There are a lot of similarities between people and livestock. Both of us have been domesticated and assigned to living quarters, having given up the free, nomadic life of our ancestors. We are fed in the same way. We do not hunt and gather for ourselves. Food is produced and presented to us at feeding troughs and grocery stores. Society takes care of our needs, just as the farmers, theirs. It is a collective system, where we operate as one specialized piece in the whole and can rely on the rest to fill in where we lack. When we were self-sufficient and independent our numbers did not grow like they do now. Our population has grown to over 7 billion, having doubled in the last century.
The energy we expend to keep this global farm moving, including the little farms that we organize for livestock, is creating a crisis in which much of the earth may one day be uninhabitable.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has decided, on the advice of climate scientists, that the earth’s temperature must not exceed a 2 degrees C increase if we are going to avoid a climate catastrophe.
That we are more like livestock than self-sufficient, hunting and fishing wild animals is why we expend so much energy, release so many green house gas (GHG) emissions and are in this predicament. But many believe, based on a study from 2014, that our meat and dairy consumption is adding a surprising amount to climate change.
Fifteen per cent of global GHG emissions come from animal farming. This is equivalent to “all the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet.”
The idea that the succulent tenderloin we marinated then barbequed is anything other than a positive is hard for us carnivores to take. Eating meat seems so natural. Our place on the food chain was destiny, not some sort of technological perversion like burning coal and airplane travel.
But what was natural was for us to hunt and trap and for many of our children to die in infancy. It is not the greedy capitalist oil barons who have polluted our earth and hastened a possibly disastrous changing climate. It is our own high standard of living that is the culprit.
Meat consumption is linked to wealth. While the average Indian eats less than 10 grams of meat per day, the average American consumes 250 grams. It is not that India should strive to match the US, who’s intake is four times the healthy amount, but that we should all seek out protein in other forms than that produced in a factory farm.
The people of China and India are coming up the economic scale as their economies are developed. Because of the huge populations joining the meat-eating masses, global consumption is supposed to increase by over 75 per cent by 2050.
But not all meat is the same. Beef is much more harmful to the environment than chicken or pork. Producing beef requires “28 times more land, 6 times more fertilizer and 11 times more water.”
Cows also emit methane gas, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
In order for us to make use of these animals, we need to clear forests to make room for farms and pastures. This eliminates many oxygen-producing trees.
Going vegan is a radical move. It is not necessary for us to swear off meat for good. Even if we cut down our meat intake, not eating it everyday, we could make a dent in the climate-changing effect that animal agriculture creates.