Eco-Exchange Week 8

Meat to Meat Free

In honour of vegetarian week we’d like to delve into the reasons as to why one should consider reducing their meat intake, or stop all together.

“A meat-eater’s diet requires 17 times more land, 14 times more water and 10 times more energy than a vegetarian’s.” (Ref)

Over the last two months of writing these posts we’ve looked at little changes which can together amount to big differences. This week is a little different because this is a big change  for some people but the genefits are huge. We may inspire you to give up  meat with this article or even consider less meat- think “meat free Mondays.” You have the potential to make a huge difference. Here’s why:

“Animal products cause more damage than producing construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as burning fossil fuels” (Ref)

Let’s explore some of the facts together of the various environmental impacts of the meat industry.

Climate Change

The production of meat uses vast amounts of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. In fact according to another UN report cattle rearing produces more greenhouse gases than transportation. It produces about 9% of all CO2 produced from human activity but more significantly 65% of all nitrous oxide which has 295 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, and 37% of Methane production with 23 times the GWP of CO2. (source UN.org).

There’s a lot of stats here but I think it is important to know the evidence, not hyperbole that one often encounters on social media. If you really love your meat you may well need a convincing argument to give it up (or cut back) and we’re hoping this is it.

Habitat

Not convinced? Here’s some more facts; livestock use THIRY PERCENT of the Earth’s entire land surface, either for cattle or to grow crops to feed cattle.  Land that was once rainforest, woodland, grasslands i.e. land that was once natural habitat.

Water

Agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption. Run off from farm land causes the pouring of nutrient rich  waste into the water system. If you recall from our soap nuts article this leads to eutrophication and therefore loss of rivers, ponds and lakes. The ways in which agriculture negatively affects the water supply and approaches to tackle it can be found in this very deatiled journal paper. One of the conclusions from this paper was that if we are to neutralise the effect of agriculture on the water supply would be to reduce the farm land to just 20% of what it is currently in the UK allowing the rest to undergo re-wilding. How can we feed ourselves with 80% less crops? Eat more energy efficient food. Ok so an 80% reduction is probably not feasible or realistic but a reduction is still wherecwe should be heading.

Fishing

What about eating fish? There is an argument certainly for animal based protein to come from fish rather than land animals; fish are 6 times more efficient at converting feed than cattle and 4 times more efficient than pork. Efficiency means less waste. However fishing is having a huge effect on marine eco-systems. Trawling destroys the sea floor and habitat making it very difficult for fish populations to recover after fishing and over fishing is leaving larger marine life without food. Many people try to be more conscious about the fish they buy thinking about more sustainable breeds. The issue is that human appetite for seafood is growing and this can’t be sustained. The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Sofia report showed that fishing at biologically sustainable levels dropped from 90% in 1974 to 68.6% in 2013. So if everyone opts for a breed of fish that is more sustainable, it too will become over-fished and the problem continues. I found this speech from the incredible oceanographer Sylvia Earle both informative and certainly inspirational on the issue.

One last stat; 

Going vegan reduces your carbon footprint by, on average, 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year!” (Ref)

So why not give it a go? The added bonus for is as a family is that we save over £100 per month on food! Not sure where to start? Well we’re proud to announce that we’ll be sharing some recipe ideas with you on  our new recipe feed as requested by some of our lovely readers! Watch this space.

K

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