Vegetarianism and The End of The Circle of Life

Vegetarianism and The End of The Circle of Life


I never thought much about vegetarianism growing up. I tried to become a vegetarian for a week at age 12, simply because I thought I “didn’t like meat,” and it did not last. I was very addicted to chicken nugget Happy Meals. I still do not think I could say goodbye to them.

Like many humans, I have a gift for dissociating what I eat with where it came from, and a certain level of comfort with being at the top of the food chain. I often think back to the Circle of Life when reassuring myself that eating meat is ok. In nature, sometimes creatures get eaten by hyenas. It is terribly sad, but most of nature is just animals brutally eating one another. We have found a way to do that that feels so polite we don’t even realize it’s happening anymore. But we’re still creatures of nature, right?

But what really is nature is anymore? At a certain level, nature will always be wild animals and bugs divided into predator and prey. But increasingly, our planet is becoming all about agriculture – especially as we plow down more and more land to create farms. At some point, humans raising animals and then selling their meat will become just as – if not more – prevalent than good old fashioned killing your own dinner.

While this seems a better alternative, it’s a problem. Here’s why, explained as simply as possible:

1. Agriculture is the biggest cause of global warming, mostly because of deforestation and methane emissions from livestock.

2. A great deal of what we’re growing is just to feed the animals we’re about to eat. According to the EPA, “about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production.”

3. The global population is going to rise by about 2.5 billion people in just over 30 years, to over 9 billion.

When you add that up, you see that if people keep wanting to eat meat the way we do today, we are going to significantly harm the planet, possibly within our children’s lifetimes. When you look at it that way, vegetarians start to look real smart. They’re not preparing for the end of days – they’re making a sacrifice to help prevent them, even if they don’t necessarily realize it and just think lambs are nice and shouldn’t get murdered for dinner.

Romanticizing “the Circle of Life” starts to seem backward-thinking when you consider how human influence has totally changed the planet. Our idealism and our ability to use science have been the driving factors, and I think it’s entirely possible that humans will evolve to be controlled by those just as much as our “animal instincts.”

This isn’t an argument telling you to become a vegetarian. I don’t think social change is rooted in one person presenting facts and someone else taking them and changing all their habits. Creating social change is like creating a new language. When two cultures first combine, the adults start talking in a haphazard pidgin language, an impromptu combination of words with no particular rules. But when their children are born, they create a creole language, a solidified primary language with all the bells and whistles of any other language, including consistent verb tenses, etc.

Just like a language, social change is often driven by necessity, combined with circumstance. Right now, vegetarianism is still a somewhat fringe lifestyle in America, but we’re grasping now and again for our meatless mondays and our chicken fingers made out of fungus. But I would not be surprised if the next generation, or the next after that, became largely vegetarian.

I’m not speaking as a vegetarian here, just someone who works in marketing who likes to make a bet on the consumption habits of the future. (And maybe help vegetarians arm themselves with an argument while I am too weak to resist chicken fingers.) But let’s see if I’m right.

Becky Lang