May: a month to help the planet

Meat production, especially the feeding of cattle, is a water-intensive process. One kilo of beef requires at least 43,000 liters of fresh water, Cattle alone are responsible for ten percent of all emissions. Currently, nearly 42 kilograms of meat is produced per person per year worldwide, so do the maths. Our taste for fish has been stripping the seas; over 70% of the world’s fish stocks are fully, or over-exploited. This May, why not eat for the environment and not off the environment.

We all want to help the planet. But how? The answer could be sitting right in front of us — three times a day. By going vegetarian, we can reduce the impact of climate change, rainforest destruction, and pollution while saving water and other precious resources. In fact, raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. There has never been a better time to go green by eating green. Additionally, a recent United Nations report concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change. A 2013 Loma Linda University study found that vegans have a greenhouse-gas footprint that is 41.7 percent smaller than meat-eaters’ footprint and 13.9 percent smaller than vegetarians’ footprint. The meat-based food system requires more energy, land, and water resources than the lacto vegetarian and ovo vegetarian diet. In this limited sense, the lacto and ovo vegetarian diet is more sustainable than the average world meat-based diet.

The land is a finite resource. Currently, 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface is used for raising farm animals: if everyone in the United States went vegetarian for a single day they would save 3 million acres of land and prevent 3 million tons of soil erosion. A typical meat eater’s diet requires 2.5 times the amount of land that a vegetarian’s diet does. Put in another way; a farmer can feed up to 30 people throughout the year with vegetables, fruits, and cereals produced on less than 2.5 acres of land, but if the same area were used for the production of eggs, milk, and meat, it would only feed 5-10 people.

Land for livestock and the production of animal feed is a key driver of deforestation. In Brazil alone, 62.2 percent of the deforested land is used for pasture for cattle, and the Chaco region in South America, 63 hectares of forest is cleared every hour, meaning an area over ten times the size of Hyde Park in London is destroyed each day.

“Every second, one football field of rainforest is destroyed in order to produce 257 hamburgers”

The impact from agriculture is expected to increase substantially due to population growth and increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A reduction in impact would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change; That is away from animal products.

Lets not forget about the personal health benefits from reducing our meat consumption. Meat free diets (especially red meat) lower the risk of cardiovascular problems and make it easier to control our weight, and we have fewer toxins entering our body. We also save money by going meat free.
The most powerful step that we can take as individuals to avert climate change is to stop, or significantly reduce eating meat, eggs, and dairy products and persuade others to do the same. So let’s try MEAT FREE MAY.

Some useful resources:
Let’s Eat Better Pledge: http://www.foe.co.uk/page/eat-smart-pledge
Eat Smart Action Pack: http://bit.ly/eatsmartpack
Meat Atlas: http://bit.ly/1AttLeH
Healthy Planet Eating: http://bit.ly/Healthyplaneteating
Eating Better: http://www.eating-better.org/