Executive Summary of the 3 Elements of the Fraud Triangle

3 Elements of the Fraud Triangle

The motivations behind why people commit a certain action are infinite. However, the framework designed to explain why individuals commit fraud is not as complex. The fraud triangle visualizes the three stages as to why people commit fraud. The first step is pressure. Pressure of job security or financial security can motivate a person to commit fraud. This pressure is seen to the individual as unavoidable and they see the pressure as a force outside the bounds of moral resolution. The second step is opportunity. Opportunity is the clear course of action an individual can take to commit fraud by abusing their power. The third step is realization. Rationalization is the ability to justify the crime.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company’s 2016 scam sent shockwaves due to its apple-pie image. From 2011 to 2016, more than 1.5 million deposit accounts and more than 0.5 million credit card accounts were opened fraudulently. The 3 elements of the fraud triangle can be used to untangle the motivations and reasons behind the 5-year scam.

More than 5,300 employees, around 2% of total employees, were fired for being involved with this scam. The pressure that the employees faced to commit the fraud stems from CEO John Stumpf’s business model, which was to sell additional products to customers who already held an account with Wells Fargo. Employees who were interviewed attested that some faced the threat of being fired if they did not meet unreasonable sales goals each day. If the employees did not meet sales quotas, they were sometimes require to work extra hours without compensation for their overtime. Additionally, compensation was offered to individuals and those incentives were unchecked and unregulated.

The opportunity that employees had to commit the fraud was due to their position in the company. Employees were able to exaggerate their sales numbers by opening accounts for existing customers without the customers’ knowledge or authorization. The employees would use fake email addresses to create the accounts and transfer funds from the existing accounts to the new accounts. This process would often result in charges and fees.

Wells Fargo reimbursed $2.6 million in fees wrongly charged to customers. About $1.14 in fees were charged to each customer, which could have been a rationalization for employees who committed the fraud. Since the charges were so low, they probably assumed that their actions weren’t making an impact. However, because this behavior was widespread, the effect was larger than they could have imagined. Distributed amongst the 5,300 employees fired for fraud, each employee accumulated about $450 in fees.

The results of this scam included a $185 million fine from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which was the largest fine ever charged by the CFPB. Some customers were affected by having their credit scores suffer due to unpaid fees from unauthorized credit card charges and overdraft fees. Overall, the most significant harm was the damaged reputation of the Wells Fargo image.

Enron

Arguably the biggest fraud in history involves the infamous Enron Corporation, which collapsed in 2001. Years of continuing fraudulent activities by top executives, accountants, and other employees resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs and shareholder dollars. The 3 elements of the fraud triangle help to explain the motivations behind the major players in the Enron scandal.

The motivation behind Enron’s fraud stems from the business atmosphere created by the founder, Kenneth Lay, and was further influenced by Jeff Skilling’s “rank and yank” approach. Kenneth Lay’s agenda for the company was made clear after the Enron oil trading scandal. Two traders bet in the oil market and reported falsified consistent profits in an inconsistent environment. After a series of events, the traders were not reprimanded and Kenneth Lay reportedly told the traders to “keep making us millions.” Eventually the traders gambled away Enron’s remaining reserves. Jeff Skilling’s aggressive and hostile employee ranking system made employees fear for their jobs and instilled pressure to perform. Additionally, pressure to keep their jobs may have influenced employees to shred documents, falsify financial statements and other documents.

The opportunity to commit fraud stemmed from mark-to-market accounting. This accounting practice allowed Enron to record the potential profits of business ventures immediately after contracts were contracted, regardless of the actual profits that the deal would generate in the future. Arthur Anderson’s involvement and fraud also allowed executives to commit fraud. Andrew Fastow and former CFO was able to create shell companies to further falsify revenues. Lou Pai’s division lost millions of dollars and yet walked away with $250 million when he resigned. The accumulation of all the executives’ and accountants’ actions is was fueled the company’s eventual collapse.

The rationalization to commit the fraud was that the company was a top performer and the company was viewed as one of the best companies to work for. The executives wanted to make profits for their company and for themselves. By exploiting loopholes, Enron dug itself into a scandal in which they could never recover.

Similarities Between Wells Fargo and Enron

The pressure to perform was present at both Enron and Wells Fargo. The business culture instilled by the two company’s CEOs trickled down to employees and affected the actions of those employees. The pressure to succeed was a major influencer and company business models that have unregulated incentives are more at risk for internal scandals and fraud. Additionally, the scandals are similar due to the length of time for which the scams occurred. There were people who questioned the legality of the company’s actions yet no one succeeded in stopping the problems before they got out of hand. This can be directly attributed to poor internal controls. Internal checks and balances and effective leadership could have perhaps prevented these two scandals.

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Anti-Semitism in the White House?

DAILY DOSE OF FACTS:

  • An anti-Semite is a person who is a person who is hostile to or prejudiced against Jewish people.
  • According to the ADL, anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016.
  • On Thursday, February 16, Donald Trump refused to respond to a reporter when he asked how the White House plans to address the recent bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers.

 

SO WHAT’S GOING ON?

In January, 48 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) in 26 states and one Canadian province received almost 60 bomb threats. On January 9, 18 and 31, most of these threats were made in rapid succession. Nearly 60 bomb threats.

 

SO WHAT IS THE WHITE HOUSE DOING TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE?

