Readers' advice for coping with drought: Go vegetarian

Readers' advice for coping with drought: Go vegetarian
Dairyman Joey Airoso rakes hay for his cows on his family farm in Pixley, Calif. (Los Angeles Times)

It's all well and good for us to focus on what's growing in our yards as a way to cope with California's drought, but ripping out lawns won't do much good if we continue to ignore what's on our forks.

That's the message conveyed by an increasing number of readers in letters that advocate going meatless during the drought. We've always had letters trickle in that tout the health benefits of plant-based diets, but with the drought intensifying and Sacramento mandating historic cutbacks, our overall water footprint — including what we eat — is coming under sharper focus.


These readers are among many that have expressed support for going vegetarian since the drought has risen to crisis proportions.

Loretta Smalls of Lancaster compares livestock to trees:

Why is it that I rarely see journalists address animal agriculture? Cutting down on our intake of animal products could do a lot to save water since it takes more than 600 gallons to produce a single hamburger. How about some of you folks step out of your comfort zone for once?

People want to blame almond farmers for the drought. Are you kidding me? Trees give back to the environment, whereas meat and dairy only take — and leave large pools of waste, ocean dead zones and ruined ecosystems and streams. I have almond and other kinds of trees that I water twice a week; they don't take nearly as much as our two horses do in a day.

Beverly Hills resident Cheri Shankar is encouraged by renewed focus on food sustainability:

I'm glad to see the real facts coming out about what foods should be avoided as we address California's epic water crisis. If one just looks at the facts, raising animals in food production uses far more water than those vilified almonds.

In addition, by reducing our meat consumption, we can improve our health and spare animals from cruel factory farms. It's no wonder why more and more public health and sustainability organizations encourage us to reduce our meat consumption.

So rather than skipping a shower, let's do something that has a real impact. Eating a veggie burger over a chicken sandwich is an easy step we can all take.

Jennifer Bravo of Los Angeles encourages would-be vegetarians:

I'm glad that Gov. Jerry Brown is taking concrete steps to reduce our water usage, but he's ignoring the meat industry. According to the nonprofit Water Footprint Network, animal products require more water than any crop product with equivalent nutritional value.

It's crystal clear: We have to eat less meat. Thankfully, it's never been easier.

California is home to some of the best vegetarian restaurants. If you want to save some money and dine in, just make your favorite dishes meat-free, like three-bean chili, pasta with marinara and fresh vegetables, or a veggie burger. We can overcome this drought, but we can't ignore an industry that uses an inordinate amount of water.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook