If you have had a look at this blog before, you may have seen my recent post, Project January. I had decided after Christmas to challenge myself to 30 days of meat and alcohol free living, together with a daily yoga practice. We are now at the end of January, and I have lost half a stone and feel a lot more healthy.
The yoga has been wonderful, but I do miss my glass of red wine, so I will be returning to “social drinking” in February. I don’t however, expect to return to eating meat, and, if you have a minute, let me explain why.
I have been a carnivore all my life. When vegetarian friends come to stay, I panic and run to the nearest supermarket to scoop up armfuls of Linda McCartney’s products. I couldn’t imagine giving up my favourite dishes like Steak Diane, Beef Wellington and Salmon En Croute. But this month everything has changed. I have educated myself, and having done so, I have decided not to eat meat again.
Apparently, the main reasons people give up meat are as follows: Firstly, because of the animal cruelty that is involved in a lot of meat production, secondly because they don’t like the taste or texture of meat, thirdly because of health reasons and lastly, because of environmental concerns.
I am quite ashamed to say I have, in the past, avoided reading about animal cruelty in meat production. I knew it went on, but I buried my head about it and pretended to myself that, because I bought meat from reputable sources, the animals were treated humanely. In many ways, I distanced what was on my plate from the animal it had been. I am not going to go into the various practices that go on here, as the information is widely available on the internet, but it was one of the reasons for my giving up eating meat.
Health wise, it is certainly true that having stopped eating meat, I have noticed a marked improvement in my energy levels and feeling of wellbeing, even though it is early days. Further research on the web tells me that having cut out meat, I may be less susceptible to heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. I certainly feel more healthy.
However, probably the main reason for my new found vegetarianism is my concern for the environment. And this is the information that I would like to underline in this post.
So how is what we eat connected with the massive problem that is global warming? Well, about 25% of the climate change problems we are experiencing can be attributed to what we put on our plate. This is greater than all the emissions of all the transport on the planet! Who knew? Not me! I’ll come back to this later.
Most people have no idea that simply by cutting down on their meat intake, they are massively reducing their carbon footprint. Yes, we are all aware that if we turn the lights off and try to use public transport instead of our fuel guzzling cars, we are doing our bit in the current crisis, but actually, one of the main sources of environmental destruction is the farming of livestock. Are you aware for example, of the cost of your dinner in carbon emissions? If you have steak on your plate, you may be surprised to know that’s it’s cost 330g in emissions. If you have chicken, it’s 50g, and a plate of vegetables is approximately 14g. That certainly sparked my interest!
The farming of livestock pollutes the earth, air and water for miles around. This is because livestock are ruminant animals and produce a lot of gases. These gases, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are hugely harmful to the atmosphere. Methane, for example, traps heat and remains in the atmosphere for 12 years, whilst nitrous oxide hangs around for approximately 100 years! And that’s not all, livestock farming also creates sulphuric and nitric air pollutants, which combined with atmospheric moisture, turn into acid rain, which damage crops and forests for miles around.
Another issue is the mind blowing amounts of water that is required to get that steak to your plate. Take this statistic as a guide: To produce 1 single pound of beef requires 5, 214 galleons of water. To produce 1 pound of vegetables, requires 25 galleons of water. (Source: Why Go Vegetarian by Valerie Waters).
The most staggering fact for me however is that livestock farming accounts for the same amount of global greenhouse gas emissions as all transport worldwide! That’s all the buses, cars, train and planes in the world! I know I mentioned this a couple of paragraphs ago, but it’s worth mentioning twice!
All that livestock needs feeding. About 1 billion tonnes of grain to be precise, grain that could feed 3.5 billion people.
The land required for livestock farming is vast. Forests and rainforests are felled daily to use for grazing which is disastrous for the local ecosystem. One fourth of our planets land is required by 1.7 billion livestock. Because of this, this land cannot be used for producing grain, which could be used instead to alleviate famine in the worlds poorest areas.
The United Nations estimates that about 70% of the forests in the basin of the Amazon river, have been cut down to start livestock farming, while the WWF states that a rainforest area larger than New York is lost every year in favour of animal farming and production.
So, meat production has a BIG carbon load. But don’t panic if you are a committed carnivore. You don’t need to give it up completely. Yes, it would be fantastic if everyone turned vegetarian overnight, but actually if we can simply reduce meat intake by 50%, it will be the same as taking a billion cars off the road by 2050! I hope you agree it is amazing that something so simple as having less meat in your diet, will have such a drastic effect on the environment.
All of this gives me hope, as we don’t have to feel helpless in the face of climate change. Every one of us can do something today to make a very real difference when it comes to the future of our planet.
This is a huge subject of course, and could easily be the subject of a thousand posts. I’ve not even got started on overfishing, hunting and livestock living conditions, but I hope that the more educated people become, the more they may make the choices that will mean that livestock production will gradually fall.
I have been completely vegetarian for a tiny amount of time, but I have already been amazed by the wealth of products available to vegans and vegetarians. It’s not necessary to eat just a plate of vegetables, nice as that is. I have enjoyed vegetarian meatballs, allotment cottage pie, spinach and ricotta lasagne, and delicious, colourful and nutritious recipes such as this goats cheese, tomato and pepper tart.
This post is not designed to make you feel bad. I just want you to have a think about your choices, and realise that far from being too small to make any difference, the choices you make can have a massive impact on the future of planet earth, whilst reducing cruelty to animals and gaining a healthier lifestyle for yourself. Surely it is worth thinking about, or at least doing some more research? ❤️🌎
* You may also be interested in my post 50 Things You Can Do To Help The Environment