On Thursday, February 16, Donald Trump held a press conference and was confronted with a question by Jake Turx, a Jewish reporter with Ami Magazine. Turx was aware of Trump’s defensiveness and prefaced his question about the rise in bomb threats against JCCs accordingly. He stated he did not see any evidence that Trump or the staff were anti-Semitic and mentioned Trump’s Jewish grandchildren. He then asked why the dozens of bomb threats to JCCs not being addressed by the White House and how the government is planning to take care of an uptick in anti-Semitism.

Trump’s response was felt around the room. He interrupted Turx that his question was not “simple” and “easy.” He also told the reporter to sit down as he continued to defend himself and not answer the question.

Then, Trump stated, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” This statement, which, regardless of how you feel about Trump, is false and not what Turx asked. Anti-Semitism is a real issue and by deflecting this important question about bomb threats to JCCs, Trump is wasting an opportunity to hold his staff accountable to address the threats made about Jewish American citizens.

Later on during the conference, Jared Rizzi, the White House correspondent for Sirius XM followed up on Turx’s question. Rizzi said, “It’s not about your personality or your beliefs. We’re talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?”

Again, Trump was defensive. He said that it was his political opponent’s supporters that were making him seem anti-Semitic.  Again, Trump did not answer the question.

Click here to watch the segment of the conference.

 

SO IS ANYTHING BEING DONE?

The FBI stated that the bureau and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are “investigating possible civil rights violations in connections with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country.”

Currently, there has been increased security and panic among parents. Children have been withdrawn from programs due to the fear of attacks on JCCs. Those sources of funds are causing centers to have to cut their budgets and lay off staff.

As of February 20, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has just responded to the latest string of bomb threats to JCCs. He responded “Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”

Although there has been a response by the White House, no action has taken place to stop these threats.

 

SO WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

There has been a significant rise in anti-Semitism across the world and increased acts and expressions of bigotry surrounding the U.S. presidential campaign. Last year and this January proved to have increasingly high numbers of local anti-Semitic incidents.

The chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Anti-Semitism Task Force stated, “The rhetoric around the presidential election not only legitimized bigotry against all minorities, as we’ve seen through a variety of statistics, but also included specific coded and overt anti-Semitic expressions. That climate on the national level affects the local community too.”

In short?

You should care because if history has taught us anything, it has taught us that increases in violence and harassment against minorities, whether based on religion, gender, race, sexuality or other identities, can have terrible and destructive consequences.

 

 

SO WHAT DO I THINK?

 

If you know me, chances are you know what I think about this issue. Anti-Semitism has run deep throughout the world since the Jewish faith began. The Jewish history is plagued with slavery, murder, blame, and, of course, the Holocaust.

I will never forget the day that I was torn away from my naive world with the words,

“I hate Jewish people.”

I never imagined a person I knew could hate a group of people. The years following this statement were filled with news and quotes far too similar. I still don’t fully understand this kind of hatred, but I’ve learned that hate is inspired by fear.

I think Trump’s fear of being called an anti-Semite and racist are preventing any real action to be taken place to address the recent bomb threats on JCCs. I think that because Judaism is in the minority, that some people see Jewish people as “scary” and “different.” I also think that my ancestors would be proud of me for writing this article. I think each time someone stands up for a minority group that the world is made a bit better.

 

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO ABOUT THIS?

THINK

Think about what you say. Do you make jokes about minority groups or religions? Do you use derogatory language towards individuals who have different identities than your own?

Don’t stick to once source of news, whether that be CNN, FOX, or another leaning news source. Diversify your information by reading local newspapers or articles from news sources that are from a different racial or religious perspective.

 

STAND UP

Stand up to your government and demand correct answers to questions posed in new conferences. Write to your local legislation and press. Are there resources you can lend to your local Jewish Community Centers?

I honestly don’t know if we can make the Trump Administration tell the truth and do away with “alternative facts.” I do think that writing to local and state government can only help. Even if you email or letter ends up in a pile, at least it makes the pile bigger and bigger until it can no longer be ignored.

Standing up to your government and prejudice is not easy, but rather necessary. Everything you say or do about or for a minority group can have an effect on the way others perceive that group.

 

What Do We Do Now? (A Message To Every Voter)

If you’re reading this, you know my opinions. If you’re reading this, you know that the election is near over. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably curious about what the future holds. And, believe it or not, you have a say in that future.

Yes, Trump is leading and will probably win the United States Presidential Election of 2016. Yes, the House and the Senate are pretty red. But you can have a say in the future of this country.

If you voted, for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or a third party nominee, you have added your voice to history. If you didn’t vote, you have wasted your right to exercise your voice, a right which millions have died for and continue to die for. Although I do believe in the incredible freedom that we have in this country to choose what we do, I cannot understand why you have wasted your right. I’m not sure if you thought that this election was unimportant or if you were ‘protesting,’ but I urge you to take a look at the closeness

I highly doubt no matter who you voted for, that you agree with 100% of their political, economic, and social stances. It is for that reason, why I urge you, even if your preferred candidate has won the election, that you continue to use your voice.

 

Use your voice to protest the vetting of Muslims or to continue to learn more about a terrorist organization that does not represent a religion.

Use your voice to fight for the protection of Roe v. Wade or to fight for your belief in a fetus’s rights.

Use your voice to understand the implications of fracking and pipelines on the environment or go to ND to stand up for a marginalized community.

