The celebration of Earth Day calls for global citizens to consciously acknowledge their actions’ impact on the planet—a now-daily occurrence for many, thanks to the eco-conscious surge in society. The planet’s health is at the forefront of peoples’ minds, prompting compassionate activists everywhere to share their top, not-so-secret, “green” move: going veg. Despite campaigns that push meat and dairy as necessities, the science speaks for itself—animal agriculture is the leading contributor of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Helping promote greener eating across the US is Gene Baur, co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farmed-animal protection organization. Baur’s latest project, the Green Foods Campaign, gives participants the tools necessary to reach out to their local governments and communities in hopes of passing eco- and animal-friendly resolutions. “When compared with the difference you can make by simply eliminating or reducing meat and animal products from your diet, other aspects of green living pale in comparison,” says Baur.
In October 2009, Signal Mountain, Tenn., became the first town in the country to pass a Green Foods Resolution, lead in part by local activist David Cook. “I think it is part of many things that are moving in the right direction, including community-supported agriculture, organic farming, a greater commitment to vegetarianism, more car-pooling, [and] more questioning. It’s all tied together,” says Cook.
The Green Foods Campaign has since spread throughout the US; Alexandria, Va., passed a resolution in March, and many are pending across New York City. “Modern farming is concentrated, unjust, unsustainable, and depletes scarce natural resources. Veganic farming—no animal by-products or inputs, including manure—is developing and has the potential to revolutionize our food systems,” says Baur.
Despite scientific evidence pointing the finger at modern farming’s environmental impact, the debate rages on between farmers and activists. Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher who embraced veganism more than 25 years ago, speaks with authority on the subject, having been on both sides of the fence. “The older I get, the more effective my lifestyle speaks about my choices,” says Lyman. Lyman’s background plus his support of a plant-based diet, organic farming, and hands-on food production makes him the perfect candidate to discuss meat’s environmental impact—especially with the opposition.
In an upcoming and highly anticipated debate, Lyman will tackle the question, “Can you be a good environmentalist and still eat meat?” While Lyman and fellow veg activists will answer with a resounding, “no,” Nicolette Niman plans to argue the counterpoint. Formerly of Niman Ranch, which farms and promotes free-range, “humane meat,” Niman disagrees that foregoing meat has a greater environmental impact, despite her own vegetarianism. Lyman isn’t swayed by the humane-meat argument, saying it’s “a section of production [that is] one-tenth of one percent, which is of no impact to our future. This argument will always be touted by the meat-eaters; I hope to shed some light on the truth.”
Both Baur and Lyman are working for a greener, meat-free planet and believe change is on the horizon. “People are social creatures,” says Baur, “and we tend to do what those around us do. As there are more vegans circulating in the world, we’ll see more people coming to understand and adopt this lifestyle.” Lyman puts it more succinctly—“The future of our children and grandchildren depends on the choices we make today.”
For more information on bringing the Green Foods Campaign to your community, check out Farm Sanctuary’s start-up guide. To attend Lyman’s can’t-miss debate on May 20 in Berkeley, Calif., purchase your tickets now.
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