According to the United Nations, animal farming globally causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, lorries and planes in the world. This effect is still increasing. It is also the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions caused by the food system. Animal farming is responsible for up to 30% of all emissions.
It is also worth noting that intensive livestock farming consumes huge amounts of fresh water. This is likely to become a more serious problem because, as our world’s climate gets hotter, extreme weather such as droughts and flooding become more frequent and more severe, putting even greater pressure on precious water supplies.
While eating small amounts of good quality meat and dairy products is not a health problem, there is increasing evidence of links between consuming red and processed meats and saturated fat from full fat dairy products and various diseases. A more recent report published by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommends reducing the daily amount of cooked red meat eaten to around 70g a day. This is less than one ‘quarter pound’ burger per day, a portion roughly the size of a pack of playing cards. The report also recommends that we should eat very little, if any, processed meat.
What we can do
Buy better, and less meat and dairy produce.
Scientific evidence continues to accumulate showing that eating a greater proportion of foods of plant origin – vegetables, fruit, pulses (such as beans), nuts, seeds and wholegrain foods – can reduce the risks of serious physical diseases such as heart disease and some cancers, and some mental health problems.
A growing number of us are already taking action and research shows that the market for “meat-free” foods has grown by a fifth (20%) from 2007 to 2012. Some 15% of British people say they are avoiding red meat for health reasons, an even larger 38% have bought meat-free products, and the UK’s annual celebration of vegetarianism continues to grow in popularity.
The money we save from reducing the amount of meat and dairy we buy can be spent on improving the quality, including higher standards of animal welfare and systems that are good for wildlife.
You want more ?
– Eating Better: for a fair, green, healthy future is a broad alliance of organisations working together to help people move towards eating less meat and more food that’s good for us and good for the planet.
– Friends of the Earth is campaigning for policies and practices that help everyone eat a sustainable and healthy diet.
– Meat Free Mondays is dedicated to helping people have at least one day a week totally meat free.
– The Part-time Carnivore campaign encourages people and organisations to pledge to reduce their meat consumption, and provides information about the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat.
– The Vegetarian Society offers free information and help, and promotes vegetarianism to benefit people, animals and the environment.
– WWF UK has produced the report, Livewell: a balance of healthy and sustainable food choices, and an accompanying range of helpful tips and information.