Updated: Jun 1
Should there be a law making it a crime to eat a hamburger? Read on.
Our love affair with beef is destroying the climate and our environment along with it! The stats are staggering. To make a quarter pound hamburger it takes 6.7 pounds of grain and forage, 52 gallons of fresh water, 75 acres of grazing land to grow feed crops and 1,036 BTUs of fossil fuel for production and transport. The world consumed 130 billion pounds of meat in 2016 and that number is skyrocketing. You do the math.
Then there is the amount of lethal methane generated by billions of animals worldwide which accounts for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the impact on land and water resources to raise them. I’m not even going to get into the heart disease and cancer problems induced by the cholesterol and saturated fat. There is only so much a person can handle in one article (and I’m not talking about me). Eventually we will have to modify of our dietary and agri-business behavior. Why not make a start now?
Now that I’ve painted this rosy picture let me re-ask the question: Should there be a law making it a crime to eat a hamburger? If cows could handle firearms, we wouldn’t need a law would we. The rural backroads would be rivers of blood and it wouldn’t be bossy’s. Before I get to my answer there are a couple of things we need to consider.
The human species has been a meat eater since prehistoric times. There is, however, debate about why we started and how much we ate. Ironically some anthropologists claim that climate change accelerated our meat-eating tendencies. As the climate warmed, grasslands replaced green plants and we were forced to find additional sources of nutrition. Along with the grasslands came grazing animals and that was that. This changing red meat diet contributed to the growth of the brain and the next thing you know we had digital watches.
Of course, at that time there were only hundreds of thousands of humans compared to thousands of millions today. In addition, the amount of meat they ate was significantly less than the amount we eat today. Must we really stop eating beef? Some think that if we stop eating meat our brains will shrink and our bodies will whither like kelp in an oven. Others claim that while protein and calorie intake is critical to our species, we can survive without meat. As a dietary concern, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. We should be smart enough to figure out how to add other protein and calories to a diet? After all, we did figure out how to make those watches.
Legislating the intake of meat does have historical precedent. The infamous “forest laws” prohibited the commoner from killing and eating forest creatures like the deer and the rabbit although it did not stop Robin of Locksley who occasionally was known to grill up a rack of forbidden ribs from a King’s boar. Currently 20 out of 28 states in India have laws regulating the slaughter and consumption of cattle. In one state cows and calves are actually photographed and catalogued for their safety. Catholics were banned from eating meat on Fridays for centuries (and still are although none of them seem to know that) and while you were probably not burned at the stake for this discretion, you would spend the rest of your afterlife being consumed by hell fire. Then there were occasional bans on “killer meats” that actually ‘killed’ you. There are many other examples.
As for the ethical part of the equation (you know, slaughtering billions of abused animals) we can always rely on the Bible to clear things up.
Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (Nuff said - top of the food-chain!)
Leviticus 11: 1-47 (uh-oh)
And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, these are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. (That seems to muddy the water but those of us who live in the State of Wisconsin feel pretty good about the Badger thing.)
“When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. (I love the bible.)
Mark 7:15-19 (Finally, clarity)
There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” Thus, he declared all foods clean. (I’m sure glad those guys asked.)
…..and then, my personal favorite.
It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
Seemingly encouraged by the Bible, we are eating a hell of a lot more beef. In the second half of the 20th century, global meat consumption increased fivefold, growing from 45 million tons of meat consumed in 1950 to almost 300 million tons today. If nothing changes, this figure is set to double by 2050. Bottom line: We don’t need all that beef and it’s killing us in more ways than one.
We must change our ways soon or the humble cow will have the last laugh. However, I don’t think everyone is quite ready to replace that beef paddy with a tofu burger. Here’s an idea. Before we decide to throw people in prison for smuggling filet mignons into their kitchens let’s try these things first. They can make a big difference.
1. Order or cook up an Impossible Burger or some other plant-based burger. A lot of people like them and I’m one. You can also slip it in with the spaghetti sauce and no one will know the difference. The average American chows down 222 pounds of meat of which about 30 lbs. is ground beef.
2. Opt for chicken and pork whenever you can. Make them your meat of choice. That won’t make the vegans happy, but a pound of beef requires several times the natural resources than a pound of pork or chicken.
3. Do meatless Monday. Yup, it’s a thing. Many are finding an awful lot of good alternatives to meat and fish this way. This is just a simple calendar change for older Catholics who were prohibited from eating meat on Fridays. If you really have guts, try for two days a week.
4. Limit the size of the portion of meat you eat. My wife and I started splitting a steak and found that half a steak actually filled you up. I didn’t want it to, but it did. We used to have these huge steaks and chowing down the second half of it was just an exercise in pure recreational eating.
5. Put your meat in a big salad. You know – a steak salad. That way to don’t need to have as much meat and you don’t really miss it because it was getting in the way of all those cucumbers and croutons anyway. I’m serious.
6. Bake up a loaded stuffed pepper or potato. You can ram a lot of crap in those babies and they really taste good and fill you up. Honest.
7. Marry a vegan. Becoming a vegan or vegetarian is, of course, is the gold standard.
I'm not sure I can pull the trigger on that hamburger law just yet. However, eating less meat is extremely important for the well being of future generations so please cut back. It actually makes sense to do so on both existential and health care levels. Think about it.
“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” Roy E. Disney