefront of almost everyone’s dietary priorities. Every little change counts, so even if it only means eliminating meat from one meal a day, these small switches can lead to significant change. And perhaps cutting out meat gradually will eventually lead to a complete change. Being a vegetarian or vegan should not be considered a trend. It is a lifestyle choice that could save your health, innocent animals and the planet. I am incredibly proud to have a plant-based diet, and I have found that after roughly a month I didn’t even crave meat. I also take a lot of pride in the fact that OUCD will not be allocating any of their budget toward meat products to provide the most sustainable food options possible. My greatest hope is that other people and organizations will do the same in the pursuit of a healthier environment and lifestyle.