Comfortably Unaware: global depletion and food responsibility . . .
What you choose to eat is killing our planet

comfortably unaware

By Dr. Richard A. Oppenlander
Langdon Street Press, 2011

Review by Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

News of how our consumer choices and commercial industries are affecting our planet has made terms like fossil fuel, carbon footprint, greenhouse gases and global warming commonplace. Carbon dioxide is most commonly associated with global warming, but in Comfortably Unaware, Dr. Richard Oppenlander argues that while it’s important to minimize CO2 emissions from cars and industry, “the single most devastating factor that affects global warming and our environment is caused by what you eat.” Methane and nitrous oxide, he says, “are much more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases.” These treacherous gases enter the atmosphere mainly through the flatulence and manure of the 65 billion land animals who are now being raised for food – a number that could double by 2050.

Global warming is one component of global depletion. Comfortably Unaware insists that animal agriculture, including fishing and aquaculture (factory farming of freshwater and sea creatures for human, companion animal and farmed animal consumption), is the primary cause of global depletion – the loss of our renewable and nonrenewable resources including our drinking water, air quality, land, oceans, rainforests, and biodiversity. Reports on the health and environmental havoc of farmed animal production and consumption stop short of advocating the animal-free diet that would solve the problem. For instance, 80 percent of the world’s protein-rich soy crop is not being fed to starving children, but to farmed animals, and most of this soy “is now grown on rainforest-cleared land.” In 2004-2005 more than 2.9 million acres of rainforest were destroyed, “primarily to grow crops for chickens used by Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

Oppenlander explains why “grass-fed, pastured” animal production is a false solution to factory farming and why small-scale operations cannot sustainably meet the demands of billions of people wanting cheap, readily available meat, dairy and eggs. Smaller farms don’t alter the amount of resources required to raise, transport and slaughter hundreds of billions of animals. Currently, 55 percent of our fresh water is given to animals raised for food, and 89,000 pounds of excrement are produced by farmed animals every second in the United States alone, says Oppenlander. Moreover, what is fashionably called “humane” farming does not meet the behavioral and cognitive needs of, or show any genuine respect for the animals trapped in our food production systems and belittling attitudes.

Comfortably Unaware represents the enormous benefits of a nutritious, animal-free, vegan diet while explaining why organizations and individuals who are “aware and are in various positions to get the message out so that it could make a difference do not speak about it.” While deploring their failure to do so, Oppenlander argues that the realities of our food choices are what they are, and we can ignore or face these realities. He says that with “every burger, steak, pot roast, turkey sandwich, fried chicken, rib, barbecue, pork chop, bacon, ham, or whatever you want to call it or however you want to cook it, you are perpetuating the demand, which furthers the business of raising animals and then slaughtering them for you to eat. You can turn your head the other way, but the process continues.” It continues to the detriment of animals, our health, and the health of our planet.

We can reverse the ill fortune, however, if we care deeply enough. The power to create a totally different outcome resides in our determination, our collective intelligence, and our pocketbook.

Dr. Richard Oppenlander will speak and sign copies of Comfortably Unaware at our Conscious Eating Conference at UC-Berkeley, Saturday February 18, 2012. For conference details and registration, see pages 10-11 or go to