07 January, 2010

Global Warming & Vegetarian Food

Global warming has reached alarmingly dangerous proportions and governments all over the world now are taking measures to contain it. It is our collective responsibility to join in these efforts in all our capacities to save our precious planet.

A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."(1) Everybody today is aware that the environmental cost for producing a meat-based diet is monumentally higher than a vegetarian one.(2,3) These costs have escalated to enormous proportions and now pose as very disturbing details.(4,5,6)

Additionally, more and more people are increasingly becoming aware of the unhygienic and cruel practises involved in producing meat. Apart from the horrible treatment given to animals reared for meat, they are also injected with harmful chemicals and hormones to add bulk to their bodies(7), which show strong signs of being poisonous for human consumption(8,9). Consequently, health agencies are also recommending people to reduce meat consumption(10).

It has been established that if a small fraction of the population brings down the meat consumption, by even a little bit, it will do wonders for the environment. Leading researchers all over the world have started recommending a vegetarian diet.(11,12)


(1) Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options is a United Nations report, released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) on 29 November 2006 that "aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation".

(2) New Scientist, 18 July 2007 by Daniele Fanelli. Magazine Issue 2613. The article summarises the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues. Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy. In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

(3) Water Inputs in California Food Production by Marcia Kreith Davis, CA, September 27, 1991.

(4) Livestock and Climate Change by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, November 2009. According to earlier estimates, 7,516 million metric tons per year of CO2 equivalents (CO2e), or 18 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions were attributed to livestock. But in this report, analysis shows that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2e per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.

(5) Deforestation in the Amazon by Rhett A. Butler, www.mongabay.com. Between May 2000 and August 2006, Brazil has lost nearly 150,000 square kilometers of forest - an area larger than Greece - of which 80% is used to raise livestock.

(6) Livestock’s Long Shadow, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2006 In all, livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet.

(7) "Meet your meat" is a film, available at www.meat.org that, graphically, documents the inhumane and unhygienic treatment that animals are put through before being slaughtered.

(8) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 70 percent of food poisoning is caused by contaminated animal flesh. Amy Ellis Nutt, “In the Soil, Water, Food, Air,” The [Newark] Star-Ledger, 8 Dec. 2003.

(9) USDA researchers have found that “eating 2 ounces of chicken per day - the equivalent of a third to a half of a boneless breast - exposes a consumer to 3 to 5 micrograms of inorganic arsenic, the element’s most toxic form.” Dennis O’Brien, “Arsenic Used in Chicken Feed May Pose Threat,” The Baltimore Sun, 4 May 2004.

(10) Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, also known as the Expert Report, was an expert report published by the World Cancer Research Fund global network in 2007. The report recommends avoiding processed meat for reducing cancer risk.

(11) Lord Stern, author of the 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, predicts that eating meat could in the future become as socially unacceptable as drink driving. The Telegraph, 27 Oct 2009.

(12) Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, said people should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change. The Observer, 7 Sep 2008


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