Use your voice to utilize your freedom of speech and increase awareness of your fact-based opinions on platforms that are not only Facebook and Twitter.

Use your voice to fight for the BLM movement or don’t…though I can’t understand why.

Use your voice to understand the implications of Russia’s actions during this election and learn more about the one-sided hacking that Russia has gotten away with. We need to worry about this.

Use your voice to call for an increase in gun restriction laws or practice gun safety with your own firearms.

Use your voice to fight against prejudice on the LGBTQI community or learn more about your religious leaders’ views about tolerance to this community of human beings.

Use your voice to have a dialogue with other Americans in a productive way to learn about their opposing views.

Use your voice to rally behind a cause you believe in, and do not sway or support silently.

 

I can’t tell you what to believe in. No one can force opinions into a person’s mind. But I sincerely urge you to use your amazing gift of freedom to learn about different viewpoints. I urge you to not rant on Facebook for four years. I urge you to go to Standing Rock, to go to a BLM event, or to sign your name on petitions. I urge you to respect the human dignity of your fellow American citizens, though you do not agree with their values.

As an American citizen, you get to read and learn and speak and scream and stand and VOTE for what you believe is right. Have the courage to stand up for everything and anything. Do not complain or go by idly for an entire presidential term.

 

And, to all of the Trump supporters and to my friends who voted for him:

I do not agree with your values, ideas, or beliefs that coincide with his, but I do respect you and your right to an opinion. I hope that you can respect my right to my voice, which is all I can ask. I congratulate you on your preferred candidate’s win, but now we are faced with the difficult task of uniting an incredibly divided country. A country that is angry and in pain.

 

I truly believe in the power of our voices, and I hope you do as well. Today, I don’t stand with him or her. I stand with a country that is in need of change and unity. I hope you do as well.

Why I’m Not Voting For Trump (Besides Him Being a Terrible ‘Human Being’)

Let me first say that these are my individual opinions. I am voting for Hillary Clinton because I align with most of her stances on key issues that are important to me. I encourage everyone to not decide on a candidate based on who they see on CNN/FOX the most. Instead, learn about their positions on issues that are most important to you. Pick the candidate you think will positively impact our country. Don’t pick someone for the wrong reasons. And… don’t pick Donald Trump.

  1. Trump doesn’t believe in climate change.
    • For 400,000 years, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have never been over 300 parts per million…. Now? It’s 400 parts per million. That’s a 100 parts per MILLION in under 70 years. But yeah no, climate change isn’t real.
    • Due to this increase, the acidity of surface ocean waters is increasing, because of the absorption of carbon dioxide. The amount of absorption is increasing by 2 billion tons per year. Not sure if you heard, that’s 4409245600000 lbs.
  2. Doesn’t believe we should prioritize green energy.
  3. He believes in absolute gun ownership and doesn’t think our country needs to have more restrictive gun laws.
    • US: guns: 2.97 gun homicides per 100,000 people in 2012
      • Australia: no guns –> 0.14 gun homicides per 100,000 people in 2012
    • 372 Mass shootings in the United States in 2015
    • 80% of people who carry out mass shootings obtain firearms legally… proving the need for a better screening process. It’s common sense.
  4. Doesn’t believe Planned Parenthood should be government-funded.
    • Disregarding personal beliefs about abortion, the costs of cutting funding to Planned Parenthood (PP) would be detrimental.
    • More than half of the nearly 3 million people who use PP each year could lose access because they rely on public health programs. 4 in 10 women who get care from a family planning center say it’s their main source of health care.
    • PP is a trusted health care provider and provides crucial health services such as:
      • “nearly 4.5 million STI tests and treatments, including HIV tests;
      • over 900,000 cancer screenings and preventive services;
      • more than 3.5 million contraceptive services; and
      • approximately 65,000 family practice services — including treatment of chronic diseases and authorization for hospital care.” (istandwithpp.org)
    • Well why can’t other providers be put in place?
      • In 2011, five clinics were slashed in an effort to defund PP. These clinics offered HIV testing. In March 2016, Mike Pence (YES THAT ONE) declared a state of emergency due to an unprecedented outbreak of HIV… rooting from… YOU GUESSED IT… the town where those clinics were closed.
  5. He thinks that law enforcement should be allowed to use racial profiling.
  6. He believes in the Mexico border wall.
    • Besides this being financially impossible (more than $6 billion to construct, conservatively, and $49 billion to maintain for more than 20 years), it’s almost physically impossible (you know… because of mountains?). (Oh and Mexico won’t be paying… cause duh. Calderon won’t have it.)
    • The wall will ruin our relationship with one of our most trusted trading partners.
    • The wall has been tried before and failed.
    • There are 18 federally protected species found along certain sections of the California border and more than 39 federally endangered, threatened, or candidate species that live along the Arizona border. Conservationists won’t have that.
  7. Doesn’t think GMO labels should be mandatory.
  8. Believes waterboarding should be a legal interrogation option.
    • Even though it’s been proved that false information is more than often gained from this torture technique, he believes in it.
    • According to the UN Convention Against Torture, torture is “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession.”
    • There are horrible forces and people in this world using techniques, but the United States is not, and should not, be one of those places. Human dignity and respect for life should be prioritized. There are other methods of interrogation and defense that can be used without degrading the human person.

