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Vegan diet best for environment, weight loss and health, says James Cameron

Director James Cameron switched to a vegan diet in 2012, and has since become a vocal proponent of plant-based diets for both environmental and health reasons, the Las Vegas Informer reported Aug. 17.

James Cameron credits vegan diet for weight loss and excellent health
James Cameron credits vegan diet for weight loss and excellent healthPhoto by Caroline McCredie

Cameron became vegan in 2011, saying he was motivated by a desire to preserve the planet. Along the way, the Oscar-winning director lost weight and dramatically improved his health. At 60, James said he feels better than ever, and credits his vegan diet for his amazing transformation.

"If you’d asked me when I was 30, I would have thought, 'Your life’s over. Just get in the box, get on with it,' " Cameron told the Sydney Morning Herald. "But I went 100 percent plant-based — vegan — two-and-a-half years ago. I’ve got tons of energy. I’m fitter now. I’m running farther than I did when I was in my 20s.’’

'You Are Not an Environmentalist If You Eat Meat'

Cameron made headlines in 2012 after slamming non-vegetarian environmentalists, saying you are not an environmentalist if you eat meat (see video).

You can’t be an environmentalist, you can’t be an ocean steward, without truly walking the walk. And you can’t walk the walk in the world of the future — the world ahead of us, the world of our children — not eating a plant-based diet.”

James and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, don't just talk the talk; they walk the walk. They grow about 90 percent of their own food on a 100-acre biodynamic farm in California, and founded the Muse School in Malibu, which is the first school in the United States to go 100 percent vegan. They both credit the documentary "Forks Over Knives" for their vegan conversion.

Cameron said eating meat is cruel to animals and damages the environment. "It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it," James said. "So it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.”

Experts: 51% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Come From Livestock Production

In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a report indicating that 18 percent of the world's man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production. In reality, that figure is closer to 51 percent, according to a 2009 report by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of the IFC Environment and Social Development Department.

Several noted environmentalists have also vocally advocated a vegetarian lifestyle, citing the environmental damage caused by livestock farming. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently suggested that everyone could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions simply by reducing their meat consumption.

Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, underscored that eating cows isn't the main problem; it's eating cows raised on factory farms. Pelletier told Time magazine grass-fed cows are better for the environment that cows raised on livestock farms, where they're pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and live in horrific, unsanitary conditions before they're slaughtered.

"If your primary concern is to curb emissions, you shouldn't be eating beef," said Pelletier, who noted that cows produce 13 to 30 pounds of carbon dioxide per pound of meat.

"Conventional cattle raising is like mining. It's unsustainable, because you're just taking without putting anything back. But when you rotate cattle on grass, you change the equation. You put back more than you take."

However, some experts take issue with the notion that grass-fed beef is more environmentally friendly than factory-farmed livestock. Dr. Jude Capper, an assistant professor of dairy sciences at Washington State University, told Fox News grass-fed cows do as much harm to the planet as factory-farmed ones.

There's a perception that grass-fed animals are frolicking in the sunshine, kicking their heels up full of joy and pleasure. What we actually found was from the land-use basis, from the energy, from water — and particularly, based on the carbon footprints — grass-fed is far worse than corn-fed."

One thing all vegetarian experts agree on is that livestock production damages the planet, and a plant-based diet is far more eco-friendly than a meat-centric one. Marc Reisner, former staff writer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, summed it up best when he wrote in his book "Cadillac Desert":

In California, the single biggest consumer of water is not Los Angeles. It is not the oil and chemicals or defense industries. Nor is it the fields of grapes and tomatoes. It is irrigated pasture: grass grown in a near-desert climate for cows. The West’s water crisis — and many of its environmental problems as well — can be summed up in a single word: livestock.”