Happy cows don’t come from California, they come from London, where a top United Nations expert just told British newspapers that cutting down on meat consumption was currently one of the best ways to go green.
Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said even cutting back one day a week would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and certain environmental issues caused by raising cattle and other livestock.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that almost one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are from meat production, says a British source. This is due to the massive amounts of methane (16% of the world’s production!) produced by animals that ruminate, or chew their cud. Methane is 23 times more harmful to the environment that Co2, interestingly enough.
This isn’t the only reason meat production isn’t energy-efficient. Traditional fertilizing companies use natural gas to manufacture the extra fertilizer needed to produce feed for animals. According to research at Cornell University, NY, it takes 2.2 calories of fossil-fuel energy to create a single calorie of plant protein, and 4 calories of plant protein to produce one calorie of chicken protein, 17 for pork, 50.1 for lamb, and beef a huge 54.1.
Physics World Journal has estimated 21% of all the carbon dioxide humans create can be attributed to the animals we eat. Geophysicists Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin from the University of Chicago made this amazing claim:
“Becoming a vegetarian does more to fight global warming than switching from a gas-guzzling SUV to a fuel-efficient hybrid car, such is the amount of Co2 generated in the production of beef, pork or lamb.”
The harmful effects of meat production aren’t limited to emissions, but include habitat destruction and massive rainforest destruction to grow animal feed.
And the great part is, meat production is only going up. The Worldwatch Institute estimates farmers produced 276 million tons in 2006: four times as much as in 1961. Meat production is expected to double by the middle of the century, according to an article in the UK Guardian.
Of course, the arguments in support of meat consumption are numerous in return, usually mentioning the many farmers whose livelihood would be affected, and the many cultural associations meat dishes hold in different countries.
But UN chair Rajendra Pachauri wasn’t urging anyone to go vegetarian, even though he himself is. His suggestion was simply:
“Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there. In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity.”
Hmm. With the current prices of Prius’s, it just might pay to consider the Veggie pizza option next time we’re at the supermarket.