With the rise in popularity of veganism and vegetarianism in recent years, which had lead to the development of meat-free alternatives such as Quorn and a huge number of meat-free cookbooks, adopting a meat-free diet is more attainable now more than ever. Most people choose a meat-free diet because of the health benefits or because they believe that eating animals is unethical as animals are sentient creatures and livestock farming causes them unnecessary suffering. However, another huge problem with livestock farming. This is less spoken about, but the effect meat consumption and farming has on our planet is substantial.
Next year alone, over 50 billion land animals that will be raised and slaughtered for food and bred in unethical conditions in the meat production process, which emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases and causes mass destruction to valuable regions all over the world. But this doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, studies have shown that we consume way more animal protein than we need to, with the dietary guidelines recommending 45g to 55g of protein a day, but in the UK we consume between 64g and 88g of protein, 37% of which is meat-based. So this huge-scale livestock farming is completely unnecessary and ruining our planet as it has a massive environmental footprint. Here I am going to give you a brief overview of the reasons why our large-scale meat consumption is ruining our planet and why we should make a concerted effort to reduce our meat intake. After all, there is no planet B.
One of the main ways that our meat consumption is ruining our planet is through the destruction of wildlife caused by livestock farming. The meat production process has a detrimental effect on wildlife, with animal product consumption being responsible for 60% of all biodiversity loss according to WWF and the UK food industry alone being linked to the extinction of 33 species. This is caused both directly and indirectly by livestock farming and animal agriculture. The ways in which wildlife is destroyed indirectly through meat production are as a result of deforestation to make space for cattle grazing, pollution, droughts and climate change brought about by the meat industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. But many species are also directly endangered by the meat industry through mass killings of grass-eating species such as deer and elk to reserve more food and space for cattle. So it is evident that animal agriculture is responsible for the destruction of many species and food chains, which will have a detrimental effect on our planet.
Ruins Valuable Regions.
The world’s demand for meat is huge which puts great pressure on supplying enough meat to keep up with the growing demand. Livestock farming requires a huge amount of land to grow grain for the livestock and allow the animals to graze. In fact, around 30% of the earth’s land surface is currently used for livestock farming, which is a crazy statistic. The growing demand for meat means that natural areas are deforested and destroyed to create space for livestock farming and valuable regions such as the Amazon, Congo Basin and the Himalayas are put under threat. Grazing is particularly dangerous because the cattle destroy vegetation, damage soils and stream banks and also contaminate waterways with their waste products, leaving once lush, green spaces overgrazed, barren and flat which leads to soil erosion and stream sedimentation. So, if you want to help preserve what is left of our world’s thriving and dynamic natural habitats and green spaces, think about reducing your meat consumption. It could really make a difference!
Livestock farming is also a huge problem for our planet because it is contributing to climate change and global warming which is already a huge threat to our natural environment and life on Earth. Animal agriculture contributes 18% of human produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, which is more than emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and transport all put together. This is partly because cattle themselves give off a huge amount of methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and in the US alone the cattle account for around 20% of the country’s methane emissions. But this is also because the feeding, transportation, energy usage on farms and conversion of grassland into agricultural land which is involved in livestock farming emit a huge amount of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. So it is clear that livestock farming contributes massively to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming which can be detrimental to our planet. If you want to help reverse this damage and help save our amazing planet, reducing your meat consumption or even going completely veggie is an amazing place to start.
Harmful For Poorer Communities.
Our huge-scale meat consumption is also dangerous for our planet because it can be extremely harmful to poorer communities. This is because as the global demand for meat increases, we need to drive up the world’s supply of meat. As a result of this, the grain prices will increase which, in turn, makes it harder for the world’s poorer communities to buy grain and feed themselves. We also waste huge volumes of grain on livestock animals who were born to be slaughtered, when there are still 795 million people in the world who do not have enough food to live a healthy, active life. The shocking fact of the matter is that if all grain were fed to humans instead of livestock animals, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people.
Bad For Our Health.
Another way that our meat consumption is ruining the planet is because it is essentially ruining our own health. And there are 7.442 billion people population Earth, so we’re a pretty huge part of it. Our health is being ruined by the huge volume of meat that we consume because it has raised the demand for meat and animal farming, meaning that we need more intensive animal farming which can be carried out at a faster rate to keep up with the demand. This high-speed intensive farming has caused a decline in the healthy omega-3 content of animal products and a rise in unhealthy saturated fats in our meat, meaning that our meat quality is becoming increasingly poor. In fact, according to a report , you would have to eat 6 intensively reared chickens today to obtain the same amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acid found in 1 chicken in the 1970s.
The high demand for meat has also meant that industrial farming now relies on the use of antibiotics to speed up weight gain and control infection, however this is alarming because it can contribute to the already serious problem of antibiotic resistance in humans. Finally, consuming meat, especially red meat, can be dangerous for our health as it is linked to the onset of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and certain cancers. So, eating less meat would allow us to reduce the meat demand, improve our overall health and farm in a more sustainable way, causing a lesser impact on the environment and helping us produce healthier and better quality meat.
So there you have it, an overview of why our excessive meat consumption is ruining our planet. It is important to remember that within our planet, the meat industry is destroying not only the environment, but also our societies, wildlife and, last but definitely not least, ourselves. The livestock industry, fuelled by the increasing demand for meat, is utterly inefficient and endangering our planet. Eating less meat would allow us to reduce the demand for meat which, in turn, would reduce the pressure on the meat industry. This would allow us to farm in a more sustainable way, reducing the meat industry’s carbon footprint and it’s negative impact on the environment which will consequently help us to produce healthier and better quality meat while preventing any further damage to our planet.