In Flight Magazine - - CARNIVORES & CLIMATE CHANGE -

For most South Africans, meat is at the cen­tre of each meal. In fact, its sig­nif­i­cance is so great that we even have a day ded­i­cated to our favourite na­tional pas­time: the braai. A braai typ­i­cally rep­re­sents a whole lot of things, namely a place for fam­ily and friends to gather, en­joy a tip­ple and cook food. But let’s be hon­est – it’s mostly about the meat.

It is no se­cret that eat­ing meat has a def­i­nite rit­ual sig­nif­i­cance in both tra­di­tional and mod­ern South African cul­ture and that meat pro­duc­tion is a boom­ing busi­ness. In fact, farm­ing live­stock makes up the big­gest part of South Africa’s agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, con­trib­utes greatly to the econ­omy, and cre­ates thou­sands of jobs each year.


It has be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous over the years that the num­ber of or­ganic con­sumers and nat­u­ral health ad­vo­cates is on the rise. “Cli­mate Hawks” are in­ves­ti­gat­ing more thor­oughly the fun­da­men­tal causes of the un­de­ni­able fact that our planet is warm­ing. Global warm­ing is real and we have reached a stage where we sim­ply can’t deny it any longer.

Of all the facts, one of the most sober­ing of the lot is that the ma­jor cause of man-made global warm­ing is the world’s in­dus­trial food and farm­ing sys­tems, oth­er­wise known as Con­fined (or Con­cen­trated) An­i­mal Feed­ing Op­er­a­tions (CAFOs), a term coined by the United States En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA). In a nut­shell, mod­ern live­stock agri­cul­ture is burn­ing up our planet.


We know that food and cli­mate change are in­sep­a­ra­bly linked and that our di­ets are a ma­jor source of green­house gas emis­sions. But just how much? Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 ar­ti­cle in The Guardian en­ti­tled “Eat­ing less meat isn’t just good for you, it could save the planet”, Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford PhD grad­u­ate, Adam Briggs, ex­plains that agri­cul­tural emis­sions are thought to ac­count for around 30 % of global emis­sions, with live­stock

Boy­cotting food prod­ucts from fac­tory farms in ex­change for more en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly al­ter­na­tives is al­ready a huge step in the right di­rec­tion.

re­spon­si­ble for half of th­ese. Not only that, but food pro­duc­tion is re­spon­si­ble for 70 % of all hu­man wa­ter use.

Pro­duc­ing just 1 kg of beef re­quires 15,000 litres of wa­ter, five square me­tres of land, and re­sults in 30 kg of green­house gas emis­sions. Rear­ing live­stock ac­counts for 45 % of the planet’s land sur­face and an­i­mal agri­cul­ture is the lead­ing cause of species ex­tinc­tion, ocean dead zones, wa­ter pol­lu­tion, and habi­tat de­struc­tion.

This can be at­trib­uted to the nearly 65 bil­lion do­mes­tic an­i­mals world­wide – in­clud­ing cows, chick­ens and pigs – that are crammed into CAFOs and emit more green­house gases into the at­mos­phere than the en­tire global trans­porta­tion in­dus­try. The meth­ane re­leased from bil­lions of im­pris­oned an­i­mals on fac­tory farms is 70 times more dam­ag­ing per ton to the earth’s at­mos­phere than CO2.

To put into per­spec­tive just how much meth­ane is cir­cu­lat­ing, a study in the 2014 doc­u­men­tary film Cowspiracy re­vealed that ev­ery minute, seven mil­lion pounds of ex­cre­ment is pro­duced by an­i­mals raised for food in the United States alone.And th­ese fac­tory farms are not just a dis­as­ter for the planet – they are also huge health hazards for us. Think about it. The in­ten­sive and reck­less use of growth hor­mones and an­tibi­otics as well as pes­ti­cides and fer­tilis­ers are not only con­sumed by those with car­niv­o­rous pref­er­ences, they also find their way into the wa­ter­ways, af­fect­ing ev­ery­one.


Com­ing from one of the most car­niv­o­rous na­tions on the planet, it is un­likely to as­sume that ev­ery­one who comes across th­ese facts is go­ing to be mo­ti­vated to ditch the dairy and adopt an eco-friendly ve­gan life­style. It is also not a vi­able op­tion for most, con­sid­er­ing the in­creas­ing costs of liv­ing a healthy life­style. But there are some mea­sures that can be taken to make a dif­fer­ence and at this stage of the planet’s peril, ev­ery lit­tle bit of ef­fort counts. Boy­cotting food prod­ucts from fac­tory farms in ex­change for more en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly al­ter­na­tives is al­ready a huge step in the right di­rec­tion.

A few more con­sid­er­a­tions are:

Eat LESS meat. If you re­ally can’t give up the stuff, try go­ing meat-free for just one day a week (#meat­freemon­days), or sim­ply con­sider mak­ing meat less of a sta­ple in your diet. Beans and legumes are healthy al­ter­na­tives to meat pro­tein and there is a seem­ingly end­less va­ri­ety of veg­gie burg­ers on the mar­ket.

Buy lo­cal. This is a great way to min­imise the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of your food. So­cially re­spon­si­ble, small-scale farms that pro­duce healthy meat, eggs and dairy prod­ucts us­ing hu­mane meth­ods and are fo­cused on lo­cal mar­kets are the way to go. No need to get your beef hauled from the other side of the world. Just ask at your lo­cal butcher shop and sup­port the lo­cal in­dus­tries that are do­ing good.

Go or­ganic. The meat from or­ganic live­stock that have ac­cess to the out­doors are rarely sup­ple­mented with an­tibi­otics or growth hor­mones. Be aware of the use of an­tibi­otics and check la­bels. Ed­u­cate your­self on what you’re con­sum­ing. The neg­a­tive im­pacts of fac­tory farm­ing will soon put you off for life once you un­der­stand what is go­ing into the meat they’re churn­ing out.

With the pop­u­la­tion of the planet pre­dicted to reach nine bil­lion by the mid­dle of this cen­tury, we sim­ply can­not af­ford to be reck­less. Sup­por ting un­healthy and en­vi­ron­men­tally dis­as­trous farm­ing sys­tems sim­ply has to stop and we, as con­sumers, owe it to the earth to start mak­ing health­ier, more sus­tain­able food choices.The wealth of in­for­ma­tion avail­able to us means that we have no ex­cuse. Ed­u­cate your­self, pay it for­ward and pop a few health­ier al­ter­na­tives onto your next braai.

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