Back in August 2015, we decided to turn vegetarian; or, more honestly, to make a conscious effort at reducing, if not eliminating, our consumption of meat.
Apart from it being a healthier option, the reason was largely linked to our desire to have an impact. Being carnivores, it seemed like a good way to #startwithsomething. Surprisingly, our diet shift has been easier than imagined, however we will not deny the occasional burger, jamón, roast, or biryani craving.
Since we have taken the first step of cutting out all red and white meat (with the exception of fish on occasion), we have been increasingly interested in knowing the impact of giving up our delicious burgers. The research out there, although buried and not entirely consistent, has been an incredible eye-opener to how much our planet is in trouble if we don’t reduce our meat consumption.
Animal agriculture is a huge driver of climate change that contributes to approximately 15% of green house gas emissions, which, according to some sources, is not far from emissions from all transportation put together.
A recent research report published in PNAS claims to be the first study to estimate the impact of shifting to a more plant-based diet on health, the environment and the economy. It estimates the impact of four diets with varying meat intake, up to 2050.
It claims that:
- If the world went vegetarian, food-related emissions would reduce by 63%
- If everyone turned vegan,food-related emissions would reduce by 70%
- If everyone turned vegan, mortality numbers would reduce by 8.1 million lives
- Dietary shifts towards less meat consumption would save $700 billion to $1 trillion per year on healthcare, unpaid care and lost working days
- The economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as $570 billion
These are just a few numbers from one report that present a convincing case towards vegetarianism.
Most of the evidence out there is dominant in the form of research reports. Although hard to completely grasp in one read, and even harder to summarise, we hope to shed light on the salient features of the research we find, with the objective of increasing awareness of the impact of meat consumption on the planet.
We hope this will encourage you to consider a dietary shift for a cleaner, more sustainable environment. If you, like us, don’t have something to start making an impact with, this is a great place to begin. You will be healthier and you will help make the world more sustainable.
If you can point us somewhere, please do. If you have an opinion on this, please share it!
Ahba, Congratulations on choosing to be a vegetarian! You make some good points in this article, and I think there are plenty more compelling ones as well:
• DEFORESTATION: Raising cattle is the most inefficient use of land for food. According to numerous sources, the majority of deforestation in the Amazon Basin since the 1960s has been caused by cattle ranchers and land speculators who burned huge tracts of rainforest for pasture. Brazilian government data indicates that more than 60 percent of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. But conversion to cattle pasture isn’t limited to Brazil — in the 1970s and early 1980s vast tracts of rainforest in Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador were burned and converted into cattle pasture lands to meet American demand for beef. http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0812.htm
• FRESH WATER USE: “Livestock production uses one-third of the world’s fresh water… There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.” http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whopper-environmental-impact-of-global-meat-production/
• PERSONAL HEALTH and, dare I say, integrity. Just the hormones and other chemicals injected into livestock should be enough reason to avoid commercially-raised meat. This is a good list of “49 reasons” to be a vegetarian. However, there will always be people who disagree and no amount of scientific evidence will alter their beliefs, habits or sense of entitlement.
Until we each grasp the interconnectedness and delicate natural balance of all life on this small blue planet, and our responsibility as “consumers,” global citizens and conscious human beings, I’m not hopeful about reversing our destructive behaviors. As a antidote to despair about this, I recommend Charles Eisenstein’s books: “Sacred Economics” and “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.”
On a personal note, I have been a vegetarian since I was 16 (which was almost half a century ago… oh my!… and have enjoyed excellent health), deciding that if “you are what you eat,” I didn’t want to be a cow or pig or chicken raised in a production facility. And all it takes is a drive by stockyards in Texas or elsewhere to be literally sickened and heartbroken by these senient creatures waiting to be slaughtered.
I hope this adds to the conversation. Carry on with your excellent concept of #startwithsomething!
Thank you for your kind words, Ayesha! They are so encouraging!
Thank you for your points above – they are all eye-opening. I have been reading many research papers on the connection between meat consumption and climate change, and am amazed at what I am reading. One of the reports did a survey in 12 countries where they spoke to ordinary people about the issues with meat consumption. They found that majority had no idea of the impact their meat consumption was making, and once they knew, were happy to make changes to their diet. That is HUGE. So there is hope 🙂
I hope to be able to share salient facts, like you have here, on the same. Awareness and education are the first steps towards change!
Are you vegan?
Abha, congratulations! This is such a great initiative. I didn’t realize you had started startwithsomething!! Fantastic. I love everything you’re writing about and totally agree. I was fortunate to be born a vegetarian and as you know I managed to continue my vegetarian lifestyle in the most difficult of places: Spain! Lol. While I lived there I got liked like an animal escaped from the zoo when I asked for vegetarian stuff … but realize that things are quickly changing even in a hard core meat eating country such as that. Barcelona is officially now a veg friendly city!
I do have to add I feel depressed though when I look at countries such as India, traditionally a vegetarian country where meat consumption is on the increase. While the West opens its eyes to the benefits of a vegetarian diet, and the vegetarian lifestyle becomes more mainstream, developing economies with larger populations should not go backwards. I see many Indian colleagues etc saying I was vegetarian and couldn’t eat so and so on my trip here so I want to raise my kids so they don’t have to find themselves in awkward situations with food. I think that’s a terrible excuse to raise carnivorous kids and I think more awareness is needed in densely populated countries if we are to have a shot at saving this planet!