Ash Wednesday is tomorrow and Lent begins – the 40 days (+ sundays) before Easter. It’s a time of reflection, repentance, preparation, and entering into some of the darker places of the year.
In many Christian communities, people choose to give up something as a part of Lent – a kind of fasting from something. Some people choose to ‘take something on,’ like a new spiritual practice – meditation, additional prayer, or practicing silence… to name a few.
I’ve been thinking about it for a couple months, but I’m not eating meat during Lent. Partly, this is a type of fast for me, giving up something I enjoy. But there’s another factor too, as I’ve learned more about global trade, economics, and poverty, there’s a lot that talks about how the American obsession with meat is hurting the poor around the world. For one, meat is a terribly inefficient way of feeding the world.
Currently, more than 70 percent of the U.S. grain harvest — and more than one third of the grain produced in the world is fed to cattle and other livestock. We could provide proper nourishment to more than a billion people if we used the world’s agricultural lands to grow food for human consumption rather than feed for cattle and other livestock.
A meat-based diet requires 10-20 times as much land as a plant-based diet. Nearly half of the world’s grains and soybeans are fed to animals, resulting in a huge waste of food calories. The extent of waste is such that even a 10% drop in US meat consumption would make sufficient food available to feed the world’s starving millions.
I think the other thing for me, is trying to (in a very small way) identify with many around the world who can’t afford to buy meat. My dad talks about how when he was small they only had meat once a week, and I know it’s different for me, I can afford it – but I can choose to limit myself to grow in understanding, stand in solidarity, and do my part to limit America’s meat consumption.
If you want to know more, check out this site. I doubt that i’ll stay vegetarian after Lent, but I’m guessing that I’ll eat less meat for a long time to come.
ps – happy new year! i have thoughts about these 2 important days fall on the same day this year… but no time to write them right now. 🙂