In the Catholic Here/Now Blog a Jesuit priest's article on Vegetarianism was published. It first appeared on the Jesuit Human Rights Research Center website.
He recalls Dr. Lee Sang-goo a medical doctor who talked about the importance of eating vegetables, fruits, and grains back in 1988. Many who took meat for granted were shocked at the remarks. The doctor was excluded from appearing in rebuttal discussion programs and even confessed that it was difficult for him to live in Korea because of the opposition to his remarks.
At that time it was a popular opinion that eating meat was necessary for human metabolism to receive nutrients. But now all has changed not only do we hear talk of vegetarianism but also veganism not only abstention from meat but all animal products: eggs, cheese, and milk. Today even in the military we have the opinion that a menu for vegans is necessary.
Now, there is a consensus that a vegetarian diet is directly related to health. The word vegetarianism comes from the Latin word 'vegetus' meaning healthy, lively. Here we can see that from ancient times vegetables were seen as connected to health and vitality.
It is important to know that there are different types of vegetarians as the public's interest in a vegetarian diet has increased. (1) Pesco does not eat meat and poultry but eats fish. (2) Lacto-ovo does not eat meat, fowl, or fish but will eat dairy and egg products. (3) Lacto does not eat fish or eggs but does eat dairy products. (4) Ovo they don't eat dairy products but eat eggs. (5) Vagan not only does not eat meat and fish but all animal products including honey. These detailed classifications are indicators of how much interest in vegetarianism and the will to practice vegetarianism has increased.
It is not that humans have not eaten meat in the past. However, the development of distribution networks and science and technology induces many people to consume easily more meat. An issue is the livestock factory farming methods that prevail to meet the huge demand for meat.
Factory farming brings about more environmental harm than one may think. Forests around the world are being cleared at an incredibly fast rate for this mass livestock breeding. Remembering that feed must be grown in addition to the deforestation for livestock, and we have a vicious cycle that is getting worse.
We have not only the destruction of forests but the existence of huge amounts of methane gas emitted by cattle. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the number of forests to absorb it decreases, which inevitably poses an environmental problem.
In addition, we have human rights violations arising from the threats to the basic right of survival of the indigenous peoples living in the tropical rain forests. In addition, wild animals living in these areas lose their habitat and face death. What is more serious is the fact that the more the forest is destroyed due to the excessive expansion of the livestock industry, the more the probability of contact between wild animals and humans increases. This increases the risk that an unprecedented lethal virus from animals can be transmitted to humans. Since too many livestock are densely raised for cost-effectiveness and efficiency in factory-operated livestock sites, there is a very high probability that they will be exposed to the spread of these viruses.
A vegetarian diet could mitigate the rapid changes in the global climate crisis. It would be unreasonable to say that everyone should be vegetarian, but for many, even a small reduction in meat intake can reduce land reclamation for mass livestock production. And it must be kept in mind that greenhouse gases, especially from beef and lamb production, are overwhelmingly large.
To prevent deforestation, to protect the indigenous people and animals living in these forests, and finally, for our own healthy life, having a vegetarian diet, once a subject of surprise and rejection, is no longer so.
Everything in this world is interconnected. One piece of meat we eat harms forests and soils and causes great harm to the planet due to the increase in carbon dioxide. Our small gestures can be like the 'butterfly effect' shaking the Earth. There is a reason that rain or snow that falls from heaven falls on this earth so that it bears fruit and benefits people, rather than returning to the sky as it is.
Eating meat is a natural phenomenon and an option for anyone to choose, but promoting the livestock industry and consuming more meat is a different matter, making it an act of human selfishness that pollutes the land, and monopolizes food. We should face up to the fact that excessive meat consumption and more aggressive vegetarian recommendations are beckoning us not to leave the planet in a state beyond repair.