According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, livestock production contributes about 18% of our total global greenhouse gas emissions, compared to an estimated 13.5% produced by all forms of transport combined, including air travel.
Producing one beefburger uses the same amount of fossil fuel as driving a small car 20 miles, and the same amount of water as 17 showers. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, one of the simplest and most effective things you can do is to reduce the amount of red meat and dairy products you eat.
A paper published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that, kilo for kilo, production of beef and pork contributes 30 times more CO² emissions than alternative sources of protein such as beans. Poultry and eggs were found to have much lower emissions than cheese, which was among the highest.
Compassion in World Farming estimate that, by halving their consumption of meat, the average UK household could cut emissions by more than they would achieve by halving their car use.
Global meat consumption has increased by two and a half times since 1970, and the number of farmed animals is predicted to double in the next fifty years. Over one quarter of the world’s total land mass is already being used for livestock grazing and over one third of the total world cereals production is fed directly to livestock and fish. More and more rainforest is being cleared to provide land – in the Amazon about 70% of previously forested land is used as grazing and much of the rest to produce animal feed.
16 kilos of grain is needed to produce one kilo of beef. The huge quantities used for animal feeds means that the remaining supplies of grain become too expensive for the people who depend on it to survive. About 1.2 billion people in the world suffer from hunger, while another 1.2 billion are obese.
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has called on us all to take personal responsibility for the impacts of our own consumption. “Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there,” he asks.
There are campaigns for meat-free days in the US and Australia, and the city of Ghent in Belgium has declared Thursday a voluntary meat-free day when restaurants, canteens and schools throughout the city will offer vegetarian meals. In the UK Paul McCartney has now launched the ‘Meat-Free Monday‘ campaign to encourage us all to reduce our meat consumption by having at least one meat-free day a week.
It takes at least six times the amount of land to feed a meat eater than to feed a vegetarian. In the UK just 2% of the population is vegetarian, but although none of us really need to eat meat every day, most people simply aren’t prepared to give it up altogether. Having one or two meatless days a week is an easy way to make a difference, and changing to a diet containing more beans, nuts, fruit and vegetables can also improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
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Posted under carbon footprint, food, global warming