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Why Vegetarianism Can Have A Bigger Impact Than Voting

When you left the voting booth earlier this month, did you feel like you had made a difference, done something of importance, or completed your task of being a good and dutiful citizen for the year? Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you didn’t. In fact, in the year, months, or weeks that you spent preparing for your vote, gaining political perspective, and carefully determining who would get your useless vote, a vegetarian made a much bigger impact than your ballot ever could.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s look at some facts.

According to a study of presidential elections conducted by the University of Columbia in 2009, the likelihood of your vote being a pivotal vote—the one that determines the outcomes of an election—is minuscule. The average chance is between one in 100 million and one in one billion, depending on in which state you vote. While a vote from New Hampshire has the best chance of being a pivotal vote—one in 10 million—the chance that New Hampshire’s electoral votes will be pivotal is one in 1,000. So, even if your vote was that one in 10 million event, the likelihood of its determining an election is still far off. A citizen of Washington, D.C.’s vote has a one in 100 billion chance of being a deciding vote, and D.C.’s electoral votes have a likelihood of one in 10,000 chance of being the deciding factor in an election. In other words, the chance of your vote making a difference is slim to none. In fact, you have a better chance of getting struck by lighting in the U.S.—that happens to one in every 700,000 people—than determining the outcome of the presidential election.

Now, in the same year that you cast your virtually meaningless vote, a vegetarian saved hundreds of lives. Let’s look at statistics once again. The average American eats 26 chickens, one-half of a pig, one-quarter of a cow, 22 fish, and 218 shellfish each year. This, of course, does not include other animals such as lambs, turkeys, or the chickens that are slaughtered during egg production. The USDA estimates that each year, the average American kills 269 animals in the name of food.

Furthermore, during that same year, the vegetarian did less harm to the environment than her meat-eating countrymen. Each person emits tons of CO2—a greenhouse gas that has been linked to detrimental climate change—into the atmosphere every year. According to the USDA, the average American meat-eater emits 3.3 tons of CO2 per year, while an American vegetarian emits 1.7 tons. That’s nearly one-half the emissions of a meat eater, which means a vegetarian is contributing less to one of the leading causes of climate change.

Now, many will justify voting by saying that, while their votes may not count, it is important to vote—for what would happen if everyone thought that way and did not vote? That is a powerful thought and reason enough to cast your unimportant ballot. Now imagine the same argument in an alternate situation—the possibility of everyone thinking that way about eating meat. Sure, maybe 269 animals aren’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, but what if everyone ate meat? Given the statistics provided by the USDA, 81 billion animals would die each year (assuming the population of the U.S. is just over 300 million).

I doubt such an argument will be enough to change even one person’s mind, but maybe it will provide a new perspective. What would one year of vegetarianism do? As of now, 5 percent of the U.S. population is vegetarian, and that saves over 4 billion animals each year. If all Americans abstained from eating meat, 81 billion animals would be saved. If all of Boston did the same, 1.1 billion would not die. If all Boston College undergrads went vegetarian for just one year, over 2.4 million lives would be spared.

Of course, I am not suggesting you should stop voting—our country relies on voters to ensure democracy. But I am suggesting you reconsider your eating habits—animals rely on you to protect them. Now, vegetarian voters—they are doing it right.

Featured Image by JT Mindlin / Heights Editor

November 24, 2014

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Why Vegetarianism Can Have A Bigger Impact Than Voting”

  1. I’m not sure that convincing people their votes are meaningless is the best or most useful way to convert people to vegetarianism. Obviously, vegetarianism is great for the environment and our society in many ways. But so is voting.

    We have enough voter apathy as it is. While you insist “I am not suggesting you stop voting,” by using phrases like “your virtually meaningless vote” and “your unimportant ballot” you just…are. Being the pivotal vote in an election is not why people do or should vote.

    People can make impacts in more ways than one. I see what you are trying to do here, but you might be better off with other methods of persuasion. As a vegetarian for over 9 years, I don’t think the way you talk down to meat-eaters is helpful or effective. It is a bit-by-bit effort, and people can contribute in different ways. Cutting back on meat intake or buying meat from small local farms is still good and helpful.

    There are much more compelling arguments. I appreciate your sentiment, but I urge you to reconsider the way you invite people to join you in vegetarianism.