 

I’ve excluded racist comments and sexual assault comments from this post. But take them into account. I have, because they are equally important. I just wanted to give a clearer picture of the opinions of Donald Trump without the haze of bigotry that surrounds him constantly.

I urge everyone to vote because your vote matters!

The End to Shark Week

Sharks?! Those scary man-eating machines that kill hundreds of people worldwide?! And have razor sharp rows of teeth?! Why do I care about them?

Well you should. Because they are dying, and they are not as evil as you’d think.

 

Daily Dose of Facts:

  • Approximately 10 people are killed per year world-wide in unprovoked shark attacks.
  • The average death toll from lightning strikes is 51 deaths per year in the United States.
  • For every 1 human killed by a shark, approximately 2,000,000 sharks are killed by humans.

 

You may be thinking about your irrational fear of sharks and how you should actually be worried more about lighting strikes, but stay with me. The real danger isn’t facing us, it’s facing sharks. A staggering death toll ratio of 1 : 2,000,000 is not something we can ignore. And why is this number so high? It’s because of shark finning.

Watch this video to see the effects of shark finning.

So What is Shark Finning?

Shark finning is the “removal and retention of shark fins and the [discarding] at sea of the carcass.” After the shark fins are removed, the shark is most often alive and then tossed back into the water. A shark’s fins allow them to move, to swim. Without being able to swim, they fall to the bottom of the ocean, where it will be eaten alive by other fish.

The statistic? Over 100 million sharks are killed every year.

Shark finning has increased globally due to the increased demand for shark fins. One popular use for shark fins is for shark fin soup, a delicacy in China. Shark fins themselves have virtually no flavor, so the fin is used to add texture to the dish. Some Chinese citizens believe in extraordinary health benefits to shark fins, using them in medicines and dishes. However, these supposed health benefits do not outweigh the mutilation and killing of millions of sharks per year.

China’s economic growth has also allowed this expensive delicacy to be within reach of the growing middle class. One kilogram of shark fin can be sold for $650 USD, proving the fin is a major delicacy and a billion dollar market. Improved fishing technology has also increased shark finning globally. Unfortunately, shark finning is unmonitored and unrestrained.

 

So What’s Happening to the Sharks?

Apart from the mutilation and death, shark finning leaves living sharks incapable of moving to either starve to death or be eaten alive by other fish.

Shark finning, unlike some (very, very few) forms of fishing, is highly unsustainable. Due to unmonitored shark finning, the extremely large about of shark fins being harvested is depleting the amount of sharks faster than they can reproduce. Not only is this fishing unsustainable, but it is extremely wasteful. 99% of the shark is wasted when shark finning occurs. The extinction of sharks is a huge deal to marine ecosystems and many shark species are projected to become extinct in the next ten years do to the way sharks are harvested. Taking away predators will cause the ecosystems in which sharks dwell to spiral out of control, causing a ripple effect in the ocean.

 

SO WAIT … NO MORE SHARK WEEK?

Yeah. No more shark week.

More importantly, no more beautiful creatures that provide an important balance to the many ecosystems of the world’s oceans. Sharks are predators, just like lions and polar bears. Without important, and iconic, predators, ecosystems would be thrown into turmoil.

Apart from the ecological effects, sharks are beautiful creatures that should be looked after. Sharks are one of the few creatures that inhabited the world’s oceans long before the first dinosaur. AKA, sharks have been inhabitants of this planet long before us, and deserve to thrive in there home of more than hundreds of millions of years.

 

So What Do I Think?

I think that sharks pose little to no risk to humans, statistically. I’m not advising anyone to jump into shark-infested waters, but we have to start thinking as sharks as a beautiful species, and less like a violent man-killing machine.

From a vegetarian/vegan perspective, I think all lives, including land and marine lives, matter. For others, I would hope you agree.

If not, think about the effects of a predator becoming extinct from an ecosystem. Think of the overpopulation of a marine species that will become so overwhelming, it will make other marine life extinct. Think of your favorite fish-dish, or perhaps, your favorite marine animal. Think about how they will be affected, if you still don’t care about the lives of millions of sharks.

 

So What Should I Do About This?

THINK

Think about what you eat. What kind of environmental and ecological implications does that industry have? Do the foods I consume support an industry in which unsafe practices are common?

Try to limit or eliminate the foods that cause damage by adding in vegan or vegetarian products to your diet that are sustainable and ethical.

STAND UP

Shark finning is not ethical, plain and simple. Shark finning needs to be stopped. Read more and understand the implications of shark finning. Support causes to end shark finning worldwide and save sharks from extinction!

The following links are reading materials and amazing organizations that need your support!

Fin Free

StopSharkFinning

Tell Congress to ban Shark Finning!

cuteshark

Don’t be afraid of me, I need your help!

 

 

 

The Ethical Imperative of A Collective Human Adoption of Vegetarianism

An essay, by Emma Hitchens

           As inhabitants of Earth, humans have an ethical duty to care and help sustain the environment to ensure the capability of future use. Earth’s atmosphere and natural resources are in jeopardy due to the actions and lifestyles of the human population. Humans are the only moral agents on this planet and are thus charged with the procurement of environmental welfare and sustainability. To fulfill this moral obligation that humans have to the planet as the only known rational thinkers, it is imperative that a collective human action takes place, which is the adoption of the vegetarian diet. Both natural resource overconsumption and pollution are consequences of meat production and affect the planet in more ways than one. Natural resources such as water, land, and the energy in the food system are directly affected by the side effects of meat production. Pollutants such as manure, methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide are contaminating oceans, other water sources, and the air. To remedy the devastation to the environment through depletion of natural resources and pollution directly caused by meat production, a collective adoption of vegetarianism is necessary and will remedy the Earth’s current environmental state.

