The root of the 2020 pandemic is unknown. It is suspected that the virus was born in an animal and spread to humans after mutating. If humans did not consume animals, then they never would have caught the virus. Additionally, consuming meat has been proven to lead to many health and environmental issues. Furthermore, ancestors of the modern human evolved the way in which they did as a direct result from their plant based diet. As a result of this information, research, and the current pandemic, it is predicted that humans will evolve again to eat less meat and potentially adopt a vegetarian diet.
The current reality for humanity is a frightening one. People all over the world have been affected by the novel virus that has killed over 300,000 people worldwide, shocked scientists, and changed how we live our daily lives. In California people must wear masks in public, and all over the United States people are social distancing and sheltering in place, also known as self quarantining.
There are many speculations as to how the virus originated. We were given a glimpse into how the virus could have spread back in 2003 when SARS originated in Asia (CDC). It is suspected that the virus lived in bats in China, and mutated as it jumped from bats to humans. There is also speculation about whether or not the virus used a different host after bats before it mutated and infected humans (The Guardian). Regardless, scientists are unsure of where the virus originated, but believe it most likely arose from an already existing virus in animals (most likely bats) and then mutated as it began to use humans as it’s host.
Due to the fact that it is widely suspected that the virus originated in an animal, it is safe to argue, and perhaps even assume, that this current pandemic will influence people to eat less meat or become vegetarian all together. Afterall, logic poses the statement that if the virus came from animals, humans would not have been infected with it if they did not eat animals. Luckily there is a plethora of evidence to support the benefits of being vegetarian. In addition to this evidence, there is also evidence that early homo sapiens evolved to have smaller teeth as they adapted to eating a more plant based diet (Larsen). Essentially, there are many benefits to being vegetarian, modern humans evolved to not eat meat, and eating meat could have been the reason why the current pandemic started, therefore as a response to the pandemic, it can be predicted that more people will eat less meat in the future and potentially adopt a vegetarian diet.
Transitioning to a vegetarian diet can have numerous benefits and be great for human’s health if done correctly. For example, vegetarians are 25% less likely to die from heart disease (JAHA). Furthermore, the best foods to consume in an effort to build protection from your heart are vegetarian as well. These include grains, legumes, and nuts (NCBI). Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet in conjunction with eliminating meat will lower your risk of cancer, and vegetarians have been shown to have a 50% less chance of developing type-2 diabetes (NCBI). Although these health benefits are proven to show positive results in people's lives, it must be stated that adopting a vegetarian diet without replacing meat with healthier food choices such as vegetables and legumes can lead to health problems which therefore makes the benefits of being vegetarian nonexistent. It is important to consider the overall diet and ensure that healthy foods are being eaten in replacement of meat to see the benefits that can be found.
Furthermore, protein, iron, and vitamin B-12 are essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function properly. Protein and iron can be found in many many places besides meat, such as eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, chickpeas, peas and whole grains. Protein powders are available at health stores as well. Another important point to keep in mind is that everything we eat contains some amount of protein and iron in it. Everything you eat from breakfast through your midnight snack contains protein, and it all adds up. Very very rarely are individuals in the United States protein deficient, regardless of their diet (PCRM). Additionally, if you do not track your calories or macros, you will still reach the amount of protein needed daily to live and maintain a healthy life. Women tend to be deficient in iron more than men due to menstruation, but there are iron supplements available if needed. Regardless, the same argument for protein applies to iron and it is still rare to be deficient or deficient in a life threatening sense (NCBI). Vitamin B-12 is a vitamin only found in animal products, but if one consumes dairy products, then they will have no issues consuming the recommended amount of B12. If done correctly, vegetarians experience incredible health benefits solely due to their diet.
A vegetarian diet also presents benefits for the environment. Currently, 50% of greenhouse gas emissions are from beef and lamb products, while 8-10% is from food waste. 60% of the carbon emissions in the world are directly from the production of food (Green Eatz; BBC). This footprint is larger than "every car, truck, bus, ship, airplane, and rocket ship combined," (UN Environment Program). According to the UN, lowering our intake of meat and replacing it with vegetables is the most efficient way to combat these carbon emissions. Additionally, 80% of land is used for agricultural purposes. If this land was replaced with forest and vegetation, the plant life could capture the carbon in the air and aid humans in fighting against change. One could argue that the carbon emissions and their current levels that are being released are helping the trees and forests thrive, and this is true but to an extent. Specifically in the Northern Hemisphere, trees are flourishing because of these emissions. The problem is the lack of balance in the ecosystem. Despite the fact that some trees are flourishing, the majority are not, and regardless there are not enough trees to form a healthy symbiotic relationship with the current level of carbon emissions. This lack of balance will eventually lead to so much heat in the environment that vegetation will begin to die off and continue dying off until change is made (Carbon Brief). A vegetarian diet can directly positively impact these issues. If everyone went vegetarian by 2050, the emissions related to food production would decline by 60% (BBC). Additionally, if everyone were to become vegan, the emission levels related to food would drop over 70% (BBC).
These numbers are striking, and clearly show that there are immense benefits to the Earth if humans decide to go vegetarian. But these numbers are only accurate at a global level, so what would happen if only one person changed their diet? The average person's carbon footprint is 20 metric tons. The average carbon footprint of a vegetarian is only 10 metric tons. Simply changing your diet will cut an individual’s contribution to climate change in half (BBC).
“Homo sapiens” is the name for modern humans given by anthropologists. Early modern homo sapiens, or humans, displayed a reduction in denture size in comparison to remains of common ancestors (Larsen). The reduction in tooth size found is due to a changed diet, where homo sapiens were eating primarily plant based diets, along with fish (Larsen). This new diet is strikingly different from other human ancestors, such as the Neanderthal, who ate meat (Larsen). Fundamentally, this means that early modern humans did not eat meat which led to their anatomy adapting to this dietary change, and humans today display these small features. In essence, modern humans are not meant to eat meat because they don’t have the denture structure to do so, which is a trait passed down from early ancestors. This finding, in conjunction with the evidence that supports that being vegetarian proves to be beneficial, can influence humans to make different lifestyle choices in the future.
All of this information can be applied to the pandemic which humanity finds itself in currently. According to EuroNews, the best step humanity can take to prevent a future pandemic is to eliminate meat from our diet. Additionally, author David Quamman spoke with Yale about how the virus spread through bats, and concluded that our relationship with nature and how our consumption of exotic animals was the cause of the current outbreak. Furthermore, many experts and scientists and doctors agree that while it is still uncertain where the virus originated from, it is most likely the result of the consumption of animals. A virus like this would never have been introduced to the human species if humans did not consume meat (The Counter).
Regardless of one’s stance on whether or not consuming meat caused the current pandemic, it can be safely assumed that our lives today have drastically changed by both the virus and current meat consumption. Consuming meat has led to insurmountable health problems in people all over the world, drastic and urgent environmental issues, and potentially the current pandemic. Not to mention the fact that modern homo sapiens, or modern humans, evolved in a way due to their diet that did not include meat. There are many benefits to being vegetarian, modern humans evolved to not eat meat, and eating meat could have been the reason why the current pandemic started, therefore as a response to the pandemic, it can be predicted that more people will eat less meat in the future. Many health experts, scientists, and more agree that moving forward the best way to prevent another pandemic such as the one we are all currently experiencing is by not eating meat and adopting a vegetarian diet. As a result of this research and education, it is predicted that human evolution will change once again as we adapt a vegetarian diet and evolve to not eat meat again.
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Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.