Before you close this post thinking it’s just another push for veganism, I promise that it isn’t. My whole life I have been an omnivore, eating fairly healthily – although cookies are my guilty pleasure – and always enjoying meat within my meals. Personally, I wouldn’t be happy cutting meat out of my life because I love my food, and that includes meals containing meat.
But that’s where flexitarianism comes in.
Flexitarianism is basically being flexible with a vegetarian or vegan diet – it doesn’t mean cutting out meat from your diet. However, it is designed to consider other meat-free replacements or even just reducing the amount of meat you consume during a week. Try going one day a week on a vegan diet and then a second, third and so on as you become more aware of the alternatives.
Of all industries, the meat industry contributes more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than any other. According to [Environmental Health Perspectives], over the next year, more than 50 billion land animals will be raised and slaughtered for food around the world. The majority of which will be raised in the most awful, inhumane conditions that not only harm the animals but also the environment and the people consuming the final product.
Here are five arguments as to why cutting the amount of meat down in your diet is beneficial for yourself and the environment.
The Environmental Impact is Huge
Livestock farming has a major environmental footprint that can result in habit loss, biodiversity loss, land and water degradation and acid rain. In 2006, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations published a report stating that the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all transport – around 18% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Simply cutting down on the amount we eat, and therefore reducing global demand, would dramatically reduce the volume of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere.
The Inefficiency of Meat Production
For every one kilogram of beef produced, more than 25 kilograms of grain and 15,000 litres of water are consumed in order to feed animals. That huge supply of food for animals consumes a huge amount of space on top of the estimated 30% of the total land surface that is currently used for livestock farming. Other meats like pork and particularly chicken are less intensive and have a much smaller environmental impact. Or, even better, a vegan diet is much more efficient than any meat product.
You only need to look to the Amazon for the effects of the agriculture industry is having on the natural environment. Huge areas of rainforest have been cut down to make space for the farming of livestock and growing grain to feed them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like stopping…
Hurting the Global Poor
With 25kg of grain required for each kilogram of meat produced, it means there is a much smaller amount of grain available to feed the poorest of the global society. If all of the grain fed to animals was fed to humans, an extra 3.5 billion people could be fed better than they currently are. According to UNICEF, 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. If we cut down on the amount of meat we consume, in turn reducing the global demand, each one of those 805 million people would have more than enough food to eat.
Unnecessary Animal Suffering
Producing meat can be done in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way possible, or the best that can be done given that it involves the slaughter of animals. However, due to the high demand for meat products and the higher costs of doing it that way, it’s often done brutally and incredibly inhumanely. We only need to go to Youtube to look at some of the awful videos taken by animal rights activists.
Most meat, dairy and egg production is carried out in ways that largely ignore animal welfare standards, so when buying animal products in a store, always investigate how this product was produced, i.e. organic/free range.
It is Making Us Ill
Due to the high demand for meat, livestock farming relies heavily on antibiotic use to accelerate production, particularly in the US. This means that there is a growing health problem of antibiotic resistance in the US and, as published in the New York Times in 2017, 23,000 people are estimated to every year in the US alone because of this. High consumption of red meats can also increase the risks of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and various cancers.
What Can You Do To Make a Change?
Even if you feel you can’t transition to a full vegetarian/vegan diet, there are still plenty of small changes you can make that will make a huge difference. Since the new year, I’ve stopped drinking cows milk and drink oat milk instead. In fact, my whole family are now drinking alternatives to cows milk. My brother has gone further than the rest of us by cutting meat out from a number of meals and looking into how he can transition to a fully vegan diet in the very near future.
What will you do this year to make a difference?