By Adrianna Owens
A little over five years ago, I walked into a burger joint that had recently opened in my hometown. And though it was brand new, it was the same as any other conveyor-belt fast food place I had ever been to. Cheap furniture, a bright backlit menu, bored teenage staff and the same frozen patties that are reheated and sloppily thrown onto a bun to be served to an impatient customer.
When the glass doors parted, the air that smelled of grease-soaked meat attacked my lungs and as my family approached the cold metal counters to give their orders to the cashier, I declared that I wasn’t hungry and went to sit outside.
Remembering the assault of meat-induced nausea, I vowed never to eat meat again.
I have since been bombarded with people shoving pieces of steak in my face while an “mmmm” trembles from their lips, or people who are shocked because they “cannot live without bacon.”
What these people fail to realize, and what I don’t bother trying to explain anymore, is that my commitment to a vegetarian lifestyle reaps more benefits than their love for steak or bacon.
Currently, California and Nevada are knee-deep in a drought that leads to the overpumping of groundwater due to lack of reservoir water. According to the Los Angeles Times, groundwater pumping has caused parts of the Central Valley of California to sink. This, in turn, diminishes some of the agriculture that comes from the Valley and gets shipped across every state in the country, such as almonds, lemons and artichokes.
Not only does the drought affect growth of agriculture and price of produce, it affects everyone living in California and Nevada. An article that has been widely shared via Facebook in the past few days encourages people to start rationing their water, as NASA reports only one year of water left in California’s reservoirs. The article doesn’t mention, however, that while humans typically drink less than one gallon of water a day, a cow could drink up to 23 gallons a day according to a North Dakota State University study.
By mass-producing meat for the $1 sandwich at a typical fast-food restaurant, we are breeding, raising and slaughtering too many animals that otherwise wouldn’t take in the estimated 660 gallons of water that goes into making one hamburger.
Many people take action against this issue each year on the first day of spring when an annual “Meatout” takes place. On this day, people across the nation vow to eat vegan for a day. The Meatout website has an interactive graph the pledger can scroll through that shows them just how much animals and water they can save by adhering to a vegan lifestyle.
If one person vows for one day a year, they spare approximately .5 animals and a surprising 3,700 gallons of water. However, if they make the commitment of not eating meat or animal by-products every day of the year, they save 204 animals and a staggering 1.35 million gallons of water per year.
One measly hamburger that may or may not fill the consumer’s stomach costs them almost two months of showering, states The Water Education Foundation. This means one pound of beef takes almost six months of showering to produce.
While being bombarded with Facebook and Twitter posts about how to ration water, people tend to get overwhelmed. They try to take shorter showers, water their grass less and turn the faucet off when they are brushing their teeth. While these methods do conserve water, a substantial amount is being used to raise the animals that eventually end up on their plate because “it’s too hard” to not consume animals.
The taste of meat has not been on my tongue in years. The smell of bacon no longer triggers my mouth to water. The excuse “it’s too hard” never crosses my mind.
By choosing a vegetarian lifestyle, I am not only embracing the fight against animal cruelty, but I am doing my part in the need for water conservation.
I am by no means shoving my lifestyle down anyone’s throat. I am, however, encouraging those who want to help our current drought situation to try a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, for as long as they can or want to.
Whether it be one meal or hundreds, abstaining from the consumption of meat can save more water than making sure a faucet isn’t dripping. The path toward keeping our agriculture thriving and our showers running starts with one person’s switch toward a diet without meat.
Adrianna Owens studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.