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Eat less beef January 28, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Burma, Dalai Lama, Environment, Zen.

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama — a Rambo-less movie trailer. And here’s a depression-prevention technique inspired by the Dalai Lama.

A day in the life of a Zen monk, thanks to Sujatin.

An article on the environmental horrors of the beef industry, in the U.S. and around the world:

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. . .

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

A U.S. State Department briefing on what was done at Davos to help the Burmese people.

And Thailand has a new Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, an ally of former P.M. Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup.

And a little story about the Bhiksu Dhamakara from the Infinite Light Amitabha Organization of Canada.



1. saltwetfish - January 28, 2008

“Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens”

Are we saying that if we all stop eating animal products.. all a suddenly all those grains will be used to feed the hungry all over the world?

Strange.. I always thought it because of corrupted, war, uncaring government, etc.

2. Gerald Ford - January 28, 2008

Ironically, the increased popularity of biodiesel is causing a shortage of corn and other vegetables around the world. Some governments are cracking down and preventing exports of crops that are needed to feed people. Saw it on msnbc.com recently. Also, corn grown in Iowa for biodiesel creates a lot of run-off that kills fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Corn is a crop that often requires more fertilizer than others.

Long story short: there’s no such as a free lunch. Whatever we consume has its costs, so there’s no magic bullet, only vigilance and moderation.

If one is not comfortable cutting out meat entirely, then being a meat reducer is a nice way to go. My in-laws, who are Japanese eat only small amounts of meat, and they’re quite healthy for being in their 70’s. People need surprisingly little survive, but we’ve just gotten into a habit of making it the cornerstone of our plate. A modest amount of meat, coupled with a nice array of fruits, grains and vegetables is satisfying, but healthier and better for the environment.

Instead of going all the way as a vegetarian, simply try one meal a day. If you like it, add more, and if not, then one meal is a big accomplishment all its own. 🙂

3. Gerald Ford - January 28, 2008

P.S. The story of Bhikkhu Dharmakara (also known as Amida Buddha or Bodhisattva Dharmakara) is of course central to Pure Land Buddhism. Not all Pure Land Buddhists see it as a real story; some see it as an allegory for one’s own aspirations for Enlightenment. In Jodo Shinshu, we often refer to it as a living myth because it is a story that isn’t historical, but speaks to all people who come upon the Dharma (symbolized by the king meeting World-Sovereign Buddha), and awakened to a great desire to help all beings. 😀

4. saltwetfish - January 29, 2008

hi Gerald,

I agree with you totally, but my point is should environmentalist (or buddhist) use dishonest info or half-truth for good intentions?

As I have mentioned, people who are hungry now are due to poor distribution of food and bad governances amongst other reasons, even if we have 100 tons of food, it may not get into the hands of the hungry.

To say that people who are hungry will get fed because there are less cows is simplify looking at the wrong issues and worst blaming meat-eaters for people’s hunger when its bad government and lousy foreign policies (e.g. sanctions) from most Western nations.

5. Marcus - January 29, 2008


I’ve been a vegie for decades and would never consider going back to meat, but – for people who like the stuff – Geralds suggestion of reducing consumption is a very good one. It helps you, the environment AND the animal you are not eating.

Another god idea is to only choose cruelty-free meat. The way the animals who end up on your plate get treated is simply disgusting. Choosing cruelty-free meat is good for your health and much better for the poor creature that is killed for you.

And, yes, it’s true that hunger is caused through bad government etc and not through meat-eating alone. But by not eating meat you are doing your little bit (your own personal responsibility) to ease a huge problem and to not cause the ill-treatment and death of another sentient being.

Thank you to the Tricycle Blog for bringing this to our attention.



6. saltwetfish - January 29, 2008

Hi Marcus,

Totally agree with you…I just thought the way some environmentalist approach this issue should be more balanced. That’s really all. I was not refutely the call to reduce meat consumption, just the way how the information is used to “urge” people to do something, via guilt, shame and fear and misinformation.

7. Marcus - January 29, 2008


That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about that – the way that (and I’m guilty of this) it’s easy to try to persuade people to do something (eat less meat) based upon guilt etc, rather than based upon their more positive traits such as compassion.

But, clearly, that’s a tricky line, one that’s easy to cross.

Thank you.

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