McDonald’s and Dairy Queen were staples on Bruce Friedrich’s menu when he attended Norman High School in the 1980s.

More than 20 years later, Friedrich, PETA vice president, has gone meatless and returned to one of the most carnivorous and reddest meat states to spar with members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sooner Speech Team on why he went “green.”

“Anyone up for eating Gracie at your next meal?” said Friedrich as he showed a photo of a cat. “Nobody has to eat meat to survive. People eat meat because they like the taste.”

Friedrich, who worked for six years at a homeless shelter in Washington prior to his time with PETA, said he became a vegan after research proved to him that the backstage preparation of meat wasted the earth’s natural resources and stunted efforts to reduce poverty.

During his opening argument, he said to get a calorie from an animal, it takes 20 times the amount of fossil fuels, 14 times the water and 25 times the amount of land than it does to get an equal amount of calories from plants.

These production costs then drive up the cost of food, making it difficult for those struggling to keep their grocery costs low, he said.

“If you care about the global poor, don’t drive up the cost so they can’t get anything to eat at all,” Friedrich said. “That alone, for me, cinched the deal.”

He then showed a video that detailed some of the treatment of animals before their death, showing hundreds of chickens packed together to be killed, most not even 2 months old.

One of Friedrich’s opponents, OU senior Clayton Dodds, urged the audience not to be swayed emotionally by the video, admitting that the treatment does happen, but not across the board.

Dodds countered Friedrich’s evidence, saying that just because people choose to eat meat doesn’t mean that they acknowledge or affirm these actions.

Friedrich, however, said he didn’t understand Dodds’ argument, explaining that by buying the food, consumers enter into a “mercenary exchange” that condones the act. 

In his rebuttal, Dodds said only 35 percent of the Earth’s land is suitable for agriculture and of that, only 10 percent can be used to grow food for humans.

And vegan food doesn’t run cheap either, Dodds said, holding up a vegan cookie he bought for $3.50.

“If you give a mouse a vegan cookie, he’s going to want a refund,” he said.

Dodds — who was joined by his partner, OU senior Dawn Norton, in the debate — also said converting completely to a herbivore lifestyle could increase deforestation, and strenuous cultivation of the lands could lead to drought implications.

He said eating meat is an instinctive human act, adding that since their beginnings, humans have been hunters and gatherers.

“Simply eating meat doesn’t mean that you’re not an ethical person because you’re acting out of self-necessity,” he said.

Nanette Light 366-3541 nlight@normantranscript.com

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