Just for the record, I’m not a vegetarian. But having said that, as I have become more environmentally aware, I have realised that eating meat is a major contributor to the environmental problems we face. This may come as a surprise to some people so I will give a brief explanation:
Animals need to be fed and it takes 7kgs of feed to produce 1kg of meat. This means that massive amounts of land are being stripped of rain forest and in order to grow soy to feed to animals so we can eat hamburgers and Thai chicken curry. Apart from the loss of rain forest, local farmers are also forcibly removed from land which they need in order to live.
There are also many problems associated with monoculture production, such as degradation of soil, loss of biodiversity, species extinction, etc. Water is another big issue, these crops require massive amounts of water not only to grow but also to be processed into animal feed. Water is fast becoming a scarce resource.
Apart from the environmental impact of eating meat, there is also the ethical side. Factory farms where these animals are bred and the abattoirs where they are slaughtered are incredibly cruel. In order to supply enough meat for the demand, these animals have to suffer very cruel conditions.
On the fish side, do you know that 90% of the fish stocks of the sea have been depleted in the last 50 years. Read the other way, there is only 10% of the fish left in the sea. Our little sushi addiction isn’t helping.
I could write pages and pages on this topic, but instead I have appended some links below for those of you that are interested in reading more.
How many times have you been to a braai and there is a ridiculous amount of meat left over? Is it really necessary to eat meat at every meal or even every day? We need to become more aware of 1) how much meat we eat and 2) where that meat comes from (ie. is it organic/free range, etc).
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said recently that in order to make a difference in the battle against climate change, people should start with one meat free day per week and then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.
I’ve decided that this is a simple change I can make in my life which will have an impact, why don’t you join me? It would be interesting to know what percentage of people are vegetarian to some degree already. This month’s poll on the homepage asks just that question.
Obviously, eating less meat doesn’t suddenly resolve one of all other responsibilities toward the environment. Some people seem to thing that we need to choose one thing we do and that’s our bit. Unfortunately that’s not enough. Every single aspect of our lives needs to be tuned to become more environment friendly. How you use electricity and fuel, how you recycle, what you buy, how much you buy, etc. Even eating vegetables comes with some responsibility. Eating genetically modified veggies which have been flown half way around the world and produced at great cost to people and environment is not going to be helping as much as eating local, fresh, organic vegetables. The latter will not always be easy to find, so we need to find a balance and make responsible choices.
As a follow up I’m going to do a post on vegetarian friendly restaurants in Cape Town.
Here are some interesting websites on this topic:
Info in environmental impact