Warming to Vegetarianism?

In a previous post, Kiersten noted recent research suggesting that individuals—such as yours truly—who maintain a vegetarian diet appear to have higher IQs. There is also a good deal of evidence to suggest that vegetarians are healthier. Now, there is reason to believe that we are less detrimental to the environment, as well.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Blaming the bovines

As it turns out, Americans may have been blaming the wrong culprit for global warming. A new United Nations report finds it’s not being caused so much by our gas-guzzling SUVs as by our guzzling of oversized steaks, chops and burgers.

It may be time to exonerate the global auto industry and point the finger of blame at businesses like Omaha Steaks, McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse and Morton’s of Chicago that put profits — and well-fed customers — over cooler air.

The U.N.’s “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report suggests the world’s vast cattle herds actually emit more of those nasty greenhouse gases that increase climate heat than all the “cars, planes and other forms of transport put together.”

The 400-page report notes a disproportionate portion of global warming gases are created by the bovine’s persistent belching and flatulence as well as the byproducts as they’re fattened for the slaughterhouse.

The feed consumed by America’s 1.5 billion cattle, for instance, require fertilizer produced with fuels that spew massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere — unnaturally raising its temperature.

Including both fertilizer and vegetation lost to grazing pasture, our nation’s love affair with beef accounts for nearly 10 percent of all emissions of CO2, the most common greenhouse gas.

Further, their flatulence and manure emit more than one-third of methane, another greenhouse gas, which warms the world 20 times faster than CO2. And cattle produce more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain. [full text]