Have you heard about this? See Paul McCartney’s video message, here, which explains why it’s a good idea for everyone to reduce their unhealthy dependence upon meat and commit to a weekly meat-free day. (If you’ve got the time and desire to find out more, you can do worse than read Compassion in World Farming Trust’s 2004 report, ‘The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat’).
Meat production has undeniably become a serious environmental hazard. A huge strain on the Earth’s resources, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world’s livestock population is responsible for some 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. The transport industry is responsible for 13%.
Livestock production uses 8% of the world’s (increasingly scarce) fresh water supplies. Indeed, you use more water producing meat than you do grain.
Animal waste pollutes. In North Carolina, USA, for example, there are roughly as many pigs as there are people… and the pigs produce four times as much waste.
With increased prosperity, we are consuming more meat. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that we eat no more than 500g of red meat each week – roughly the equivalent of three 6oz steaks.
In the West, where meat consumption is at its highest, one billion people are overweight. Developing nations have adopted a similarly unhealthy, meat-based diet. Even though the West eats three times as much meat as the rest of the world, meat consumption in ‘poorer’ countries has doubled in just over a decade.
The demand for meat is a major cause of deforestation. Estimates suggest that 70% of the Amazonian rainforest has been flattened to make way for livestock.
Worldwide, about 200 million hectares of forest has been lost since the ’60s, much of it cleared to rear cattle for the hamburger trade – vulgarly referred to as “hamburgerisation” – or to grow subsidised crops for, you guessed it, animal feed.
Consequently, one way or another, livestock now claims more than 30% of our planet’s land surface.
Lastly, and perhaps the fundamental reason for vegetarianism: factory farming is irrefutably inhumane. Millions of living creatures, bred only to be slaughtered after often brief, miserable lives of deprivation and suffering in intensive farms, do not exercise, enjoy fresh air, graze casually or interact with other animals. Selective breeding to ensure unnatural growth has created myriad health problems and deformities, which further add to the animals’ unnecessary suffering.
So, with all this in mind, if you don’t already, will you forgo meat on a Monday from now on? As Paul says, “it not only addresses pollution, but better health, the ethical treatment of animals, global hunger and community and political activism.”
Today just so happens to be Paul’s birthday, so a very Happy Birthday to him.