KNOW THIS: Consuming lots of meat is bad for us and the environment.
WHY? Livestock and their by-products are one of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Minimise the amount of meat you consume, if any.
The madness of meat farming
I’ve never really been a massive meat eater, mainly because I prefer eating loads of healthy vegetables, but recently I’ve been put off by meat entirely. Not only for animal welfare reasons, but also because of the damaging effects factory farming has on us and the environment. Overall it’s just a horrible industry that I really don’t want to be a part of. The pollution, the waste, the utterly miserable lives of billions of animals. It just feels wrong.
In just one year, more than 50 billion land animals will be raised and slaughtered for food, with the majority suffering from birth until death. But while not everyone may choose to care about the welfare of animals, what people should be aware of is the long-term harm to them and the environment.
The environmental impact is huge.
Livestock farming has a vast environmental footprint. It’s responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust from all transport put together. The biggest way people can reduce their carbon footprint is not to abandon cars and recycle trash, but to eat significantly less red meat (although obviously doing everything is best!).
It’s making us ill.
Livestock farming relies heavily on antibiotic use to accelerate weight gain and control infection. These antibiotics enter the environment and the food chain. In the US, 80% of all antibiotics are consumed by the livestock industry. This contributes to the growing public health problem of antibiotic resistance.
As well as this, high meat consumption, especially red and processed meat is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer (read my full article here). In 2010, a study carried out by Oxford University’s department of public health found that cutting eating meat to three times a week or less could prevent 45,000 deaths, as well as save the NHS £1.2 billion in costs each year.
It requires masses or grain, water and land.
Meat production is highly inefficient, particularly red meat. There is much debate around the exact quantities, however it is said that to produce one kilogram of beef, requires 7 kilograms of grain to feed the animal, and approximately 15,000 litres of water. As well as this livestock farming takes up around 30% of the earth’s land surface. An area of the Amazon rainforest the size of a hundred football pitches is cut down every hour to create room for grazing cattle. Since food, water and land are scarce resources in many parts of the world, it’s not a intelligent use of resources.
In the western world, most people eat meat out of habit, but with a little more consideration about what you eat, it really is easy to cut down. If you can’t imagine life without meat, try starting with meat-free Mondays. But if you’re more dedicated to your health and the environment, try either eating meat only on special occasions (this is what I did for years with ease). Or for the heroes amongst us, try going vegan.