            The collective adoption of ethical vegetarianism is not a call to end the agony caused by slaughterhouses or to end the painful practices used by meat producers worldwide. Instead, ethical vegetarianism must be adopted collectively because of the human obligation to protect and preserve the environment. The benefit of giving livestock the same moral value given to other human beings is a positive ethical outcome from this crucial collective action. Ethical vegetarianism is “to live without killing animals or causing them any suffering.”[1] The ethical vegetarian does not consume any dead animals and, in some cases, will not consume milk, eggs, or honey. Throughout history, moral, health, and religious teachers have advocated various forms of ethical vegetarianism. In earlier European cultures, vegetarian diets were seen as the purest of lifestyles.[2] Some religions still hold these beliefs and require followers to refrain from consuming specific kinds of livestock. However, some “vegetarians have been viewed as outside the boundaries of normal or respectable society” in the past.[3] This stigma is still sometimes held today, but vegetarianism is an environmental option that, if it were to become more commonly accepted, would benefit the human population immensely. There are moral questions that attempt to discern the moral obligation that humans have to animals and thus the obligation to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. Ethical philosophers have long discussed if animals are equal to humans. The arguments for a moral obligation to animals lie with the fact that humans are the only rational beings and, for those who believe in certain spiritualities and religions, have souls.[4] Regardless of the argument for the moral obligation to animals facing slaughter, humans do have a moral obligation to the Earth. This is true because, in order to provide a livable environment for future generations, humans must maintain the Earth’s biodiversity and natural resources. Without the security of these resources, future generations will not be able to be sustained, thus endangering the life of billions of humans yet to be born.

According to a national survey conducted by The Vegetarian Resource Group, only 3.4% of adults responded stating that they were vegetarian.[5] Although 36% adults reported eating one or more vegetarian meals per week, it is necessary that there be a collection human vegetarian diet adoption to make a lasting and meaningful impact on the environment.[6] It is imperative because the current condition of industrial agriculture is unsustainable. Natural resource depletion and pollution are making the land, air, and water less viable for future agriculture each year. The vegetarian diet, if collectively adopted, would decrease the amount of natural resource depletion and pollution that the environment is currently facing.

            The term food system involves all the processes used to create food for our planet’s occupants. Agricultural production, capture, processing, preparation, consumption, and waste disposal are all involved in the food system. To first produce agriculture, which includes crops and livestock, land must be utilized. To meet the food demands of the Earth’s increasing population, land must be exploited and industrial agriculture must be utilized. Local farms alone can not support the demands for food that the 7 billion people on this planet require. As of 2015, 38% of the Earth’s surface was used for agricultural processing while the United States used 45% of their land resources.[7] Nearly half of our country’s land is being used for food and about thirteen million hectares of forest are cleared for agriculture each year.[8] Agriculture is the largest contributor to biodiversity loss due to this destruction, diminishing natural resources such as lumber as well as oxygen production. Rainforests, the largest contributors to oxygen production on the planet, have faced “continuous destruction in Central and South America.”[9] The destruction of forests for agriculture results in less carbon dioxide being converted into oxygen. Less oxygen production as well as land and topsoil loss is a major environmental issue that must be fixed so that future generations can grow crops. Without oxygen security and viable land for farming, the Earth will not be able to feed the increasing population. This means a lack of natural resources and populations of hungry individuals across the globe.

Currently, there are approximately 56 billion land animals produced on 38% of Earth’s surface each year, which indicates overexploitation of agricultural lands.[10] The land that is currently used to produce meat must increase due to the increase of meat consumption in first-world countries and the increase in population trends. The already unsustainable amount of land being used for meat production must increase which will result in more of the Earth’s viable land being used for meat production. Currently, 25% of land that is used for food production is degraded “due to such things as topsoil loss, microbial diminishment, and nutrient depletion.”[11] The percentage of land that is currently being used for crops and livestock production will soon be no longer viable for farming and meat factories. This will leave the human population without viable land and not a supportable amount of food.

The loss of viable land is a direct result of meat production. About 56 million acres in the United States alone are used to feed livestock. Conversely, only 4 million acres are used to grow crops for humans to consume (PETA).[12] Crops currently used to feed livestock are diminishing available crops for the human population. In fact, vegetarians use 20 times less land than the average meat-consumer, proving that vegetarians live a more Earth-friendly and eco-sustainable lifestyle.[13] A diet that includes meat wastes land resources now and assists the destruction of viable topsoil for future generations by overusing our current land resources.

