Is Britain a nation of carnivores?
My New Years resolution was to cut down on meat and I have since been amazed at just how many foods we will stick, spread or shred animals into. I struggle to even make sandwiches now. It seems for years I have been unable to make any mid-day snack without having a sliced pig in it. Even crisps! The majority of crisps now are meat flavoured. We apparently can’t eat a slice of baked potato crisp without sprinkling a bit of chicken on it. I’m sure some companies don’t use seasoning from actual animals, but Walkers definitely do (see here) and they’re all I care about.
Now obviously the animals aren’t happy with this arrangement but we are in charge so screw them, lets just eat some meaty crisps? Ignoring how strange all of this is (they’re crisps! We don’t need a pig on them, an animal is not seasoning!), another argument can be made for cutting down. The high consumptions of meat are now effecting us. That’s right, us. Our consumption of meat is now so high that the livestock industry is one of the biggest threats to our environment.
The farming of livestock requires an incredible amount of land as well as an incredible amount of water and food for the animals. A paper in the journal Climatic Change titled ‘Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK’ calculated the extent of the damage to the environment as a result of different diets. The results are incredibly depressing (see image below).
So what does this mean? Well 7.26kg of CO2 is roughly the equivalent of driving 40 miles in a car (basing car emissions from this report – see here). This is bad. Obviously. Unfortunately it gets worse, as the authors of this paper define a ‘meat-rich diet’ as being around 100 grams a day. Now according to the 2011 data from the Food an Agriculture Organisation of the UN (see here) the meat consumption of the average Brit is well over double this number. Making us a nation eating on average quadruple the meat consumption average all countries. So by far one of the most significant factors damaging our environment is our nations love of meat.
So how does eating meat affect the environment?
Well both vegetarian and meat-based diets have negative effects on the environment. But one more so than the other. Here is a very short list of some of the issues with livestock farming:
Unfortunately, many writers on this subject conclude that neither meat-based diets or vegetarian diets are sustainable. For example David and Marcia Pimentel in their 2003 review of the two diets concluded neither could last. Veganism then seems the way forward. Though we can hope for new inventions, more efficient ways of farming and so on, our current diets are unlikely to last.
However! We can now grow meat. I will write a post on these updates soon but for now have a look at the amazing developments by the company Memphis Meats here.
Want to read more? Check out:
Archer, M. (2011). Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659 [Accessed 25 Feb. 2016].
Davidson, E. (2012). Representative concentration pathways and mitigation scenarios for nitrous oxide. Environmental Research Letters, 7(2) (link)
Moriarty, P. (2012). Vegetarians cause environmental damage, but meat eaters aren’t off the hook. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/vegetarians-cause-environmental-damage-but-meat-eaters-arent-off-the-hook-6090 [Accessed 25 Feb. 2016].
Most of the data is from the following paper – click here