Translator: Hélène Vernet
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Good evening. What if I told you that we can change the world
through our food choices? I challenge you in the next 12 minutes to open your minds and your hearts to the power of plant-based eating, and the fact that animal agriculture,
the raising of animals for food, has grown to become one of the most
damaging industries on our planet. But I want to make clear
that my intent is not to be judgmental, but instead, to increase your awareness and give you important information
which you may not know. Going greener with your diet could be one of the most powerful
and transformative decisions you’ll ever make in your life, for three significant reasons: It has tremendous benefits
for your health. It’s critical to the sustainability
of our planet. And it will widen
your circle of compassion. Health. We’ve all heard the saying:
“You are what you eat.” The number one cause
of death in our country, you guessed it, it’s our diet. Our standard American diet,
also known as “SAD,” has put our country at the top of the list
in the world for obesity, which increases the risk
for serious health problems. Overwhelming scientific evidence links the consumption of meat
and meat products to numerous diseases. Health costs related to meat consumption
in our country have skyrocketed to a staggering 50 billion dollars
every single year, and the World Health Organization
now places red and processed meat at the same danger level
as cigarettes and asbestos. Meat is the new tobacco. This was last November’s issue
of Time Magazine. More and more studies
over just the past few years are contributing
to the public’s growing awareness that we need to become
more critically aware of how meat can be harmful to our health. So you may ask: why are plant-based vegetarian
and vegan diets the healthier choice? There are so many reasons: a wide range of nutrients, beneficial fiber found
only in plant foods, antioxidants, and hundreds
of thousands of phytochemicals that protect the body
and support good health. Overall, vegetarians
have a longer life expectancy and substantially lower rates
of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer,
obesity, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s –
and the list goes on. But don’t just take my word for it. Support for vegetarian diets
comes from numerous organizations including the American Cancer Society,
American College of Cardiology, the Mayo Clinic,
Harvard School of Public Health, and the National Institute of Health, which says, “Vegetarians may be missing out
on grilled hamburgers at picnics, but they also tend to miss out
on the major health problems that plague many Americans.” Just take a look at the difference
in heart disease, the number one killer of Americans, between those who eat meat
and those who are vegetarian and vegan. The progression of many diseases
not only can be halted but reversed, sometimes
in as little as just two to three weeks by switching to a plant-based diet. Reducing and eliminating
the consumption of meat and meat products with a greener diet
rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
will lead to a healthier world. The Earth. It’s not only the health
of our bodies that’s at stake, it’s the health of our planet. This is what we’re facing now
at critical levels: climate change and global
warming, deforestation, depletion of our resources,
soil erosion, species and habitat loss, ocean dead zones, water and air pollution, and world hunger. These are not things
we can put off dealing with. We must now urgently reverse imminent
catastrophic environmental damage. Certainly, environmentalists
and legislators are rightly focusing
on reducing carbon emissions, and they’re investing in alternative
and renewable energy sources. But all of this would take
decades to implement, be enormously expensive,
in the tens of trillions of dollars, and there’s the complexity
of social, economic and political issues which must be dealt with
at a global scale. Because of this, you need
to know there is one thing that is a major cause
of all of these global problems, and that is animal agriculture. Here are just a few facts. Animal agriculture accounts
for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also the number one cause
of species and habitat loss due to deforestation for grazing
and growing of feed crops. In our country, it’s the main
cause of water pollution; it uses half of our water;
70% of our grain; and 80% of our agricultural land is used to feed
the 10 billion land animals that are killed every year for food. By contrast, you can cut
your carbon footprint in half by going vegetarian. The Stanford Environmental Law Journal states that our reliance
on animal products is a leading cause of everything, the one industry
that is destroying our planet. The United Nations Environment Program strongly states that a substantial
reduction of impacts would only be possible with
a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products. While policy leaders
and even environmentalists are largely overlooking this issue, there is something you can do right now. The single most powerful
action you can take to help save our environment
and resources is to shift to a plant-based diet. Compassion. I’m going to tell you the story
of an animal in a factory farm. Worldwide every year,
56 billion land animals and 90 billion marine animals
are killed for food. But I’m not going to show you
any graphic images or videos, you can easily find these on the internet. Instead, I want you to imagine
and visualize in your mind what I have to say. This is the story of a sow. “My entire life, I’m kept
in a meadow gestation crate, in half darkness,
on a graded concrete floor. I can’t even turn around. Confined and unable to engage
in any of my natural behaviors, I suffer depression, frustration,
and neurotic behaviors, sometimes screaming, and biting
at the bars that surround me. My limbs are swollen, I have open wounds, and I’m lying on my own excrement. After giving birth
from being forcibly impregnated, my babies are taken away from me, and I’m slaughtered at the age
of only three to five years old. We pigs, like the other animals
in factory farms, are supposed to be stunned
into unconsciousness before being killed. But many of us are still alive as we are hoisted upside down,
our throat slit, and we are lowered into boiling
water to remove our hair. But did you know?
