How does what we eat effect the planet?
Get this for a fact.
The average UK carnivore eats 11,000 animals in their lifetime.
We eat 230million tonnes of meat per year globally.
Raising, feeding, killing, storing, transporting, packaging, selling, buying and eating the Sunday roast involve massive amounts of methane and gas production, oil, gas, electricity, waste, water and energy.
In 2006, the combined climate changing emissions of ‘processing’ animals for food was 18% of the global total (United Nations)
More than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together!
If the knock-on effects of forest clearing, extensive use of fertilisers, and transportation is included, we’re closer to 51%.
The Food Climate Research Network ranks livestock farming as ‘one of the three greatest sources of climate changing emissions and one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation’.
So, Number 1 – The meat industry is dangerously overheating the planet.
Here’s seven other reasons our appetite for meat is damaging the environment.
Eating Up Land
Basically, meat eaters need more land to satisfy their diet. A vegetarian could live off one acre or land. A meat eater would need 20 acres.
Nearly 30% of the available area of the planet is used by livestock or their feed crops.
Routine ‘overstocking’ of fragile land has created massive soil erosion and desertification, loss of fertility as well as flooding.
Farming uses 70% of all the water available to humans.
Consider that it takes nearly 1,000 litres of water to produce just one litre of milk.
Around 6 million hectares of forest land is converted to farmland per year. Of that, most goes to livestock or feed crops.
For over 30 years, the global ‘Agribusiness’ has cleared tropical rainforests to create grazing land or grow palm oil and soya.
Industrial-scale agriculture dominates western livestock industries. A single farm can generate as much waste as a city.
More than one third of the world’s 825 “ecoregions” as identified by WWF are threatened by livestock. 23 out of 40 global “biodiversity hotspots” (considered most valuable for life) are now seriously affected by livestock production.
An ocean “dead zone” is caused when vast quantities of excess nutrients from animal waste, factory farms, sewage, nitrogen compounds and fertiliser are swept down river to the seas.
Nearly 400 dead zones have been identified, from the Scandinavian fjords to the South China Sea. Animal farming is not the only culprit, but it is one of the worst.
In the US, livestock and animal feed crops are responsible for 37% of pesticide use, half of all antibiotics manufactured, and a third of the nitrogen and phosphorous found in fresh water. Two thirds of the manmade ammonia, which causes acid rain, is generated by livestock.
Use of Fossil Fuels
The western animal farming economy is based on oil.
As much as a third of fossil fuels produced in the United States alone are used in animal agriculture.
But everything needs balance. In many places, the meat industry is a lifeline keeping people out of poverty and in tune with the land and their cultures.
It is the sheer scale of the extensive production of meat that is the problem for the environment. Every move to a vegetarian diet is a reduction in the driving force of appetite behind the meat industry phenomenon, and the environmental destruction it unleashes. We don’t have to be purists.
Just reducing the quantity of meat we eat will not only benefit our health, but is one step to helping the environment recover. Two of the best reasons on the planet, surely.