April 28, 2019

BARAN | Earth Day Upgrade

Print More

<

p class=”p1″>Another Earth Day has come and gone. The lengthy Instagram stories of natural wonders have timed out and with their expiration has also gone most of the Earth-friendly sentiment they delivered for a day. Some of my friends in the Ecology House, where I live, complain about people who give the Earth shoutouts over social media on Earth Day but only continue with the same wasteful lifestyles the next. While I have noticed this phenomenon with certain people, it’s not the biggest problem I see with Earth Day. The holiday celebrates our planet and advocates better treatment of it, but it also ignores our treatment of Earth’s cherished non-human constituents. We treat animals so badly with our heedless land use and eating habits that maybe they even deserve a day of their own.

Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22 every year since 1970. The holiday demonstrates support for environmental protection and promotes changes in human behavior and policy to achieve a more environmentally-friendly society. Most people support action to make our Earth healthier but ignore a vital part of that goal: animals.

Everyone loves farm animals. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think baby cows and chickens are cute — and maybe this love is genuine. But I personally don’t see how one can “love” something while continuing to buy and consume its meat. That’s a bad case of cognitive dissonance if I’ve ever seen it. And it has devastating consequences for the environment.

As everyone who’s remotely climate change-literate knows, greenhouse gases drive the warming of the planet by trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Well, big news folks. Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions behind fossil fuels. But that’s not all. About 70 billion animals are grown every year for consumption, and they all need space to live, water to drink and food to eat. That puts a huge strain on Earth’s resources. About one-third of the planet’s ice-free land is set aside for growing livestock. Similarly, about one-third of the world’s grain production and nearly one-fifth of the Earth’s available freshwater are funneled into the Faustian deal that is animal agriculture. These facts aren’t buried deep in some academic journal. They’re widely documented and easily found via a quick Google search.

Of course, there are ways to sustainably raise livestock, but it’s hard to do so on the scale needed to feed the world’s population. Meat and dairy consumption are both expected to rise by about 70 percent by 2050, mostly due to developing nations advancing and demanding more animal products. This will only require more resources and foist further detriment on the environment. To do anything meaningful to help the environment in respect to animal agriculture is to slash consumption of animal products or cut them out of your diet completely.

Besides the harm animal agriculture imposes on the environment, though, there exists what I believe to be a more meaningful reason to stop consuming animal products: to end the needless  suffering we cause to livestock. Farm animals are sentient beings with the capacity to feel pain, yet in factory farms across the nation, we treat them as mere units of production. They live in deplorable conditions in close quarters only to end their lives prematurely in an industrial slaughterhouse, where thousands of animals can be processed — killed — every hour. Pigs have their tails cut off to prevent their peers from biting them down to stubs in a stress-induced frenzy. Chickens that are fed hormones to increase their mass grow too quickly for their bones to keep up and sit on broken legs in the dark. Atrocities abound in large-scale animal production. We have a moral prerogative to prevent harm coming to innocent beings, which is incongruous with eating meat in the modern system of factory farming.

In these times, there is no reason to eat meat besides the taste, which is not a good enough argument. The blind eye most of humanity turns to the harms of animal husbandry is unacceptable, especially on an occasion like Earth Day, when we’re supposed to appreciate all of our planet’s living constituents and encourage action to help the environment. I am of the opinion that there needs to be a holiday analogous to Earth Day to appreciate animals and recognize the great injustice our society is doing to both them and the Earth by continuing to raise them for consumption.

Christian Baran is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at cbaran@cornellsun.com. Honestly runs every other Friday this semester.