Meat, the environment and you

*This piece has been adapted from the full article [The Logic of not eating meat] by [Sashin Exists]

Many of us are realising that the way we are living is not sustainable. This can't go on forever. We consume too much and not only that, we do so unwisely. It is quite perverse to imagine that we as a society are putting an immense amount of energy to maintain lifestyles that will ultimately harm ourselves and those around us.

 

There are many steps we are advised to take in the attempt to reduce our negative impacts. We all are familiar with the golden trio of reducing what we are buying, reusing what we have and recycling what we can. We know to avoid plastics when we can and to try to use less packaging if we can. But there is still a high-impact change that hasn't become mainstream yet...

 

We should stop eating meat.

 

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A Monumental Waste

Have you ever thought about how inefficient it is to feed plants to livestock rather than eat them directly? If you are what you eat, then what you eat is what it eats.

 

Cows, chickens and pigs produce all sorts of by-products. From their excretions to all the parts of their bodies that we deem unusable.

 

Naturally, to produce a specific amount of meat-based protein, many times that amount of plant-based protein is required.

 

> To produce 1kg of beef, it can take 43kg of plant matter. Up to 13kg of this is edible crop.[^9]

 

Therefore, however many resources it takes to tend to crops, raising livestock is necessarily many times more resource intensive — even if we don't include all the water, land and chemical resources that go into raising and taking care of the livestock.

 

If you don't understand why we shouldn't waste our precious crops like this, let me remind you that one in ten of us suffers from malnutrition.[^10] *It really does take a lot to bring the bacon home.*

 

To give you a clearer picture of the extent of this waste:

 

> Over a third of all the landmass on earth is used for animal agriculture.[^11]

Map of animal agriculture land use in United States

 The image above[^12] shows how land use is allocated in the US. The large yellow square shows the land used for raising livestock. The much smaller grey rectangle to its right represents the land on which we grow crops for our own consumption. The olive square below it represents the land use for the crops to feed livestock.

 

41% of the land in the US is devoted to animal agriculture. Worldwide, this figure is closer to 35%.

 

And yet this is still not enough to satisfy our infinite hunger — we are cutting down forests by the hour, all in the name of our appetites.

 

Over nine thousand square metres of rainforest is cleared every second.[^13] Most of this, is for the purpose of animal agriculture.[^14]

 

*We are cutting down the rainforest to fuel our addiction to the flesh of our fellow animals.*

 

To help you picture this, here is an aerial view of a portion of the Amazon shown in time-lapse covering the years 2000—2008 [^15]

<a data-preserve-html-node="true" href="https://giphy.com/gifs/home-brazil-fores

https://giphy.com/gifs/home-brazil-forest-rPK3u0xpWKApi

We know that it is the demand for meat that is driving this.

 

It is incredible to consider that we are sacrificing the natural splendour of the rainforests — which freely and effortlessly clean our atmosphere — only to build farms which pollute it.

 

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We are destroying our environment

 

Animal agriculture is directly responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, this is more than all our combined exhaust from transportation.[^6]

 

A significant proportion of this greenhouse gas is methane which is at least twenty-five times as potent as carbon dioxide.[^7]

 

In addition to the raising of the livestock, we must take indirect sources of emissions into consideration including:

 

* The processing of the flesh of billions of animals into meat and many other products

* The transportation involved at every stage of their distribution and production

* The large tracts of land that have to be cleared to establish these farms. Green carbon (carbon stored in trees) goes largely unmentioned in public discourse.

 

At this late stage, we can see for ourselves that the climate is changing year-to-year, as the predictions of our scientists are vindicated time and again.

 

In my mind, the problem of climate change is the biggest issue in the public view. It is an existential threat and — unlike that posed by nuclear warfare and increasingly powerful AI — we know what will happen if we fail to act.

 

The way we lead our lives is unsustainable. There's so much wrong with our habits, that it can be hard to know where to begin. But here is one simple step anyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint substantially:

 

1. Cut down on meat

 

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*For more information on the problems with meat consumption has and how you can transition to a kinder, more sustainable diet please see [the full article]

Anna Jane Linke