As a proposal, the United States’ governmental decision to decrease animal-based meats create a positive externality for humans environmentally, physically, and economically. Although consumers may have qualms with the proposal I describe above, the drawback creates a plethora of opportunities in personal lives and business realms.
Meat production and consumption affect the planet’s sustainability negatively. The numerous issues include deforestation, greenhouse gases, and resource depletion.
Deforestation arises when animal agriculture clears trees from forests to create space for their businesses. Moreover, the ecosystem is disrupted in the process when animals’ homes are disrupted. Greenhouse gases account for 20-30% of emissions where meat and dairy production are the largest contributors. In terms of animal agriculture, water is responsible for 70-80% of its footprint. Fossil fuels are depleted heavily. Consequentially, these issues lead to, ultimately, global warming and species extinction. Why? Trees naturally keep the land from overheating and acres of chopped trees results in carbon dioxide released in the environment. Species extinction affects biodiversity due to deforestation, pollution, and climate change (Mierlo, 2017).
A high percentage of soy and corn in the United States are given to the livestock. Synthetic fertilizers are formed by the usage of fossil fuels, and therefore facilitates extreme amounts of carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide are as a result of the fertilizers, and nitrous oxide is classified as a greenhouse gas. Bronchitis and asthma are linked to dust particles in animal waste. This affects the surrounding community and farm laborers and violates The Clean Air Act (Farm Animal Rights Movement, 2012). Lung conditions are more likely to arise once animal excrement is created. The excrement contains dust, thus poisoning the air quality of surrounding residents. The earth is in danger due to human-caused events, namely through manure production, synthetic fertilizer, and air quality.
The integration of plant-based meats are the solution to the environmental crises. More trees live because there is less space required for animal agriculture. Atmospheric emissions decrease because less methane and nitrous oxide emissions increases the air quality drastically. Animal waste, or manure, increases nitrous oxide levels and cattle, for instance, increases methane gas levels when they digest grains or grass. Less fossil fuels and water are needed to produce these alternatives because it takes several gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Animals living in forests can facilitate their offspring in a suitable environment without the disruption of deforestation (O’Neill, 2019). Therefore, the marginal benefit, or the advantages gained when a consumer uses a good, increases. The private benefits and social benefits exceed the private cost and the social cost because there is more good produced than harm overall. One concern is economic growth leads to an increased demand for meat, especially in the Western hemisphere. A larger demand affects you and I, your neighbor, and everyone living on planet earth (Hubbard, 2019).
Meat consumption promotes various health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and bone conditions. According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, high meat consumption increases heart disease by 60%, whereas a plant alternative, such as seeds and nuts, reduces the likelihood by 40% (Study, 2018). Meat producers, such as cows, pigs, and chickens have the possibility of possessing nitrates. Once humans consume meat, the nitrates mix with the person’s own substances which creates nitrosamines - carcinogens (Davis, 2013). On the other hand, plants produce opposite results. “According to various research studies, soy products like tofu, which are rich in isoflavones, may have positive effects on bone health in postmenopausal women with respect to improved bone mineral density, improved bone formation, and reduced bone resorption” (Staughton, 2019).
Economically, meat consumption harms the economy overall in factors of production from both a business and consumer point of view. Lawyer David Simpson explores how meat affects the economy in the United States statistically. The demand for meat, on a national level, costs residents and businesses at least $414 billion dollars each year in health, livestock care, and climate costs. Statistically, in billions, health care costs $314, fish production costs $4.5, inhumane animal practices are $20.7, the environment costs $37.2, and subsidies require $38.4. Simpson argues if these costs were included in the price of each package of meat or steak at a restaurant, then these prices would sky rocket. As a result, with exact costs incorporated, demand decreases (Friederich, 2017). Another economic concern are the millions of dollars paid annually on antibiotics infused in processed, animal-based products. The Food and Drug Administration lacks quotas for the amount of antibiotics given to animals under unsustainable conditions (McDonnell, 2014).
As an animal activist and vegan, my personal viewpoint originates in ethics and how society treats animals and the planet. I am not hostile over a family’s choice of barbecuing steak on a grill and serving turkey during Thanksgiving. Alternatively, I address facts through education and I feel it is morally imperative for others to justify their consumption rituals to more than them saying, “oh, I eat meat because that is how I was raised. That is all I know.” I hear multiple rebuttals as to why individuals are hesitant to lower their meat consumption. The primary two beliefs details that “meat is essential and purchasing animal-based products exercises my personal freedom.” Plants contain the necessary vitamins and minerals humans need. Some individuals are flabbergasted when they discover plant-based sources contain sufficient amounts of protein for bodybuilders, runners, and everyday people. Examples of protein-rich sources are nuts, seeds, lentils, peas, broccolis, rice, pastas, beans, avocados, potatoes, mushrooms, and many more. Economically speaking, the dairy and meat industry spends billions annually to market to the public on their products and pressures the United States Department of Health and Human Services to promote their billion dollar industry (Richardson, 2015).
One practical solution for the public to exercise their personal freedom mindfully is through Meatless Mondays, or when a family commits to not consuming meat for one day on a weekly basis. “It’s like taking their car off the road for five weeks or reducing their daily showers by three minutes” (Weeks, 2015). Personal freedom exists when a family chooses to continue their consumption habits as usual. Fossil fuels, gas-house emissions, and water usage are saved tremendously. The environment requires our efforts because not everyone has the financial means to replace their gas-guzzling cars to electric vehicles or convenience to ride their bike to work and to school.
Another solution to the meat-centric issue breaks down into three sections. As David Simpson proposes, firstly, the government establishes an excise tax on all animal products, meaning levied manufactured goods are taxed prior to when they are sold in the market. The animal products include any animal-derived ingredients as well. Secondly, the government distributes any United States citizen a tax credit. As a result, the majority of tax revenues are returned. Lastly, the United States Department of Agriculture markets and educates information towards the benefits of less meat consumption to the public. The responses to these plans are positive because they create positive externalities. “Progressives should love them for their positive impacts on human health, the environment, and animals. Conservatives should love the consumption focus, as well as the tax relief and reward of responsible behavior” (Friederich, 2017).
Arguably, tastes and preferences of animal-based meats shift toward plant-based alternatives, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. For instance, Beyond Meat’s chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Georgia sold out in four hours during their trial run. Plant burgers serve as a substitute of meat burgers. Therefore, the perfect competition exists between plant and traditional foods.The trend of plant-based food companies increases the opportunities for entrepreneurship and employment, while stimulating positive externalities one bite at a time on planet earth, its creatures, and human welfare.
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