Thursday, April 2, 2015

Getting a Grip on America's Cow Culture

By Edith Carpio

Who would have thought that eating a hamburger is as harmful to the environment as driving a car? This idea is presented by husband and wife duo, Dennis and Gail Hayes, in their new book, Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment. The book and its authors, featured in National Geographic, highlights ways we can create a healthier and more improved future for cows, humans and the planet.

According to the Hayes, climate change is more impacted by the production of one pound of beef than the combustion of one gallon of gasoline. In producing beef, there are many processes that need to be executed, and the processes are expensive. For example, making nitrogen fertilizer distributed on fields of corn consumes a lot of energy. Equipment like tractors used to plow grain fields require vast amounts of gasoline. Gas from tractors, and from trucks which transport beef to and from various places, is costly not only in a monetary reason, but it gives off a significant amount of CO2 and there is no secret as to how that affects climate change. The production of beef does not only burn a hole in our pockets but in our environment as well.

The Hayes also write about ag-gag laws, which are laws that protect the agriculture industry. No one is allowed to release video footage of how animals are handled in slaughterhouses; which means that animals are being treated extremely poorly and the government does not want the people to know exactly how poorly the animals are treated.

The book also profiles a Hawaiian Ranch described as "cow paradise" named Pu'u O Hoku. The cows graze the ranch, and the ranchers move the cows using fences. The cows graze the grass and then defecate on the land, which then provides necessary vitamins to land. There is no maltreatment to the cows, which ultimately results in healthy cows and healthy land. Ultimately, the cows are used for beef, but it is quality beef that people should be consuming. There is a vast difference in how the Hawaiian ranchers run their ranch compared to how people in the agriculture industry in slaughterhouses treat cows, and other livestock.

Dennis Hayes is a long time environmental activist, who organized the first Earth Day in 1970. His wife is a huge part in inspiring him to do greater work for the environmental movement. As a duo, they keep coming up with ways to bring awareness to environmental issues, one of them being writing this book. For now, he and his wife are concentrating on cows, since they have significant influence in our society; they need to be treated better, which would lead to a better quality of life.

Hayes says that he is hopeful for environmental issues like global warming, ocean pollution, species dying out, to be improved on sometime in our future. Hopefully, other people will join him and cause the environmental movement to go to great lengths with even greater results.

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