How Your Meat Eating Can Kill Vegetarians How Your Meat Eating Can Kill Vegetarians

How Your Meat Eating Can Kill Vegetarians

by Cord Jefferson

June 5, 2011

Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do The GOOD 30-Day Challenge (#30DaysofGOOD), a monthly attempt to live better. Our challenge for June? Go vegetarian.

Be they vegetarian, vegan, or an all-out steak fanatic, one thing most people interested in food can agree on is that their dietary choices are personal. "Far be it from me to tell other people how to live," is the polite refrain, and it's generally a good one. The problem is that it's increasingly wrong, at least when we're talking about food. Anymore, the behavior of meat producers is having a major impact—sometimes a fatal one—on the lives of anyone and everyone who eats vegetables, especially if a person eats only vegetables.

This week a German E. coli outbreak reminded us that there is literally shit on our vegetables—shit that can kill a person. E. coli outbreaks aren't uncommon, of course, but this one, thought to have originated with tainted Spanish cucumbers, has already claimed the lives of 15 people, and sickened more than 1,500. One of the heads of agriculture for Spain said they're now preparing to suffer a trade loss of "hundreds of millions of euros," as more and more countries join the list of nations blocking Spanish goods.

"But what does all this have to do with eating meat," you ask? Simple. Factory farming produces hundreds of millions of tons of animal poop, millions of gallons of which gets dumped into cesspools that can then leak and infect water used to irrigate crops. That's how E. coli, an intestinal pathogen found both in cows and humans, can spoil things like cucumbers and spinach. It's going from the cow's anus into your salad.

To be fair, a person can also get E. coli by eating food prepared by a chef who doesn't wash her hands after using the restroom. But all of the widespread outbreaks have their beginnings with animal dung. And factory farms, which produce 99 percent of America's meat, only exacerbate the problem.

According to experts like Dr. Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, "In chickens, [E. coli] bacteria cause a disease called colibacillosis, now one of the most significant and widespread infectious diseases in the poultry industry due to the way we now raise these animals." Colibacillosis, also called "E. coli diarrhea," is directly linked to overcrowding on factory farms. Worse is that studies have shown that if hens were given just a single quart of additional living space, the incidences of colibacillosis could decrease by about a third. But farmers don't give them that space, because profit is revered over public health.

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How Your Meat Eating Can Kill Vegetarians