Dr. William Harris, a retired Kaiser Permanente
ER doctor and the author of The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism,
described ways people could lessen the impact on the Earth
by eating conscientiously.
“All essential nutrients come from plants, not animals,” Harris
said. Animals give only secondhand nutrients derived from what
they eat. “We don’t need animals as food for nutrition,” he
Energy loss, Harris said, occurs at every
stage of the food chain. “Bug
eats plant, mouse eats bug, owl eats mouse.” At each
exchange, the energy of the original food source, the plant,
Cows, Harris said, consume a lot but produce very little. According
to various sources, individual cows need between 25 to 50 gallons
of water and about 100 pounds of grass each day, but can only
produce so much beef and dairy products: up to eight gallons
of milk a day. And of course, approximately 65 pounds of manure
daily, which also contains potentially harmful greenhouse gas,
methane. According to goveg.com, 80 percent of U.S. agricultural
land is used to raise farmed animals such as chickens, cows,
and pigs. According to Harris, 70 percent of U.S. crops are
used to feed animals, not humans. According to flex.com, if
could reduce their meat consumption by 10 percent, “it
would free 12 billion tons of grain, enough to feed 60 billion
According to a July 2003 article from the
redefiningprocess.org Web site, sustainable food systems shrink
our ecological footprint.
That is, sustainable eating reduces our impact on the environment.
“The way the food system provides food often severely
damages the health of the biosphere through soil and aquifer
deforestation, aggressive use of agrochemicals, fishery collapses,
and the loss of biodiversity in crops, livestock, and wild
our current food systems are sustainable, the article says “we
consume more resources than nature can regenerate and create
more waste than nature can recycle.”
According to Harris, people can shrink their ecological footprint
by becoming vegetarians and vegans because feeding humans
grains, fruits, and vegetables requires less land and fewer
According to the Redefining Process article which is titled “Eating
up the Earth,” the food footprint consists of four
components: cropland, pasture, fisheries, and energy. These “account
for all of the meat, fish, grain, and vegetables that are
consumed directly by humans, as well as all of the meat,
and energy that is used to feed, harvest, and ship food products
to consumers.” The article pointed to the footprint’s
growth: In 1961, 27 percent of the earth’s biocapacity
was occupied with proving food to humans; today the food
system requires 40 percent, 47 percent if nonedible crops
tobacco and cotton are included.
According to a January 2005 Consumer Reports article, “You
are what they eat,” humans are, as a result of being
at the top of the food chain, “vulnerable to pathogens,
drugs, and contaminants consumed by the animals we eat.” The
article reported that each American ate “an average
of 137 pounds of beef, chicken, fish, and shellfish … in
Harris added that we can get more nutrition from 400 calories
of spinach, eggplant, and peanuts than from 400 calories
of chicken or 400 calories of oil.
Harris has been a vegetarian since 1950, is a board member
of the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii‘i (VSH) and gives
lectures for the VSH on Thursdays on Olelo channel 52.
For more information on the Sierra Club, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Bill Harris and his book, visit
vegsource.com/harris/ and vsh.org.