Letter to the editor: Vegetarian diet vital in battle against global warming
Although I will undoubtedly incur the wrath of many Addison County citizens and most of the dairy farmers, I feel compelled to respond to three November letters to the editor regarding climate change and saving the planet: on Nov. 1, of group of intelligent, conscientious people wrote; “Failure to act on global warming is at our own peril;” then, several weeks later Carolyn Van Vleck wrote, “Saving the planet means sacrifices;” and thirdly Willa Brown wrote, “Mandatory measures need to preserve the planet.”
Most everything stated by these people I agree with, but I strongly believe they did not extend their discussions far enough! What is needed now to help accomplish a three-part related big picture goal (preserving the planet, improving our health and treating animals humanely) is a global shift to a plant-based diet — yes what we put into our mouths. By ending animal agriculture and moving toward a vegan diet, we could eliminate the need to kill millions of innocent creatures.
As the author of “Healthy Eating, Healthy World,” Morris J. Hickey says, “In a world of sick, obese or starving people, suffering animals, and rapidly disappearing natural resources how can we possibly not come together and end all of this madness once and for all?”
I would first point out the following:
• Georgetown Environmental Review article “A Leading Cause of Everything: One Industry that is Destroying Our Planet and Our Ability to Thrive on It.” Oct. 23, 2015. “There is one issue at the heart of all these global problems — our demand and reliance on animal products.
• A report in “The Guardian” on May 31, 2018: “Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.
• Drawdown — “The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse Global warming” by Paul Hawkins, lists at number four the adoption of a plant-rich diet.
• Al Gore — our former vice president and later a spokesperson on climate change and the creator of An Inconvenient Truth, as well as a black angus cattle rancher, declared in 2013 that he was no longer consuming animal food. He gave in to critics in view of the World Health Organization’s 2006 study showing that raising livestock (cows, pigs, chickens) to feed people produces more greenhouse gases than all the transportation combined.
And still another critical reason to stop animal agriculture is because of the huge over-use of antibiotics (which are used to make that animas grow faster), but in turn causes drug-resistant bacteria, which now sicken two million Americans each year and has killed 2,300. (Food & Drug Administration)
Turning to a man’s physical health, a second part of this big picture, one can consult any of the many Forks Over Knives physicians to understand that we do not need dairy at all, nor all the protein a typical standard American Diet (SAD) provides. Among the most widely known would include T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., author of “The China Study,” which is still considered by many to be “the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted.” His central message is that “casein, the main protein in milk, is the most relevant chemical carcinogen ever identified.” Yes, casein can turn on cancer.
A second equally renowned doctor is Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., a Cleveland Clinic surgeon who examines the profound claim that most, if not all the degenerative diseases that affect us can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting our present menu of animal based and dairy foods. A definite must-read is Esselstyn’s “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”
Still another example of showing not needing dairy occurred this past August as part of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine when an international conference on nutrition in medicine took place. Hundreds of doctors stood outside the White House with a “Ditch the Dairy” banner. Instead of spending millions bailing out the milk industry, the government should ditch the dairy, says world-famous Dr. Neal Barnard.
And now on a personal note, as a 20-year breast cancer survivor with 27 positive nodes, I attribute my continued avoidance of metastasis in large part to eliminating all dairy and a gradual change to a plant-based diet. And to facilitate this move to a plant-based way of eating, more doctors — and yes our local doctors and Porter staff — must further educate themselves on the value of such a diet, for most of them did not receive such training in medical school. Then they must be willing to advance this treatment plan instead of just handling our prescriptions for pills. It’s prevention that’s needed, not just treating symptoms or a quick fix. Also the patients themselves have to learn how to accept personal responsibility.
Like so many Vermonters, going way back to when I was a student here at the college in 1956-1960, I too have loved being a part of the bucolic environment of cows munching and grazing in green pastures and then again in 1998 when my late husband and I moved from the San Francisco area and bought a house in Weybridge just across the creek from the Chaulker Farm. Now, though it is recognized that there is another dimension to this peaceful scene — a dark underbelly that the dairy industry’s Got Milk? campaign ( a bombardment of cleverly crafted ads and people wearing white mustaches) has convinced the public and even a large number of doctors that dairy is beneficial. (Yes, within the past year and a half a farm in the Springfield, Vt., area was legally penalized for inhumane treatment of animals).
Finally, in regard to the third part of this intertwined big picture goal — the cessation of horrible treatment and killing of animals — it would seem that many churches of every belief system could do more. Quoting from the Christian Vegetarian Association, “Those entrusted with the responsibility to spreading the message of love and kindness have been remarkably quiet when it comes to animal issues. Even though today animals are abused on an unprecedented scale, many of the clergy and other church authorities have not voiced indignation. To the contrary, churches routinely serve products of factory farming and resist efforts to have presentations about the treatment of animals.”
And still further one note, I think Middlebury College has not addressed this issue adequately enough either. Remember they did have the famous J. Saffran Froer, author of “Eating Animals,” speak at graduation in 2014, and the college’s own Rebecca Kneale Gould wrote several years ago in the Independent’s “Ways of Seeing:” “Even climate change is all about cows, costs, transportation and soil. Meat eating and climate change are inextricably bound together.” But nothing on a large scale seems to have resulted.
As Carolyn Van Vleck stated, I too “don’t want to sound like a total downer” or be viewed as a non-compassionate person. I’m not. But we are talking about long-term plan of saving the planet! For our state specifically, farmers will need financial help and guidance to bridge the gap until they can adapt to other means of production, which already many farmers have done. Short term solutions aren’t enough. See as an example the article on Henry Schwartz’s Elmhurst Dairy in Queens, N.Y., which after 90 years has ceased its dairy operations and started to pursue successfully four plant based milks.
Brains far more agile and much younger than mine can engineer this transition. If we can get someone up on Mars, then we must also save our earth. As we go forward to accomplish this three-part goal, I ask, doesn’t this topic warrant at least more discussion among all people and groups in our community and state? And if we do this, we must continue to remember the thoughts and words of some of history’s greatest minds: “ Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as mush as the evolution of a vegetarian diet.”- Albert Einstein. And “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” – Mahatma Ghandi
For those who after reading this are very angry and skeptical, I would recommend their watching at least some of the following: “Forks Over Knives,” “Cowspiracy,” “What You Eat Matters,” “Eating You Alive,” “One Bite at a Time” and “The Game Changers.”
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
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