Emily S. New York

What Are We Really Eating?

It's time that we address the impact that our diets are having on our health and the environment.

Dear Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump,

Throughout my high school career, I’ve noticed that we are not always educated on some of the most important and necessary skills that we need to survive and prosper in the modern world- such as how to do our taxes, or applying new technology to everyday life. Analyzing the impact of the animal agriculture industry on our health and the environment proves that there is a necessity for education reform in nutrition.

At a young age, students in the public school system learn about the standard food pyramid, starting with grains, moving on to vegetables and fruits, then dairy and protein, and finally, fats. They’re taught that following the guide of the food pyramid promotes a healthy diet, a concept that most people take with them throughout life. What they are rarely taught is that meat, dairy, and eggs (all examples that most nutritionists recommend within the food pyramid) can have detrimental long-term effects on their health. In 2012, a study was published by Harvard, in which the diets of 100,000 men and women were studied for twenty-two years. The study revealed that red meat consumption was linked to shorter life spans, due to all of the cancers and diseases that they can cause. Lighter meat can be just as damaging, proven by a study conducted in the Netherlands linking poultry consumption to obesity. The damaging effect that dairy can have on our bodies cannot be dismissed either. Consuming dairy on a regular basis contributes the risk of developing heart disease, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, to name a few, due to the hormones that milk contains. Even eggs have long-lasting effects, and with their high cholesterol levels, regular consumption can increase your risk of developing diabetes and various cancers. The rotting flesh and secretions of cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals are treated like critical components of our day to day diet, despite the fact that they all can lead to a shorter life. To make matters worse, doctors are funded on our illnesses- therefore, they have no problem promoting a diet that could ultimately harm us. We cannot rely on doctors to regulate our diets anymore- we need to start prioritizing nutrition-based education at a young age if the overall health of America is to ever improve greatly.

Animal agriculture also has a huge impact on our environment. Many people attempt to reduce their part in environmental destruction by carpooling, turning off the lights before leaving their homes, or taking shorter showers. In science classes teachers continuously preach about these small things that kids can do to protect the planet. However, teachers rarely address the fact that our diet can have a huge influence on the environment. The meat, dairy, and egg industries are destroying our planet right under our noses. According to the documentary Cowspiracy, animal agriculture emits a variety of greenhouse gases at immense levels. Animal food production has been proven responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases worldwide, while all methods of transportation exhaust about 13% of greenhouse gases. One of the most threatening gases livestock emits is nitrous oxide. It has 296 times the global warming effect that carbon dioxide has, and livestock contributes 65% of human-related nitrous oxide emissions. We could limit greenhouse gases even more effectively than biking or carpooling by simply eliminating animal products from our grocery carts. In addition, animal agriculture wastes unimaginable amounts of water. In his article “Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues,” David Pimentel addresses the steady decrease we’ve seen in water supply, and why it has been disappearing so drastically. Many people regard fracking as the greatest consumer of water, as it uses approximately 70 billion to 140 billion gallons annually. Most would think that nothing could top this number- but Pimentel explains that animal agriculture takes the cake here, using approximately 34 to 76 trillion gallons of water each year. Just think about how much water could be preserved if animal agriculture was no longer a dominant industry. Environmentalists are concerned about depleting water sources worldwide, yet they fail to acknowledge that the greatest waste of water occurs within the animal product industry. Lastly, students rarely learn about the correlation between our diets and deforestation. Would you be surprised to learn that 1 to 2 acres of rainforest are destroyed every second? Probably not. You might find it upsetting, but we are all familiar with deforestation, and the average American probably encountered this fact at some point during middle or high school education. Now, let me ask you this: did you know that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction? This is a fact that everyone should know- considering that most Americans consume or buy products created by animal agriculture every day. Ultimately, this industry is one of the leading threats to the environment worldwide.

Obviously, there’s no way that we could eliminate the production and consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs, and other animal products across the nation during your term in the office. That is not what I’m advocating- I simply would like to see more students being educated about it, so that they can understand how what they eat is impacting not only their future, but the future of our planet, and make their own choices based on this information. To do this, I suggest that curriculum about animal product industries are proposed and advocated by our government, from elementary through high school grade levels. Clearly, our doctors won’t always be honest with us about what is truly healthy. Livestock farmers rarely expose- or even understand themselves- the true impact that their industry is having on our planet. How long will this ignorance be blissful? People need to be educated about this issue before it’s too late.


Emily S.