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Go Green Go Vegetarian

By Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Raising animals for meat adds to global warming in a big way. We owe it to
Mother Earth to save her from the terrible consequences of climate change.

The Himalayan glaciers have been the perennial source of water for our rivers
such as Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra and Sindhu. Now the disturbing news is that
the glaciers are receding due to global warming. This problem of increase in
global temperature is real and in India it will cause irredeemable damage in
more than one way if it is not addressed. One will find it difficult to believe
the contention of some ecologists that Ganga would cease to be perennial in six
to 40 years, that the other rivers of Himalayan origin would suffer the same fate.

As a human being I have a custodial relationship to Mother Earth. Global warming
testifies how indifferent and careless we have been in fulfilling our care-taking
responsibilities. Now that we see the seriousness of this problem we need to
take certain ameliorating measures. A 2006 report from the United Nations reveals
the surprising fact that "raising animals for food generates more green house
gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined." Tens of billions of
animals farmed for food release gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon
dioxide through their massive amounts of manure. Animals such as cows and sheep,
being ruminant, emit huge amount of methane due to flatulence and burping.

"The released methane", the report says, "has 23 times the global warming potential
of carbon dioxide." It is very alarming to note that the livestock industry alone
is responsible for 37 per cent of human induced methane emissions. To make room
for these animals to graze, virgin forests are being cleared. The livestock industry
also needs vast stretches of land to raise mono-crops to feed the animals. The
carbon dioxide that the trees and plants store escapes back into the air when they
are destroyed.

Growing fodder for farmed animals implies heavy use of synthetic fertilisers
produced with fossil fuels. While this process emits a huge amount of carbon
dioxide, fertiliser itself releases nitrous oxide - a green house gas that is
296 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Alarming though these facts are, I
see in them a reason for hope. All that people all the world over have to do
is to avoid eating meat. In the absence of demand for meat there will no more
be any need for breeding millions of animals for daily slaughter. If this
happens, the reversal of global warming is a certainty.

The meat lobby cannot do anything if the change is from the individuals. A single
individual by simply not consuming meat prevents the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes of
carbon dioxide emissions in a year. This is more than the one tonne of carbon
dioxide emissions prevented by switching from a large sedan to a small car.

One needs to have an honest commitment to save Mother Earth, who has been
relentlessly patient and magnanimous since she began bearing life. There are
a number of reasons for one to be a vegetarian. People given to eating meat
think that a pure vegetarian diet is optional. But now they have no choice if
they are alive to what is happening to this life-bearing planet. There is no
justification whatsoever for one to continue to be a non-vegetarian, knowing
the devastating consequences of eating meat.

Promotion of vegetarianism does not require any legislation by the state. It
does require a change of heart on the part of those who eat meat anywhere on
this planet. I cannot appeal to the tigers and wolves. They are programmed to
be what they are. Being endowed with freewill, only a human being can make a
difference by exercising responsibly his or her choice.

The threatening inundation from the melting icebergs in the North Pole is avoidable
and the perennial flow of the holy Ganga and Yamuna would continue if only there is
a change of heart on the part of every meat eater. If it is too much for one to
become a total vegetarian, one needs to give up at least red meat. This is the
only option one has.

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