Why should we care?
The benefits of cow and oxen labor, as opposed to slaughter, are numerous. The step of implementing this animal as a labor force would be a crucial and pivotal one for saving the environment. Not only would it cut down on the need for polluting tractors and other land-destroying farm equipment, but it also would make the area that farmers are able to plow smaller.
This shift from factory to organic family farms is, according to TIME, a crucial one for drastically affecting climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture contribute up to 12% of annual global emissions. Includes land use changes and deforestation driven by the meat and dairy industry, this figure can be closer to 20% (more, the report noted, than what’s produced by transportation). Using cows for labor instead of meat would stop, and in some cases reverse, damage done to the environment.
In addition, the amount of water required for beef consumption is absolutely staggering. To put it in perspective, the average American eats 105.7 pounds of red meat per year, according to the US Census Bureau. The average American human who takes 7-minute showers with standard water pressure consumes 5,110 gallons of water per year, but it takes 5,214 gallons to raise a single pound of beef. So by eating meat for one year, the average American actually consumes 551,119 gallons of water. Therefore, to make up for one single year of meat consumption, the average American would have to not shower for 107 years.
Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N.’s Nobel Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, affirms the monumental impact that giving up meat can have on climate change.
“Give up meat for one day [per week] at least initially, and decrease it from there,” he told Britain’s Observer newspaper. “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity.”
What you can do
Though going vegetarian is probably the best thing you can do for both your body and the environment, you don’t even have to stop eating meat right away. There are many steps you can take to ensure better quality of life for cows and help the environment.
- Cut back a little bit at a time. Many people get discouraged going at it all or nothing, so try to make incremental changes in your diet and lifestyle.
- Find a cow share or a co-op in your area that treats their animals humanely. These places frequently also offer milk and dairy products that do not contribute to the veal industry. A national list of resources can be found at www.coopdirectory.org.
- Go to www.savethecow.org and make a donation to the farm, which rescues dairy cows and oxen that would have been put to slaughter. You can make a small donation or even adopt one of the cows in their pasture.