            The Earth’s water resources are also becoming more and more diminished each year due to agriculture production. In the United States, 80% of freshwater is used for agriculture while 70% of freshwater is used for agriculture worldwide.[14] Due to the high demand for meat production, crucial freshwater sources, such as North America’s Ogalla Aquifier, are being depleted at such high rates that they cannot be replenished.[15] It is not possible for the Earth to sustain 7 billion people’s eating habits without using an excessive amount of water and land, however, livestock’s overuse of this water supply limit the amount of water, 30% worldwide, that is left for humans to use. Livestock needs water and consumes crops that require water. Decreasing livestock consumption decreases the percentage of water that is not consumed directly by humans. The 786 million people on this planet that lack access to safe drinking water would benefit from a decrease in the amount of freshwater used for meat production because more water would be available for direct human consumption.[16]

The massive quantities of animal waste are polluting and seeping into lakes, rivers, and oceans. This, often toxic, manure kills wildlife and pollutes not only the water, but also the air. For example, a typical pig factory produces “7.2 million pounds of manure annually” and a typical cattle feedlot will produce 344 million pounds of manure annually.[17] Manure from livestock created each year is about 130 times more that of humans. A conservative estimate by the Environmental Protective Agency indicated that livestock excrement has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in twenty-two states.[18] Pollution and water depletion are shrinking viable resources of water for future generations’ agricultural production. This pollution also directly affects the amount of water that is drinkable for the current population. With such a high population of humans without safe drinking water, it is a moral requirement to help those individuals by making water more readily available. A collective adoption of vegetarianism would not only save animal lives but would save human lives through water preservation.

The massive quantity of waste does not only pollute the water through runoff and septic rivers and lakes but also, it affects the air immensely. Manure releases high quantities of gasses into the atmosphere, which affects global warming and air toxicity. Typical factory farms for pigs found that manure contains ammonia, methane, phosphorous, cyanide, nitrates and carbon monoxide.[19] Gasses like phosphorous and nitrogen are partly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is responsible for 24% of all greenhouse gas emissions which, along with deforestation for agriculture, makes agriculture the number one contributor to greenhouse gasses.[20] The immense amount of greenhouse gasses produced from agriculture is a direct cause of biodiversity loss and the pollution of air and water. Adopting a “non-meat diet would significantly reduce the ecological impacts of our diet” because the detrimental environmental impacts of agriculture would be greatly reduced.[21] Humans are morally responsible for these impacts thus it is imperative that humans collectively adopt the vegetarian diet.

            Those who eat meat but understand the ecological effect of their diet may argue that the “organic” and “locally” raised meat products remedy their meat diet instead of supporting a collective human adoption of vegetarianism. Although the health benefits of eating organically may prove significant, “organic” and “local” meat products do not eliminate the effects of the meat industry on our planet. In fact, “local” meat may even prove to be worse for the environment than it is perceived to be. Currently, the United States only has 0.7% of its cropland certified as organic.[22] According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), they do not have a definition for the term “organic” on food labels and is not defined by law or regulations that the FDA enforces. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines specific organic standards and has regulations in place for organic labeling. Standards include not administering medications in the absence of illness and not using synthetic internal parasiticides on a regular basis.[23] Therefore, organic meat production results in less toxic manure entering our water.

Although these regulations prevent animals ingesting bacteria and pesticides that result in toxic manure, the same amount of manure is being produced. Thus, an immense amount of methane, phosphorous, and nitrous oxide are still being produced and are entering the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses are still being generated and negatively impact the Earth’s atmosphere, biodiversity, and water resources. Also, regulations are not very severe for misusing the organic label. According to the USDA, any person who sells or labels their products as organic knowingly “shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000.”[24] Minor regulations that are not strict can result in misuse of the organic label on foods that use pesticides and antibiotics.[25] Without severe penalties and ability to misuse the organic label, industrial agriculture can use pesticides and unethical farming practices unbeknownst to consumers.

Locally raised meat products are another alternative that is proposed as a way to help the environment’s current condition while retaining meat consumption. However, locally grown food is not as ecologically friendly as it is friendly to local economies. According to the USDA, there is no generally accepted definition of “local” food. However, the total distance a product may travel and still be considered as locally produced is less than 400 miles from its origin or within the state in which it was produced. The average American meal travels approximately 1,500 miles from farm to plate.[26] Meat products are able to travel a maximum of six hours on a truck and still be considered local, although they can be worse for the environment. Smaller transportation vehicles carrying smaller amounts of meat produces more pollution by vehicles. Just as riding the local bus with many individuals is better for the environment than driving your own vehicle by yourself, food that travels in large quantities by train can have a smaller carbon footprint than food transported in smaller quantities by truck over a shorter distance.[27] Therefore, the local food consumer may be harming the environment even though local economies may prosper.

Locally produced food does not mean that the food is produced without pesticides or maltreatment of the animals. In fact, local farms tend to be small or medium-sized farms that lack clear rules that mean, “growers must determine which regulations apply to their situation and who is responsible for developing and enforcing regulations.”[28] These uncertainties are also related to food safety, processing, on-farm production, and post handling practices. These vague regulations make it possible for farms to cut corners by cutting costs and using non-ecological practices by using pesticides and antibiotics. Also, with the current practices of United States consumers, it is nearly impossible for an individual to only ingest locally grown and pesticide-free meat products. Almost 99% of all farm animals in the United States are produced in factory farms, which indicates that locally grown farms hardly make a difference.[29] Almost all meat consumers will purchase and consume meat originating on factory farms and thus it is unethical to consume meat because of the “overconsumption of natural resources” “methane and nitrous oxide, two examples of greenhouse gasses,” and “manure, which contaminates water when poorly managed.”[30] Locally produced and organically produced meat will not reverse these effects but vegetarianism on a global scale can reduce both pollution and depletion of natural resources.

