If You Go Meatless, I Will Support You: Open Letter to Hank Green

05/13/2015 03:14 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016
Shutterstock / Lisovskaya Natalia

Dear Hank,

I've been watching vlogbrothers for years, and during my college days your Crash Course videos have helped me through many of my science classes. Your brother John is a great author -- I read and watched The Fault in Our Stars. I think it is great that both of you are doing so much to create meaningful discussions around the world and educate others about a variety of topics.

During one of your biology videos, when you went over the process of digestion, you mentioned that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. You said that we can get these amino acids from plants, or we can eat animals and our body will then have to break that back down into amino acids before building usable proteins for us. Most teachers and textbook overlook this step in the process. You made this remark off-hand, but as soon as you did, I knew that you were aware of something deeper.

"John, meat is bad." -- Hank Green

Hank, as you have said yourself, meat is bad. You and I both know this, so I do not have to convince you. You have obviously researched this topic extensively and used critical, rather than mainstream sources. In fact, you have criticized mainstream sources. Your two videos "Eating Man Meat" and "I AM A BAD PERSON!", which I came across a few months after I watched your biology video, were both amazingly well thought-out. You vocalized your support of PETA and you poked fun at the American government's dietary guidelines, pointing out that they were designed by the Department of Agriculture, and not the Department of Health. You asked Nerdfighters, non-rhetorically, whether knowing that eating meat is bad and yet still eating meat makes you a bad a person.

Hank Green, you are not a bad person, but you were off on one small point, and I think you already know it. You claim that by simply eating less meat, denying yourself small indulgences, you can do the world a lot of good. This is true in a sense, but it still isn't sustainable. As you mentioned, if we stopped growing crops to feed livestock and instead fed ourselves, no one would go hungry; it takes only 60 gallons of water to produce a pound of potatoes.

A pound of beef? 2,500 gallons.

Some environmental organizations, which receive substantial donations from agribusinesses, tell us to take short showers, and that's a joke. Every time you eat a burger, you might as well take a shower for two months straight, because that's how much water you've wasted. You are literally conserving hundreds of gallons of water every time you deny yourself that burger, or in your case, that corndog, and I think it's great that you want to take that step. But as you've said yourself, vegetarian corndogs are delicious, even when put in a microwave and not deep fried! You don't need to deny yourself anything. You can eat an abundance of plant-based foods and receive all the nutrition you need. In fact, fruits and vegetables are both more nutritious and delicious than animal flesh, which, as all good scientists know, is actually quite harmful to the body. Again, no need to convince you.

Even by eating only grass-fed, organic meat produced on free-range farms, we will still run out of resources. To have these sorts of "ethical" farms to meet current American meat demands would require so much land, you would have to turn the entire United States, part of Canada, all of Central America, and much of South America into grazing grounds, clear-cutting forests and demolishing cities. When it comes to land use, this is even more unsustainable than factory farming. While factory farming is evil, ending it is not enough. We need to quit eating meat, and we need to do it cold turkey (pun intended).

You mentioned you'll never be able to give up meat altogether, even though you know you should. When you're with in-laws you have to be gracious, and I'm guessing your immediate family eats meat as well. It may seem hard for you, but think of how hard it is for the animals that spend their lives in battery cages, or that die gruesome deaths in slaughterhouses. Think of how hard it is for people in developing nations who are starving because their land is being used to raise crops not to feed them, but to feed to animals to be consumed by westerners. Hank, it really isn't that hard. Gandhi said you need to "be the change you wish to see in the world." (He also said that "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.")

You and John have done a lot to raise awareness about other social issues, and this one affects not only humans but the entire planet as a whole. There have been many cases of families accommodating one vegetarian family member by cooking separate meals, only to have that member later on converting the entire family to our way of life. Tell your family that you want to go vegetarian, and explain why. Even if they do not join you, they will support you because they love you, and the same goes for all of Nerdfighteria. You can receive even more support online from those of us who are already vegetarians or vegans.

Every day you live without animal products, you will conserve:

- 1,100 gallons of water
- 45 lbs of grain
- 30 square feet of forestry
- 20 lbs of CO2
- 1 animal's life

So Hank, please stop eating animals. You will do a world of good.

Best wishes, and don't forget to be awesome.
Samita Sarkar

*Agribusiness statistics courtesy of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.

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