(The East Bay Times — formerly The Contra Costa Times)
Via the newly signed Farm Bill, the Obama administration is offering $100 million to bail out the livestock industry.
California residents are told to turn the tap off when brushing our teeth, foraging animals are having trouble finding food, and some communities may run out of water altogether.
But the livestock industry — which brings animals into the world only to kill them — will go on.
This despite the fact that a single cow can drink up to 23 gallons of water daily and that it takes 1,600 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, compared with 100 gallons for a pound of wheat.
This despite the fact that millions of additional gallons of water are used to irrigate livestock crops, wash solid and liquid waste off concrete floors, clean blood from slaughter equipment, and other uses unnecessary in the growing and harvesting of plants.
Turning off our water while brushing our teeth will never have the impact on water conservation that choosing broccoli over beef will have. It is literally a drop in the proverbial bucket, but it makes people feel like they’re doing something.
Don’t get me wrong. I certainly do my part. My husband and I have several rain catchment tanks, which hold 1,000 gallons of rainwater. Seeing exactly how much water you have to use makes you fully appreciate how limited a resource it is.
Inside, we rerouted the plumbing from our bathroom sinks and showers so all of the gray water that otherwise would run to the sewer is now diverted onto our vegetation-rich hillside that helps sustain the wildlife in our yard. That, and we support our 15-year-long vegan diets with produce from locally grown gardens: our own.
We do all this simply because it’s the right thing to do. Supporting the water-, land- and resource-intensive livestock industry is not.
It makes absolutely no sense from a health, ethical or resource perspective to go through animals to get to the nutrients that animals get because they eat plants. We need to skip the middle animal and go directly to the source: plants. When we do, not only do we spare animals a miserable life and a violent death, we take in everything that’s healthful and necessary.
With the exception of vitamin B12, all the nutrients we need are plant-based. (Not even B12 is animal-based; it grows on bacteria — not animals). When we skip the middle animal, we get everything we need: vitamins, minerals (which come from the ground — not animals), phytonutrients (phyto means “plant”), antioxidants (think: color) and fiber, which exists only in plants.
The livestock industry is an unsustainable business that is not long for this world. The question is how many lives — human and nonhuman — will suffer, and how much damage will be done before it ends? There’s still time never to find out.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, award-winning author of six bestselling books, including “The Joy of Vegan Baking,” is a regular contributor to National Public Radio and has appeared on the Food Network and PBS. She lives in Oakland.