            Supporters of a meat diet may also argue that the poor and the starving do not have the option to adopt a vegetarian diet. Others may argue that meat feeds the hungry and that meat offers needed calories and sustenance. In reality, if the vegetarian diet were more adopted worldwide, there would be more energy traveling from food to humans. Animal agriculture, although it uses such massive quantities of natural resources, is very inefficient. Herbivorous animals “convert only about 10% of the plant matter they metabolize into their own body parts”.[31] This means that only one-tenth of the energy animal consumption intended crops produced go to an animal’s body parts. Furthermore, only parts of certain animals are commonly consumed, further limiting the energy transferred to humans. If the land used for livestock were made to produce crops, more energy would enter the food system. This would result in shrinking amounts of exploited natural resources and increasing amounts of energy available for human consumption.

            Agriculture uses approximately “756 million tons of grain and corn per year” to produce meat products.[32] This staggering amount of grain and corn that could be used to feed the starving human populations does not include the 255 million tons of soy crops that are fed to farmed animals.[33] Soy is a great source of protein that could be used to sustain humans but yet hundreds of millions of tons are being fed to livestock. The caloric benefits of animals are also misunderstood to be more sustainable for the human population. In reality, the inefficiency of a diet containing animal products is beyond staggering. Every “ten calories fed to cattle results in only one calorie consumed by people,” which means 90% of calories are lost in this process (food ethics, 88). This also means that ten times more crop agriculture, land, and water is required to be used to get the same amount of calories from beef than if the calories from crops were consumed directly. This is excluding the amount of water and land cattle uses to drink and graze. A collective adoption of vegetarianism is not elitist because it would result in more food energy, calories, and protein being available for the starving human populations. If the amount of grain used to produce agriculture was exported to the rest of the developing world where there are poor and hungry human populations, humans could also “export these food systems and their environmental consequences.”[34] Therefore vegetarianism on a global scale not only is an ethical obligation to the environment but and ethical obligation to the human population.

            The moral obligation that humans have to future human generations, and thus to the environment, are irrefutable. The current state of the environment prompts the human population to change consumption practices so that future natural resources will be viable to help sustain generations to come. The collective adoption of vegetarianism is an ethical imperative that will result in alleviating the devastation that is currently spoiling our environment. Not only will the adoption of vegetarianism improve the environment, it also has the capability to feed starving populations of humans in current years. Natural resource depletion and pollution have the ability destroy human life by removing all viable food manufacturing resources. Therefore, a collective adoption of vegetarianism by the human population is necessary.

Footnotes:

[1] George, Kathryn Paxton. Animal, Vegetable, or Woman?: A Feminist Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000), 2.

[2] Ibid., 19.

[3] Kraig, Bruce. “Colin Spencer. The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England. 1995. Pp. Xiii, 402. $29.95.” The American Historical Review 102, no. 1 (1997): 86.

[4] Paxton, Animal, Vegetable, or Woman?, 23.

[5] The VRG Blog Editor. “The Vegetarian Resource Group.” The VRG. May 29, 2015. Accessed April 12, 2016. http://www.vrg.org/blog/2015/05/29/how-often-do-americans-eat-vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian-2/.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sandler, Ronald L. Food Ethics: The Basics. (NY: Routledge, 2015), 7.

[8] Ibid., 23.

[9] Paxton, Animal, Vegetable, or Woman?, 13.

[10] Sandler, Food Ethics: The Basics, 74.

[11] Ibid., 47.

[12] PETA. “Meat and the Environment.” PETA. 2016. Accessed April 12, 2016. http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-environment/.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Sandler, Food Ethics: The Basics, 87.

[15] Ibid., 47.

[16] Ibid., 29.

[17] Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009), 174.

[18] Ibid., 179.

[19] Ibid., 174.

[20] Sandler, Food Ethics: The Basics, 87.

[21] Ibid., 89.

[22] Ibid., 38.

[23] H.R. Doc. No. 7 USC Ch. 94: Organic Certification From Title 7—Agriculture-‘Organic Foods Production Act of 1990’ (1990).

[24] Ibid.

[25] S. Rep. No. Local Food Systems Concepts, Impacts, and Issues-Advanced Economic Research

Report Number 97 (2010).

[26] Ibid.

[27] Sandler, Food Ethics: The Basics, 37.

[28] S. Rep. No. Advanced Economic Research Report Number 97.

[29] Sapontzis, S. F. Food for Thought: The Debate Over Eating Meat. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004), 58.

[30] Bramble, Ben, and Bob Fischer. The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat. (NY: Oxford University Press, 2016), 38.

[31] Ibid., 59.

[32] Foer, Eating Animals, 211.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Sapontzis, Food for Thought: The Debate Over Eating Meat, 269.

 

Bibliography

H.R. Doc. No. 7 USC Ch. 94: Organic Certification From Title 7—Agriculture-‘Organic

Foods Production Act of 1990′ (1990).

Rep. No. Local Food Systems Concepts, Impacts, and Issues-Advanced Economic Research

Report Number 97 (2010).

Bramble, Ben, and Bob Fischer. The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat. NY: Oxford

University Press, 2016.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009.

George, Kathryn Paxton. Animal, Vegetable, or Woman?: A Feminist Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000.

