I've been a vegetarian since I was 7 years old, but I never thought of vegetarianism (or veganism) as an environmental issue. I just didn't like the thought of eating cute little cows and chickens. But I've recently become aware (partly thanks to a recent NY Times article called "Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler") of how much energy and space is required to raise animals for meat, and what terrible effects this has on the environment.
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one fifth of the world's greenhouse gases are the result of livestock production (making it a larger contributor to climate change than transportation). The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Nevermind the ethical issues related to raising animals in order to kill and eat them, but there just isn't enough land to support our planet's hamburger habit. Livestock production leads to deforestation (just in the past five months, 1,250 square miles of rainforest in Brazil were lost to livestock production) - both to raise the livestock and to produce the feed for the livestock.
But what if we decided we could do without the meat, or, at least, eat less of it? Even if you switch one meat meal for a vegetarian meal every week, that's a big difference. The National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
So here's my meat substitution suggestion for those of you living in Tel Aviv: Buddha Burgers. Delicious, "meaty", and totally guilt free. This vegan burger place has two branches - one on 21 Yehuda Halevi (which is bigger and has more seating room) and one on 86 Ibn Gvirol. Along with a variety of vegan burgers, Buddha Burgers offers healthy juice drinks, salads, and vegan desserts. Who said trading in your ground beef burger had to be a sacrifice?