I have a sense of self, just like you. I’m more intelligent than a dog or a cat,
and even a three-year-old child. I’m a highly social creature,
intuitive and emotional, just like you. I have memories, and I can recognize myself
in a mirror, just like you. And I love to play,
even computer games, just like you. I care for my young with a bond
that’s as strong as any human mother, even singing to my babies during nursing. I am not something. I am someone. I am not pork. I am not bacon. I am a living feeling being,
just like you.” So, how many of you have pets? There must be a lot of you
that have pets. And how many of you love your pets
as family members? I know I do. We all have an innate
compassion for animals. I challenge you to realize
and put at the front of your awareness that every animal in a factory farm,
like the pig I just described, is just as individual a living being
as any of your pets. All animals have the will to live,
the capacity to suffer, and are equally capable
of receiving our love. We may therefore
ask ourselves the question: why love one, but eat the other? Our choices regarding animals and diet
are shaped by perception, the fact that we see
different animals in different ways. And there are
a number of reasons for this, habit and culture, for one. Initially, most of us
didn’t make the choice to eat meat. It was given, right? We continued the habit almost mindlessly,
accepting it as normal. I ate meat for half of my life,
and when I was growing up, I never even gave it a thought,
I never questioned it. It wasn’t until I was well
into my college years that I decided to become vegetarian. Another reason has to do
with a coping process that psychologists call “psychic numbing,” pertaining, in this case,
to loss of life on a massive scale. Even though at some level we are aware that animals
are being slaughtered for food, we avoid the emotional pain
of empathizing with them as individuals. It’s really like a kind of denial, where we disconnect ourselves
from the experience. This is what a slaughterhouse worker says, “I don’t think of farmed animals
as individuals. I wouldn’t be able to do my job
if I got that personal with them.” We simply don’t see the face on the plate. Instead, it’s generic food
or meat, and marketing. Look at these products
from the grocery store shelf. How do these images of happy animals
and pleasant surroundings distance us from the animals suffering? We also accept the eating of meat because what goes on
behind the scenes of meat production is largely invisible. It’s difficult for the public to find the locations
and addresses of factory farms even though – does anyone
want to venture a guess how many farms there are in this country? There are 20,000 of them, 20,000. In our country, 317 animals are killed
every single second. But for these factory farms, their only goals
are efficiency and profit. The animals are seen
only as units of production. So I ask, the next time
you’re in the dining hall, dare to be aware of the animal
that was killed to become someone’s meal. Going green with your diet,
it’s not about giving anything up. It’s not about becoming
a different person. It is about embracing something
that’s already inside of you, your innate sense of empathy,
kindness, and compassion. And you won’t be alone: plant-based eating has been identified as one of the top global trends of 2016. The power of plant-based eating
is the far-reaching and deep impact it can have upon
the direction of the world. It’s up to you,
and you can make a difference. Thank you. (Applause)