Kraig, Bruce. “Colin Spencer. The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism. Hanover,

N.H.:

University Press of New England. 1995. Pp. Xiii, 402. $29.95.” The American Historical

Review 102, no. 1 (1997): 85-86.

PETA. “Meat and the Environment.” PETA. 2016. Accessed April 12, 2016.

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-environment/.

Sandler, Ronald L. Food Ethics: The Basics. NY: Routledge, 2015.

Sapontzis, S. F. Food for Thought: The Debate Over Eating Meat. Amherst, NY: Prometheus

Books, 2004.

The VRG Blog Editor. “The Vegetarian Resource Group.” The VRG. May 29, 2015. Accessed

April 12, 2016. http://www.vrg.org/blog/2015/05/29/how-often-do-americans-eat

vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian-2/.

Food for Thought

A Response to “Eating our Friends” by Roger Scruton

Click to read original article

As a food-educated vegan, I disagree with this article on many points, excluding that Western cultures need to make a change in the way they eat. Before I dive into my opinion, here are some guidelines to my points:

  • Individuals who live in third world countries often cannot afford to be vegan/vegetarian. These individuals eat for need, not for pleasure. Therefore they are obviously excluded.
  • However, for those who eat for pleasure, not for need, this article is for you.
  • “About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.” Source
    • Why? Apart from family history and medical conditions, diet is the main causer of heart disease. (moo)
  • “About 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to produce feed for animals raised for food. The meat industry is directly responsible for 85 percent of all soil erosion in the U.S.” Source

 

Daily dose of facts:

“…the 1984 famine in Ethiopia didn’t happen because local agriculture didn’t produce food but because this food was exported to Europe to be fed to ‘farm animals’. It was during this famine – which cost tens of thousands of people their lives – that European countries even imported grain from Ethiopia to feed chickens, pigs and cows. Had the grain been used to feed the Ethiopian people, there wouldn’t have been a famine after all. In Guatemala, about 75 per cent of children under the age of 5 are malnourished. But still, more than 17,000 tons of meat are produced every year to be exported to the US.” Source

So what’s this article about?

In few words, this article focuses on highlighting the morality behind ethical farming and the human-animal relationship. He urges people to eat meals with each other instead of eating fast-food. He states that, “the lifestyle associated with the Sunday roast involves sacrifices that those brought up on fast food are unused to making — mealtimes, manners, dinner-table conversation, and the art of cookery itself” (Scruton). This, obviously, is true. With phones and busy lifestyles, some families never find the time to eat together. However, why can’t an awesome meal with family involve healthier vegan options? And how could the human-animal relationship be improved even further?

So what do I think?

Specifically, I take issue with this statement: “When animals raised for their meat are properly looked after, when all duties of care are fulfilled, and when the demands of sympathy and piety are respected, the practice cannot be criticized except from a premise — the premise of animal rights — which I believe to be incoherent” (Scruton). The fact is, animals can take care of themselves.

Stating that they benefit from us is like saying we helped the Native Americans. Native Americans had their own lifestyle and it worked for them. Westerners infiltrated their lands, killed them, and took them off their land and put them somewhere else. We did not make their lives better by educating them or giving them new religion, they were already self-sustaining. This relates to our current situation regarding livestock. If meat-eaters want to defend the raising of livestock with nutritional facts, that is different from proclaiming that humans make animals live better and longer. In reality, milk cows live, on average, 20 years in the wild and 4-5 years in captivity. So how does this promote animal rights?

The article also states that there are “ecological benefits of small-scale live-stock farming.” Although this is true, vegetarianism and veganism is even better for the environment. The fact is that of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S., more than one-third are devoted to raising animals for food.

I do, for obvious cognitive reasons, agree that we are at the top of the food chain. However, I disagree completely that we need meat to sustain life. We do not, in the modern world, need to eat meat. So we definitely do not need to eat it every day. Those who eat meat in the Western world, who are economically sound, eat for pleasure, not for sustenance and nutrition. If we ate for nutrition and ecological reasons, we would all be vegan.  The fact is, meat is unnecessary and have come to the point in technological advancement that scientists understand the nutrients that humans need, and most, almost all, can come from plants.

Regarding a sit-down Sunday dinner, why can’t that dinner contain delicious roasted vegetables, pasta with red sauce, and dairy-free desserts (my favorite). We can become the type of society that reverts back to eating as a family without eating the foods we have always eaten. Let’s eat like a family while eating the right way: for the environment and for animal rights!

So what should I do about this?

THINK:

Try to think about how you eat and how the world works. Organize your thoughts before you make any lifestyle changes. Can I afford to be vegan/vegetarian? Can I limit my meat intake each week to reduce my carbon footprint? Can I benefit from lowering my heart-disease related health risks?

Think about how you justify the way you eat and analyze if your reasonings are sound. If your diet relies on bacon and cheese, chances are you are doing something wrong. If you are the type to buy local and organic animal-products, think about how you can reduce your carbon footprint even more by limiting your intake of meat.

STAND UP:

Do you care about the environment and your personal health but are a closet burger-eater?It’s okay, no one’s perfect! However, it wouldn’t hurt to practice what you preach and emphasize your own values in your daily life. Start by making small goals to cut out meat, even dairy products. Replace those meals with vegetables and legumes.

Are you an advocate for animal rights? Join an animal rights community either online, on your college campus, or in your community. Ask how you can make a difference by standing up.