Eat less meat and you'll help save the planet
2004 03 14
by By Juliette Jowit - Environment Editor - The Observer - UK
We have been asked to stop spraying deodorant, guzzle less fuel and recycle our nappies. Now campaigners led by the Government's own environmental champion urge people this week to eat less meat to save the planet.
The campaign by Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) and Jonathon Porritt, the meat-eating chairman of the Government's Sustainable Development Commission, will issue dire warnings of the environmental and health impact of massive increases in meat eating.
It has risen fivefold globally in four decades and the World Bank forecasts that consumption of meat and dairy products will go up another 50 per cent by 2020. Already there are more than twice as many chickens on the planet as humans, plus a billion pigs, 1.3 billion cows and 1.8 billion sheep and goats - most of which eat more food than they produce.
As intensive animal farming increases to cope, more land, water and pesticides are being used to grow the soya, grain and other feed the creatures need.
The result is 'one of the biggest environmental crises we're now facing', says Porritt, former director of Friends of the Earth and co-chairman of Greenpeace.
It is harder for developing countries to feed their people because growing food for animals is much less efficient than cultivating crops to eat, he warns.
'Policymakers deal with one damaging environmental symptom after another, with barely a moment for reflecting on what the causes of these endless symptoms might be,' says Porritt.
'Meanwhile the world continues to fall gradually to pieces around us as some of the gravest threats to the long-term sustainability of humankind remain all but ignored. I would put excessive meat consumption right up there in that category.'
Many communities have survived on little meat, eating it only as the odd addition to meals or on special occasions. In the UK, when rationing was at its height after the Second World War, people often saved their weekly meat - less than 60 grams (2oz) a day - for one roast dinner.
Yet in the last four decades meat eating in Europe has risen from an annual average of 56kgs (123lbs) per person to 89kg (196lbs). People in developing countries ate far less to start with, though China's total per head is now up from 4kgs (8.8lbs) to 54kg (119lbs).
To cater for this, 22 million animals are farmed, many intensively in cramped spaces where many suffer broken legs and heart failure under the weight of unnaturally fattened bodies, the campaigners claim.
They link the rising consumption, particularly of red meat, to concern over human obesity and the linked health problems of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
A CiWF report blames inefficient use of land to grow animal feed for a range of environmental problems: forests felled to create grazing and arable land, the over-use of soil that turns land into desert, increased use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, drying water sources and the 10 per cent of greenhouse gases produced by livestock.
One acre of land yields an average of 20kgs (45lbs) of usable protein from meat, but 35kgs (78lbs) from corn and 161.5 kgs (356lbs) from soya beans. This inefficiency will make it harder to feed the world's people in future, claims the report, The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat.
The campaigners want Britons to eat 15 per cent less meat - equivalent to cutting it out one day a week.
However, Amanda Wynne, spokesman for the British Dietetic Association, said people eating lean meat were not generally at risk of obesity - and many could eat more to increase their iron intake.
Article From: http://www.rense.com/general50/meat.htm