The meat industry is “beating out transportation as a source of global warming”

“There are many reasons for going veg,” according to a cookbook called New Vegetarian. “During a vegetarian’s lifetime, one can switch from one reason to the next and never run out.”

One of the more notable reasons is the environment, which the meat industry compromises in a whole host of ways. “In 2006 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released the report ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow,’ in which the global impact of raising animals for food was assessed. It turns out that livestock, and all the activities involved in the meat-making industry, produce 18 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted per year – beating out transportation as a source of global warming.

As the twentieth century wore on, meat consumption and the issues associated with it only increased. “Between 1970 and 2002, developing countries’ meat consumption per capita increased from 24 to 64 pounds, and in developed nations like our own, from 143 to 176 pounds.”

What are the specific effects of all this meat consumption? “A person who eats meat is responsible for 1.5 tons more carbon dioxide per year than a vegetarian. A person following a low-fat vegetarian diet needs less than half (0.44) an acre per person per year to produce his or her food, while a typical meat eater needs 2.11 acres. This means that more forests must be cleared for raising animals, which is a leading cause of the destruction of rain forests. A vegetarian who shops locally can reduce his or her carbon footprint that much more.”

The good news, from this perspective, is that meat consumption may be on the decline. According to an article in the New York Times (via a post on Gawker, I admit it), demand for meat and poultry was “lower than expected” in the United States during the last quarter. There’s also some concern that the rising cost of grain, due to drought conditions throughout the country, will do further harm to next year’s profit margins.

What do you think? Again, the meat industry is just one of many man-made contributors to global warming – and eating less meat, or none at all, is just one of the many ways you can lessen your personal impact. Shopping locally is another, whether you’re buying meat or not, and even within the meat industry there are better practices that could make a big difference if they were more widely adopted. What sort of changes would you like to see? What are you willing to try?

Posted in Uncategorized