Eating animal products is bad for the planet. It’s also bad for men. Scientists have proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Regardless of what these industries tell you, their products are the major cause of the climate emergency as well as a host of preventable diseases. 

American men consume the most meat on the planet per capita and it is costing us dearly.

First, let’s get some context. By now it should be painfully clear to every informed global citizen that we are in the midst of a climate crisis of epic proportions. In case you have been in a coma, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the past five years have been the five warmest since record-keeping started in the 1800s. In fact, the planet has seen forty-two straight years with abnormally high global temperatures.

Did we do this? Well, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Climate Change, “There’s a 99.9999 percent chance that humans are the cause of global warming.” Sounds pretty certain.

And, what activities contribute the most to greenhouse gases? According to the website Climate Nexus, “Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after fossil fuels and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.”

World Watch takes it a step further, suggesting that when all aspects of animal agriculture are taken into consideration, animal agriculture may be #1: “Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”

Whatever study you care to believe, it should be clear to all of us by now that eating animal products is horrific for the planet. Plainly put, we should certainly be consuming a lot less of them. Yet, worldwide meat consumption is on the rise. In 2012, The Economist reported that global meat consumption almost doubled between 1961 and 2014: from 6.6 billion to 62 billion chickens; from 376 million to 1.5 billion pigs; from 331 million to 545 million sheep; from 173 million to 300 million cows; from 142 million to 649 million turkeys; and from 103 million to 444 million goats.

So, who is hoovering up all this meat? It may come as no surprise: The United States ranks highest. We consume almost 216 pounds (98 kilograms) per capita per year, just out gorging the Australians. But, it is not all Americans. It is men who eat the most, consuming a shocking 57 percent more meat than women, according to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Similarly, in a Vegan Society survey found that 63 percent of those who identify as vegan are female, while only 37 percent are male.

Dudes, we have a meat problem. But, why? Somewhere in our DNA, it seems, lurks this belief that eating meat is somehow part of being “manly,” a way to communicate to ourselves and the world that we are real men.

Sigh.

The online magazine Civil Eats posits, “Men are less likely to view plant-based diets as nutritious or tasty. They also don’t tend to believe that plant-based foods provide enough energy.” Of course, we now know that this is all myth. Plant-based diets are, in fact, incredibly healthy and provide all the needed fats, carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins (note: D and B12 supplements are usually taken by plant-based eaters because both come from non-food sources: the sun and soil.) Even better, whole food, plant-based diets provide us with crucial amounts of fiber, which most Americans lack, and copious amounts of disease-preventing phytonutrients. This has been proven time and time again and written about in highly respected, peer-reviewed journals.

So, if we know the nutritional facts, what gives? Why do men continue to cling to this notion that meat is a necessity? As one study published in Appetite reports, vegetarian men are perceived as up to 35 percent less masculine than those who follow more standard diets. Another study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that men who eat a lot of beef are perceived as 20 percent more masculine and 30 percent less feminine than vegetarians.

It is 2019, right? Men are staying home to raise kids, changing diapers, and crying in public these days. I certainly hope we have evolved beyond the need to kill a deer and drink a cup of its warm blood to prove we are men. Or, at least I hope we have.

Dr. Richard Twine, Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences at Edge Hill University and head of the Centre for Human Animal Studies makes it clear: “Meat remains for many men a stable, if arbitrary, hook on which to hang their gender identity.” In other words, men eat meat because it makes them feel more manly. It has nothing to do with nutrition. It is a social construct based on age-old cultural beliefs: a true man must hunt to obtain flesh-based protein to make him strong like an ox.

Maybe we have not evolved as far as we like to believe.

Furthermore, meat-eating has actually been shown to be linked directly to men’s self-esteem and perceived social status. The study published in Appetite examined this complex relationship, too. When subjects were given a choice of a meat or a non-meat option in the study, the greatest demand for meat came “from those who rated themselves lower in socioeconomic status.” In other words, it was being used as “a substitute for the status they lack.”

This might be what makes it hard for men to avoid meat consumption when amongst their male peers. University of Southampton researchers Emma Roe and Paul Hurley explored this relationship between masculinity and meat-eating. They found that, according to Roe, while “many men are interested in eating less meat,” they have a hard time doing so without “social permission.” Roe and Hurley summarized their findings by stating, “Men who took part in the year-long research say they have experienced social isolation among groups of male friends and acquaintances after reducing their intake of animal protein.”

All the while, we now know meat-eating (and dairy consumption) is associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and different types of cancers, among a myriad of other health problems. These myths about meat are, quite literally, killing us.

And then there is erectile dysfunction. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “One surprising early sign of life-threatening heart problems is erectile dysfunction…Vegetables — not Viagra — are the best way to prevent not only ED, but the heart disease it’s linked to.”

Some cultural critics even go as far to say that the way men view animals as food, essentially as subjects of domination, is structurally related to the way men often subjugate women through violence, pornography, and prostitution. As the thinking goes, male domination takes many forms: animals, nature, and women. As Dr. Carol Adams, author of The Politics of Meat writes, “Through symbolism based on killing animals, we encounter politically laden images of absorption, control, domain, and the necessity of violence. This message of male dominance is conveyed through meat-eating — both in its symbolism and reality.” Food for thought, for sure.

It seems it is time to “man up” and take responsibility for the damage we are doing to the planet and our bodies. Men, we have a meat problem and it is time to address it. We need to put down the steak knife more often and pick up the salad fork instead. Even the Terminator knows this now. In an interview with riseofthevegan.org, Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, “I’m slowly getting off meat, and I can tell you, I feel fantastic…If they tell you to eat more meat to be strong, don’t buy it.”

Original article: https://medium.com/@briancharleshart/