Over the last couple of years I’ve been steadily reducing my meat consumption, and in the last 4 months I’ve become ovo-lacto vegetarian (meaning I still eat some dairy products and eggs occasionally). When people ask why I’m veg, I usually respond “there are a number of reasons but that biggest reason is the environmental effects of eating meat.” A lot of people look puzzled with this response. Here’s a bit of an explanation of the connection between reducing your carbon footprint and reducing meat consumption:
Acccording to treehugger.com’s guide to greening your meal “Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table and eating less of it can be the single most green move a person makes. Producing meat requires huge amounts of water, grain, land, and other inputs including hormones and antibiotics, and leads to pollution of soil, air, and water. A pound of beef requires around 12,000 gallons of water to produce, compared to 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes.”
Not convinced yet? Here are some other stats:
• A meat-based diet requires 7 times more land than a plant-based diet according to veg.ca.
• According to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization , livestock production is responsible for more climate change gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world. In total, it is responsible for 18 percent of human induced greenhouse gas emissions. This is due to methane, manure, deforestation to expand pasture, fertilizers and pesticides for feed crops.
• In Latin America, 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.
• Animal waste accounts for 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
• The meat industry is immensely resource intensive and accounts for 70% of the water pollution in the US. (treehugger.com)
• Livestock production is at the heart of almost every environmental catastrophe confronting the planet – rain forest destruction, spreading deserts, loss of fresh water, air and water pollution, acid rain and soil erosion.
Being the single most green move a person can make, I’m really disappointed that reducing meat consumption is not more center stage to the current environmental movement. I guess that might be due to the fact that vegetarianism is a bit more controversial than changing the kind of light bulb you use. But most of the concerns people have about vegetarianism are misconceptions. For example, with a little effort and nutritional planning you can get plenty of protein on a vegetarian diet. Not ready to give up meat all together? Start by just trying to eat meat-free just one day a week. Even small steps make a difference. Also, if you do continue to eat meat, consider switching to free-range, organic meets (these farms are usually smaller and don't load their animals up with antibiotics and hormones).
Ready to go veg? Check out this link for a free vegetarian starter kit! Or here for vegetarian recipes.
and just in case you like to make moral choices based purely on asethetics...