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Letter: Vegetarianism Is the Way to Go

To the Editor:

Tamar Haspel uses selective data to make a strange and convoluted argument that meat-based diets are not always worse for the environment than plant-based diets (“Which Foods Are Worse for the Environment?” front page, March 13). Haspel acknowledges that “eating beans is better than eating beef.” But then the writer goes to great rambling lengths to argue that vegetarianism doesn’t necessarily lower one’s carbon footprint, since some vegetarian foods, such as broccoli, have a greater impact on climate than pork or chicken in terms of calories per kilogram. “Calories are the great equalizer,” says Haspel. But how many vegetarians get all of their 2,000 calories a day from broccoli? Why not compare meat with high-protein vegetarian foods such as beans, nuts and legumes in determining the environmental impacts of different diets? If Haspel did that, a plant-based diet would win hands down as having the lowest impact on the environment.

There is ample evidence that eating plant-based foods is better for the environment than eating pork or chicken. Haspel even refers to the 2011 study by the Environmental Working Group showing that production of beans (and many other vegetarian staples like nuts and legumes) generates less greenhouse gas emissions than every kind of meat. So why does Haspel try to detract from this central fact by mentioning other lifestyle factors that affect climate? Let’s not forget that the title of the article is “Which Foods Are Worse for the Environment?” If we stick to that topic, beans and legumes, not chicken or pork, are the way to go if you want to reduce your carbon footprint via diet. Considering that the World Health Organization and the United Nations both endorse plant-based diets for human survival, Haspel’s article justifying the meat-eating status quo is irresponsible to say the least.

Lucy Goodrum

Reading, Vt.