While world leaders gather in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the next major United Nations Climate Change Summit meeting, the UN World Meteorological Organization has announced global carbon dioxide levels have passed a symbolic threshold. Global average carbon dioxide levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 3 million years.
Unfortunately, the grand strategic narratives around the Morocco conference will barely touch on one crucial aspect – meat and the massive greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing the livestock needed for it. Read more
When it comes to pork, there’s a high price to be paid by the workers, by the environment, and perhaps worst of all, by the pigs themselves. The scale of the problem is enormous. We raise 120 million pigs each year in the US, and many millions more are raised around the world.
The environment pays a high price for concentrated factory-style pig farming. Factory pig farms produce huge amounts of manure – much more than can be used as fertilizer. This manure is stored in lagoons that can leak or break open after a good rain, and cause massive amounts of water pollution as the runoff enters the lakes and streams. This results in massive fish kills and food chain disruption. Methane, a greenhouse gas much more damaging than carbon dioxide, is given off from these lagoons, contributing to global warming, and the intense smell reduces the air quality in the surrounding neighborhood to an often unbearable degree. Read more
A recent Oxford University study highlights the human, environmental and economic cost the world faces if we don’t go veg. On the health side, the report shows that millions of lives will be lost due to meat, dairy and egg-related diseases. From an environmental perspective, eighty percent of agricultural greenhouse emissions come from livestock. While the economic cost is already high, Oxford University estimates that by 2050, raising and consuming meat will cost the world as much as $13 trillion per year in increased medical costs and environmental damage. They say the most effective diet to stem this rising tide of pollution and illness is the plant-based or vegan diet. Read more
There’s a silent crisis that threatens us all. It’s much more serious than most people realize and if we don’t do something about it we’re all in trouble. This crisis is soil erosion.
As with many other environmental problems, it’s caused by raising farm animals for meat. It turns out that 85% of all the soil erosion in the United States, and 55% around the world, is caused directly by the livestock, and by growing the fantastic amount of feed the 60 billion farm animals around the world consume. Unfortunately, most environmental organizations aren’t paying too much attention to it and the media almost completely ignores it. After all, it’s hard to get excited about dirt!
We need to take it more seriously. Soil is where food begins. Humanity depends upon the soil for its food, and if enough of the soil goes, humanity will go with it. Without soil, not only will the crops we plant not grow, but other vegetation will die as well. Read more
Students aren’t learning what they need and want to know from their high school environmental science curriculum. The massive impact that raising meat has on the environment is either totally missing, or gets only passing mention in the classrooms and textbooks.
We’ve had many requests from both students and teachers for lectures and ancillary materials suitable for classes given to high school seniors. We answered the call with a presentation and background materials that covers important environmental topics such the impact of raising meat on global warming, water pollution, soil erosion and ecological destruction. We’ve developed both 60 and 90 minute presentations and have been giving them to some regional high schools over the past year, to an enthusiastic reception.
If you’re a student or a teacher, and would like us to give this presentation at your school or college, please let us know. The environmental case for considering going veg is very compelling. To learn a little more about the impact of raising meat on the environment yourself, see our newly updated Eating Green brochure.
When it comes to the environment, the public’s attention has been understandably focused on global warming. However, the water pollution problem hasn’t gone away. While many people are aware of the water pollution caused by raising cattle, few are aware that raising chicken is just as bad if not worse. Sure, a cow produces more manure than a chicken does, but there are far more chickens in this country. In fact, we now raise over 9 billion chickens every year compared to only 90 million cows.
In addition to the water pollution that results from agricultural runoff from fertilizer while raising feed crops for all those chickens, the waste products from raising chickens cause an enormous amount of pollution. In fact overall, raising chickens results in more nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in our waterways than raising cattle. Read more
The grand strategic narratives around the COP21 conference in Paris will barely touch on one crucial aspect – meat and the massive greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing the livestock needed for it.
The Paris talks are of vital importance, not just for climate change itself but for framing what kind of food policy follows. Why does food matter for climate change? Well, it’s a major driving factor. The UN’s own Special Rapporteur, Olivier de Schutter says it well, “There is no doubt in the scientific community that the impacts of livestock production [on climate change] are massive.” In fact, a study written by two senior economists at the World Bank showed that the livestock-meat sector of the economy is responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. But for some reason it barely gets a mention in Paris. It seems that in at least this one respect, the conference is in denial.
Don’t hold your breath for the conference to recognize this, much less use the feared “V word”. While sobering evidence like this has mounted for years, climate change policy makers have focused their attention on energy rather than food. This policy blind spot is because tackling the emissions from producing food means tackling consumers’ food choices, and they’re simply afraid.
The livestock sector’s impact on climate change has been persistently neglected – in both policy and practice – for a long time. Unlike other sectors such as waste, transport and energy, in which greenhouse gas emissions reductions have been attempted through varying means such as taxes, incentives or subsidies, the livestock sector has enjoyed an unprecedented freedom to carry on with “business as usual.”
But the environment simply can’t stand business as usual and demands courage from us all. Without tackling the problem of animal agriculture, we will not be able to solve the climate change problem.
To learn more about the meat connection to global warming, see our Global Warming Flyer.