22 April is Earth Day. And to make the occasion really count, one of the biggest things we can do is to change how we eat, for good.
In 2018, climate experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI) released a report. They argued that changing our diets could play an important role in fighting back against the climate crisis. In particular, they said people’s consumption of beef (and lamb and goat meat) needs to fall significantly, because beef-heavy diets are environmentally unsustainable.
The meat industry (and mostly beef and dairy) is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Some reports have claimed it’s responsible for at least half of these. Without this meat and dairy, one scientific analysis stressed, we could cut the use of farmland globally by more than 75%; and according to the lead researcher, “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth”. Other experts agree, calling for us to reduce the amount of meat we eat.
The meat industry won’t change itself
Without mass action from ordinary people, the billion-dollar global meat industry will just steam onwards to keep expanding its profits and killing many billions of animals every year. It will keep putting our planet’s resources under serious pressure, allowing countless animal species to die as a result. Its key role in deforestation and the wastage of water will also continue.
In the UK, the meat industry dominates a massive amount of our land. Whether that’s crops for feeding animals or pastures for them to graze on, it’s land that we could use more sensibly. And still, we import a hefty chunk of the food we give to these animals.
On top of this, it’s also important to remember that the world’s poorest people – who eat much less meat than people in rich countries – are the ones who will suffer the most from climate breakdown.
All of this is before we even mention animal intelligence and suffering. The truth is that, because the industry does the killing for us, we don’t have to think about it much. And many people trust that it does this humanely. But it consistently breaks animal welfare regulations.
2005 documentary Earthlings, meanwhile, documents how “humankind’s total dependence on animals for economic purposes” goes beyond food and into the realm of “pets, … clothing, entertainment and scientific research”.
Health and finance
There are also numerous benefits to cutting down on the meat we eat. Our health can benefit, for example, and so can our personal finances.
Health experts regularly praise diets that include little or no meat and instead place importance on “fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds”. Meat simply isn’t necessary for us to be healthy. And if we ensure we have a good nutritional balance, we can actually be healthier without it.
Meat can also be among the most expensive food items we buy. So embracing a diet with less or no meat can be cheaper. It’s just not true that vegans have more money than non-vegans. Indeed, for decades and centuries there have been plenty of working-class people across the globe who have avoided meat. And there are many ways to eat well on a budget.
Spread the word
Any shift towards greater food sustainability will help to make a difference. Whether that means becoming vegan, vegetarian, or just limiting the amount of red meat we eat, it matters. And we need to be honest about that.
There are many documentaries out there on the topics of animal rights, links between diet and illness, and the role corporations play. And if we really love and cherish our Earth, we should – at the very least – try to increase awareness about the impact our diet has on our planet.
Main article image via MabelAber / pixabay