What has Earth Day got to do with eating meat?
Earth Day is a world-wide movement to protect our environment. The environment is now being badly affected by global warming from greenhouse gas build-up. And livestock farming produces 20% to 50% of man-made greenhouse gases.
Livestock and Greenhouse Gas
In 2006, the UN/FAO report Livestock’s Long Shadow found that about a fifth of all human-produced greenhouse gases came from meat, dairy and egg farming. The World Bank and IFC’s report Livestock and Climate Change checked their findings in 2009. They concluded the figure was nearer to a half of all emissions.
The UN report counted the greenhouse gas from land clearing, growing animal feed, farming livestock, food processing and transporting meat and dairy products.
The World Bank report adds these missing factors:
• Animal breathing produces carbon dioxide just like humans
• Livestock breathing makes up about 14% of greenhouse gases
• A quarter of land worldwide is used for livestock grazing
• A third of farm land is used to grow food for animals
• Nearly 40% of methane gas emissions comes from farm animals
• Methane is 70 times worse than carbon dioxide in global warming impact
• 50 billion animals are raised each year rather than the first estimate of 20 billion
• Further emissions from cooking, storage, waste disposal and packaging.
Medical treatments from dietary illnesses have a high carbon cost. A diet high in animal products is related to many diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes.
Since that report, many UN agencies use the higher figure of 50%. The environmentalist Bill McKibben quotes this figure in his books and articles.
It is clear that animal farming is a very big factor in global warming.
Food’s Carbon Footprint
At least 20% of our carbon footprint comes from the food we eat every day. Every one of us can have a big impact by eating food that has a lower carbon footprint. Beef, pork, lamb and cheese have high carbon footprints. Fruit, vegetables, beans and grains have low carbon footprints.
• Eating one 8-oz steak produces as much greenhouse gas as driving 14 miles
• 70% of the clearing of the Amazon is for land to farm beef
• The world’s cows eat enough food to feed 9 billion people.
Get some tips on reducing your carbon footprint at Food’s Carbon Footprint.
Earth Day is trying to reach one billion acts of green. Yes, your act could be to switch off the lights, take a reusable bag to the shops or walk instead of drive.
Why not make your green act an Earth Day without meat? And make it Earth Day Every Day by eating an earth-friendly diet. That means switching to a diet low in meats and high in fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
Find out more about a healthy, earth-friendly diet at Vegetarian Nutrition.
Look at Vegetarian Recipes for some great veggie meal ideas.