We have always heard that we are what we eat and that diet is extremely important when it comes to our own lives. What we consume is directly linked to our health, life expectancy and quality of life in general. However, what if I told you that what you eat not only affects you, but also the people and environment around you?
In 2015, an average American adult consumed around 95,4 kilograms (210 pounds) of meat, and the European Union’s (excluding Iceland) average figure was of 68,3 kilograms (151 pounds). According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average American will eat 99,1 kilograms of meat per year by 2025, and the global figure will increase by more than one kilo (34,1 in 2015 versus 35,3 in 2025).
Overall, global meat consumption is expected to increase by 4% in the next 10 years. As the human population is increasing, more meat is needed to meet the exaggerated demand of the almost 8 billion people on this planet. If meat production and consumption, among other things, continues to escalate at this rate, the consequences could be devastating for our planet.
Since we were young, we have heard about how each one of us has the power to considerably limit the harm and impact that we have on the Earth. As surprising as this may sound, it is completely true. For instance, reducing the amount of meat you eat in a year, or even cutting out its consumption, could help not only save the lives of thousands of animals and people, but also decrease global warming as well as save resources like water.
A report published by the Worldwatch Institute suggests that livestock and its byproducts (that is to say, animal agriculture) shockingly account for at least 51% of annual worldwide greenhouse gases emissions. Therefore, in order to mitigate climate change and diminish global warming, we need to re-evaluate our diet and think of the huge impact this has on a global scale. Cutting off meat consumption completely might be a hard challenge to face for some but it is possible and necessary in order to guarantee a sustainable future for our planet. Additionally, even reducing the amount of meat we eat can make a huge difference when it comes to diminishing greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, a vegetarian manages to not release around 730 kilograms (1609 pounds) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
Farm animals contribute more to climate change than trains, planes and automobiles combined so maybe it is time we take a further step in order to improve the situation that our planet is facing.
Use of resources (water, energy and land)
Animal agriculture takes up an unbelievable amount of resources, something that has a negative effect on the environment as well as the people and animals that live within it. Precious and important habitats around the world are destroyed in order to plant and harvest crops that are used to feed farm animals. In fact, animals are fed around 6 kilograms of plant protein to make just one kilogram of animal protein.
But it is not just land that farm animals need in order to be fed and grown. Water is also a resource that is used immensely and fairly disproportionately when it comes to producing meat. As seen in the image below, 52,8 gallons (nearly 2000 liters) of drinking water are needed just to make a quarter pound hamburger.
What it takes to make a quarter-pound hamburger. Source: https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2014/01/climate-change-my-beef-with-the-collective-action-problem
Saving lives (including your own)
When it comes to stopping meat consumption, or being a vegetarian, the first thing that pops on people’s minds is the fact that hundreds of animal lives are saved every year just by not eating any meat or fish. In fact, even if every American just joined the Meatless Monday movement and didn’t eat meat only for those 24 hours, 1.4 billion lives would be saved every year.
Nevertheless, animals are not the only ones that will be grateful if humans reduce their meat consumption. As aforementioned, farm animals are fed a vast amount of food in order to produce their byproducts, and this means there is less food for everyone else.
In a world where thousands of people suffer from malnutrition, it seems fairly shocking that one third of edible cereal harvests are fed to farm animals, when this amount of food could feed up to 3 billion people. While quitting meat consumption does not necessarily mean that world hunger would be completely eradicated, it does act as a sure, clever and efficient way to combat it.
Last but not least, it is also important to consider the fact that reducing the amount of meat protein we consume is extremely beneficial for our health as well. Many doctors and health experts agree that consuming less meat can reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer.
Meat is delicious and that is something none of us can change. However, it is important that we keep in mind that the choices we make at the dinner table can have a major impact on the lives of others, the environment and our planet, in general. Reducing meat consumption, quitting it, joining the Meatless Monday movement – what you do doesn’t really matter, as long as you do something. You have in your hands the power to redirect not only your future, but that of thousands of others. Not only is that a beautiful thought but also something to take into account next time you go to the supermarket.
“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little” – Sydney Smith