T-Bone of Tofu?

How vegetarian and vegan diets can contribute to greener living

By Katie Marsico

vegetablesHave you gone green? Chances are, you may have already taken a stand for the environment by reevaluating the brand of light bulb you use or perhaps even the kind of car you drive. But have you ever considered that the type of food you eat also has an effect on the welfare of the planet? Several pet lovers make a choice to become vegans or vegetarians because they adore their furred, finned, or feathered companions, but some experts believe that eliminating meat or all animal by-products from the dinner table results in a variety of tangible benefits for the earth as well.

“There is a big link between greener living and a vegetarian diet,” notes Judith Kingsbury, a publisher from Fairfield, IA, who runs the website SavvyVegetarian.com. “For instance, it’s now well known that industrial agriculture, geared toward raising millions of animals … uses far more water to feed far fewer people compared to organic agriculture, geared toward a plant-based diet. It has [also] long been known that herbicides and pesticides pollute ground water, rivers, and lakes [and that] methane gas from cattle has been identified as one of the major causes of global warming.”

In addition, Kingsbury explains that the Amazon rainforest—an environment she describes as “an important mechanism for the planet to maintain optimum temperatures”—is fast disappearing as farmers require more land space to graze cattle and raise feed crops for animals being reared for agricultural purposes. Jessica Rushkin of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)’s Pet Nutrition and Science Advisory Service in New York, NY, agrees and goes on to emphasize that there are, of course, pluses to vegan or vegetarian regimens that extend beyond one’s desire to pursue greener living.

“Healthy and balanced vegetarian and vegan diets are usually lower in saturated fat and are often higher in fiber,” says Rushkin. “Vegetarians and vegans also tend to include more fruits, vegetables, and grains in their meals as a result of the elimination of meat. … Being vegetarian is good for your wallet, too. Replacing meat with fruits and vegetables can save money at the grocery store and can curb the urge to dine out at restaurants.” Nor does Rushkin deny the link that pet guardians sometimes make between their own animals and agricultural livestock.

“Caring for a pet or being emotionally connected to a dog or cat can definitely make a person think twice about the … well-being of a cow or chicken,” she emphasizes. Yet regardless of the reasons an individual might have for switching to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, Kingsbury believes that the initial transition might be difficult.

Ultimately, however, she reinforces the idea that the advantages of such a change—especially for people hoping to go green—are limitless.

“I feel that becoming a vegetarian can be more challenging than other ways of going green because food is such a basic part of our lives and such an important part of the social contract,” Kingsbury says. When it comes to cost, however, vegetarianism does have the advantage over buying a Prius, for instance. “Personally, I can always afford beans and rice, even though I can’t afford a new car,” Kingsbury adds.

All in all, everyone from animal-welfare advisors to experts on vegetarian and vegan nutrition readily point to the connection between how humans eat and how green they truly are. So the next time you have to decide between tofu and a T-bone, be sure to weigh the options carefully in conjunction with the many different ways men and women are learning to aid the environment. Who knows? That veggie burger might be the perfect opportunity for you to give Mother Earth an extra nod this April.

Can kibble choice make guardians greener?

Are you looking for a few options to help Fido and Fluffy go green as well? Recently, more and more pet guardians are considering switching their animals to vegan or vegetarian diets. But what’s the lowdown on removing meat from the food bowl, especially when those little tidbits of filet or tuna so often seem to equate to canine and feline bliss?

“Some pets can be vegetarian, too,” insists Lorelei Wakefield, a veterinarian from Stamford, CT. “Stores now offer several brands of vegetarian dog food and treats. Dogs can be vegetarians fairly easily as long as they are eating a balanced diet. Cats, however, have extremely high protein requirements, as they are technically obligate carnivores. Some cats do fine on vegetarian regimens, but there have been very few studies on this.” For the sake of being cautious, Wakefield recommends consulting your animal’s vet before making any major dietary transitions and offers a few other tips as well.

“For cats, I advise mixing in some regular [meat-based] food to stay on the safe side. Also, if you make home-cooked meals for your pets, be sure they are getting all the nutrients they require.”

For additional information, check out the following websites, courtesy of the Vegetarian Society: VegSoc.org/info/catfood.html and VegSoc.org/info/dogfood1.html.

Planet-Friendly Pet Recipe

Your dog can get ready for spring and be earth-friendly as well with these delicious vegetarian doggie cupcakes.

“Sniffin’ Down the Bunny Trail” doggie cakes

For the cake:
2 c. oat flour
3 eggs
½ c. honey
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. pureed carrots
¼ c. safflower oil
1 tsp. vanilla

For the frosting:
1 8-oz. package low-fat cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 Tb. honey

Preheat oven to 350°. Peel and dice the carrots, then puree the carrot pieces in a food processor. Combine the carrots with all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Place cupcake papers in a mini muffin pan (or a regular muffin pan). Spoon mixture evenly into the papers, filling close to the top (the mix will not rise very much). Bake 10-15 minutes if using the mini muffin pan or 20-25 minutes if using a regular-sized muffin pan. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Combine frosting ingredients together and whip until well mixed and fluffy. Decorate the cupcakes. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe taken with permission from The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook from the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company by Jessica Disbrow Talley and Eric Talley.

Books.DogBiscuitThe book is available for purchase at BN.com and Amazon.com.

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