Will go­ing meat-free save the planet?

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Feature Climate Change -

As the scale and ef­fects of cli­mate change be­come in­creas­ingly alarm­ing, meat has be­come a pop­u­lar tar­get for ac­tion, with ad­vo­cates urg­ing the pub­lic to eat less meat in order to save the en­vi­ron­ment. A key claim un­der­ly­ing these ar­gu­ments holds that global meat pro­duc­tion gen­er­ates more green­house gases (GHG) than the en­tire trans­porta­tion sec­tor.

This re­search, pro­duced in 2006 by the UN’s Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO), has long since been proved in­cor­rect, with the or­gan­i­sa­tion ad­mit­ting to skewed method­olo­gies. Yet the mis­con­cep­tion per­sists.

Prof Frank Mit­loehner, an­i­mal science and air qual­ity ex­ten­sion spe­cial­ist at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia in the US, states that the global trans­port sec­tor is in fact re­spon­si­ble for 14% of di­rect emis­sions, while agri­cul­ture ac­counts for only 5%.

The skewed method­olo­gies used in the FAO study in­cluded us­ing ev­ery fac­tor as­so­ci­ated with pro­duc­ing meat, in­clud­ing fer­tiliser pro­duc­tion, con­vert­ing land from forests to pas­tures, grow­ing feed, and di­rect emis­sions from an­i­mals (belch­ing and ma­nure) from birth to death. But only the ex­haust fumes were con­sid­ered for trans­port’s im­pact, ig­nor­ing the im­pact on the cli­mate from man­u­fac­tur­ing ve­hi­cle ma­te­ri­als and parts, as­sem­bling ve­hi­cles and main­tain­ing roads, bridges and air­ports.

Mit­loehner says that many peo­ple con­tinue to think that if they avoid eat­ing meat as in­fre­quently as once a week, it will make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence to the cli­mate.

“But even if Amer­i­cans elim­i­nated all an­i­mal pro­tein from their di­ets, they would re­duce GHG emis­sions in the US by only 2,6%. If Meat­less Mon­day were to be adopted by all Amer­i­cans, we’d see a re­duc­tion of only 0,5%.

“The world pop­u­la­tion is cur­rently pro­jected to reach

9,8 bil­lion peo­ple by 2050. Feed­ing this many peo­ple will raise im­mense chal­lenges. Meat is more nu­tri­ent-dense per serv­ing than veg­e­tar­ian op­tions, and ru­mi­nant an­i­mals largely thrive on feed that is not suit­able for hu­mans. Ac­cord­ing to the FAO, as much as 70% of all agri­cul­tural land glob­ally is range­land that can only be utilised as graz­ing land for ru­mi­nant live­stock.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.