FMVeg prompts discussion of animal agriculture

BY Ellen rossow

rossowel@mnstate.edu

Last Wednesday, FMVeg, a local group celebrating vegetarian and veganism held a free screening of a documentary that many attendees called “life-changing.”

The documentary, “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” discusses the controversial topic of animal agriculture and its negative effects on the world as we know it. The film is filled with an overwhelming amount of facts and statistics, all of which seem to show that a meatless world may just be a sweeter one.

Kathleen Keane has been the head of FMVeg since 2008. She, as well as fellow FMVeg member Suzanne Hanson, believes the sharing of the film is imperative if one cares about Earth’s future.

“The main point of the movie is that animal agriculture is the number one polluter and contributor of greenhouse gases,” Keane said.

Essentially, the film discusses the misconceptions surrounding global warming and offers other alternatives to solve the problem.

“We are really focusing on the wrong stuff is what it boils down to,” Hanson said.

“People are saying that it’s all the trains, cars, planes, boats that are the problem,” Keane agreed, “but that accounts for around 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to Hanson and Keane, the film dives deep into the remaining percentages, finding that animal agriculture, that is, the production and transportation of the meat often found on the world’s tables, is responsible for over half of greenhouse gas emissions. The film also explains that the focus of much of the anxiety around the environment is due to carbon dioxide, while the focus really should be elsewhere, as reducing carbon dioxide will take a very long time to help the environment.

“We are kind of wasting our time on the wrong gas,” Hanson said.  “Methane is pretty much immediate. Once you stop producing it, it is a fast-dissipating gas. We could have our biggest impact by reducing the amount of methane in the atmosphere. That’s where animal agriculture is huge. It’s huge at contributing massive amounts of methane.”

Keane agrees.

“Even if we quit driving all the cars, using all the water, recycle, blah blah blah, all the things that they tell us to do, we couldn’t even put a dent in it,” she said.  “Nothing would happen. But this would help the planet now.”

Another key statistic that was memorable to Keane involves the wasting of water.

“We are told to take short showers, that might save 25 gallons or something like that, but one hamburger takes 660 gallons of water to make,” Keane said. “While you’re taking your short little shower over here, there’s somebody over there eating a hamburger and they just wasted 660 gallons of water.”

Keane believes that it is statistics like this that make “Cowspiracy”  important for all to see, but viewers shouldn’t get discouraged. 

“It’s a hopeful movie,” Keane said. “It’s something that we can change right now.”

Hanson agrees.

“Celebrate the victories,” she said. “Even small changes, done over time, can have a big impact. It’s doable.”

Overall, Keane and Hanson encourage anyone and everyone to check out “Cowspiracy.”

“This isn’t a comfortable discussion for people to have but it is one that is going to need to take place,” Hanson said.

“Cowspiracy” is available to be viewed online for $9.95 at cowspiracy.com.

“If you care about the environment, if you care about social justice, if you care about animals, it’s not an industy that you should ever support,” Hanson said. “That might mean having to make big dietary changes, but there are so many places you can find support.”

FMVeg is one of those places.With over 400 members on their website and Facebook page, FMVeg is a strong and thriving group that is always accepting new members.

Growing up as a vegetarian, Hanson knows that it can often be uncomfortable and inconvienent.

“I went vegetarian at six. I had a lovely time growing up in the Catholic schools,” she joked. “There were no options for me. It was a lot of peanut butter and jelly. I always thought that I was totally  alone in this part of the world, but actually there are quite a lot of us.”

The screening of “Cowspiracy” is just one of many events held by FMVeg. As a group that celebrates vegetarian and veganism, the group spends time visiting various restaruants in the area and sharing recipes for vegan/vegetarian friendly food.

The group held their “Gentle Thanksgiving” event last weekend.

“It’s the bombdiggity event of the year,” Keane laughed.  “People usually bring their best dishes. That’s where we usually have the most people.”

The group also holds garden tours as many of the club members grow beautiful gardens. Group road trips to the Twin Cities area are also common. No matter what the event is though, Hanson and Keane believe FMVeg is a great group for anyone to join.

“It’s a good place to come and learn about new foods,” Hanson said. “It’s a nice place for people who are vegetarian or have dabbled in it to get that support.”

Hanson and Keane are grateful for those involved in the group and do their best to make everyone feel welcome and to plan events that work with everyone’s schedules.

“I love our group,” Keane said.

For more information about FMVeg or vegetarian/veganism check out their Facebook site at facebook.com/FMVeg or their website at FMVeg.org. FMVeg also has sister groups out of the Bismarck area and Grand Forks. They also are aquinted with organizations out of the Twin Cities.

Hanson and Keane advise those interested to  not hesitate to contact them or one of the other groups.

“I think a lot of people, especially in this area, hear vegan and they are just like, ‘I could never do that’ or ‘what do I eat?’” Hanson said. “Well, that’s why you go to our website and you join our group, and we tell you.”

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