The Modern Sacred Cow
A recent study led by scientists at Bard College in New York shows that beef has 10 times the environmental impact of eating any other kind of meat.
The study was done by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calculated the resources required to produce beef, pork, poultry, eggs and dairy, and it concluded that beef is by far the most environmentally damaging of any food that comes from animals.
In fact, producing beef requires 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than any other animal product, and it results in five times the greenhouse gas emissions. The study corroborates the findings of EWG’s 2011 Meat Eater’s Guide, which compared the climate impact of eating various foods.
The new study found that beef alone is responsible for about 60 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing all the meat and dairy in a typical American diet.
The authors recommended that policymakers consider changing food policies that keep certain foods artificially cheap. The lead author of the study stated, “I would strongly hope that governments stay out of people’s diet, but at the same time there are many government policies that favor … the current diet in which animals feature too prominently. Remove the artificial support given to the livestock industry and rising prices will do the rest. In that way you are having less government intervention in people’s diet and not more.”
The cow, in fact, has been a symbol of wealth since ancient days.
In India, the cow was revered because Hindus relied heavily on it for dairy products and for tilling the fields, and on cow dung as a source of fuel and fertilizer. This caretaking quality is what led the cow to a motherly figure status, (gau mata).
And what if I told you that the cow’s spiritual reverence may even be from it’s pyschadelic…poop?
Author Terence McKenna that religious reverence for the cow might be a result of early humankind’s association of spiritual experiences with the psilocybin mushroom with it…since the discovery of the mushroom was also in the animal’s excrement.
But for Hinduism it is based on the concept of divine omnipresence; the presence of soul in all creatures, including the cow. So, by that definition, killing any animal would be a sin and obstruct the natural cycle of birth and death. Krishna tended cows since it represented the symbol of dharma and references of the cow are present in the Vedas.
“The cows have come and have brought us good fortune. In our stalls, contented, may they stay! May they bring forth calves for us, many-colored, giving milk for Indra each day. You make, O cows, the thin man sleek; to the unlovely you bring beauty. Rejoice our homestead with pleasant lowing. In our assemblies we laud your vigor.”
-Rig Veda (4.28.1;6)
But it’s not only in India. Cultures all over the world revered the cow.
The ancient Egyptians sacrificed animals but not the cow, because it was sacred to goddess Hathor, and due to the contemporary Greek myth of Io, who had the form of a cow.
In Egyptian mythology, Hesat was the manifestation of Hathor, the divine sky-cow, in earthly form. Like Hathor, she was seen as the wife of Ra. In hieroglyphs she is depicted as a cow with a hat.
During the Zhou Dynasty, they were not often eaten, even by emperors. Some emperors had banned killing cows. In current Chinese medicine, beef is not recommended, as it is considered a hot food and is thought to disrupt the body’s internal balance.
In 1612, the shogun declared a decree that specifically banned the killing of cattle. This official prohibition was in place until 1872, when it was officially proclaimed that Emperor Meiji consumed beef and mutton, which transformed the country’s dietary considerations as a means of modernizing the country, particularly with regard to consumption of beef.
Modern days studies show how it impacts the environment and body, a Harvard study published that in the journal Nature Medicine, eating red meat delivers L-carnitine to bacteria that live in the human gut. These bacteria digest L-carnitine and turn it into a compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). In studies in mice, TMAO has been shown to cause atherosclerosis, the disease process that leads to cholesterol-clogged arteries and we know that clogged coronary arteries can lead to heart attacks. With heart health concerns and environmental impact, perhaps the ancient sacred cow might be better to just moo-along today.
So then… what’s for dinner?
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