Eat less meat, save the planet

The Christian Science Monitor reports on yet another report linking the raising of livestock on an industrial scale to climate change:

As Congress begins to tackle the causes and cures of global warming, the action focuses on gas-guzzling vehicles and coal-fired power plants, not on lowly bovines.

Yet livestock are a major emitter of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. And as meat becomes a growing mainstay of human diet around the world, changing what we eat may prove as hard as changing what we drive.

It’s not just the well-known and frequently joked-about flatulence and manure of grass-chewing cattle that’s the problem, according to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Land-use changes, especially deforestation to expand pastures and to create arable land for feed crops, is a big part. So is the use of energy to produce fertilizers, to run the slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants, and to pump water.

“Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,” Henning Steinfeld, senior author of the report, said when the FAO findings were released in November.

Livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent, reports the FAO. This includes 9 percent of all CO2 emissions, 37 percent of methane, and 65 percent of nitrous oxide. Altogether, that’s more than the emissions caused by transportation.

Read the rest here.

After a while it starts to look like the case is over-determined for at least cutting back on the amount of meat we eat. If you’re not persuaded by animal welfare arguments, there’s the environmental impact, the equity angle (land used for raising livestock that could be far more productively used to raise grain for impoverished peoples), the labor issues (exploited workers, often illegal immigrants, who make up much of the workforce in slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants), and, of course, personal health.

2 thoughts on “Eat less meat, save the planet

  1. More grain for impoverished peoples? That can only mean one thing: LOWER GRAIN PRICES. Put that way, somehow I doubt the farmers of America will be getting on board anytime soon.

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