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Commentary: A New Year's Resolution Without Meat

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Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States.
Courtesy of Paul Shapiro
  Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States.

Climate change: it could hardly be clearer that it's personal -- certainly in consequence, yet also in responsibility. 

While policy leadership from Washington on climate issues is no doubt critical, fortunately, we don't have to wait on Washington to take action. Rather, we can take personal responsibility ourselves, starting with our New Years resolutions.

This New Year's, we can each top our list of resolutions with one that will make life better for us, for our planet, and for all of its inhabitants. This resolution, which starts and ends on our dinner plates, is a pretty easy one to honor. 

Earlier this year, D.C. Mayor Vince Gray, touting the benefits of vegetarian eating, noted "a plant based diet has been shown to use fewer resources and cause less pollution." He's in good company.

More and more climate experts are reaching the same conclusion: we need to raise and consume fewer animals for food. Simply put, animal agriculture is responsible for nearly one-fifth of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and is recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." 

Worldwide, people use land more for raising and feeding farm animals than for any other purpose, with the meat industry being a key driver of deforestation.

Eating fewer animals and more plants may be the easiest and tastiest way to help put a fork in global warming this New Year. That why experts like those at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health support the popular Meatless Monday campaign: what's good for the environment -- eating less meat -- is also good for public health.

Perhaps it's time for us to stop digging the hole deeper with our forks. 

Instead, we can use those forks to be part of the solution. After all, we do live in one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in the country. Whether it's the plant-based fare at Ethiopian, Thai, or Chinese restaurants we crave, or more traditional veggie burgers and pasta marinara, there's hardly a better place on earth to pledge to eat more plants.

Commentator Paul Shapiro is vice president for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States in Washington. To share your opinion, visit wamu.org/commentaries.


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