Stop eating meat and help the environment
14 March 2023
The environmental condition of the production and consumption of meat and other animal products in developed countries is one of the main causes of the climate crisis we are experiencing.
“The livestock sector is one of the main contributors to global greenhouse gases (GHG).” This was stated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Global emissions from this sector are now 14.5%. The livestock industry is the main cause of these emissions due to the rapid growth of these intensive farms in recent decades. And as the number of animals increases, so does production. To give you an idea, livestock alone emits as many greenhouse gases as all the means of transportation on the planet. Yes, you read that right. All of them. In 2018, global emissions in Spain went down but those from livestock went up, mainly due to the huge amounts of excrement generated in an industrial model.
To this, we must add other emissions indirectly related to livestock activity, such as those originated by deforestation for the cultivation of animal feed or the transport of goods. Ships that bring soybeans from Brazil and other countries, trucks that transport them to the livestock farms, other trucks to take the animals to the slaughterhouse… Then, more transportation to reach the distribution chains and homes, and even more ships and planes to export the meat to other countries. Yes, some of the products of these animals go back to the countries where they were fattened and where the soybeans were grown. A real madness!
So… is it possible to know how our consumption of meat and other animal by-products in Spain affects climate change? Yes, from the average consumption of meat, milk, and eggs in Spain it is possible to calculate the equivalent CO2 emissions. In our country, each person emits an average of 1130.70 kg of CO2 equivalent* per year, based on the current consumption of animal products. These emissions are equivalent to driving 10,000 kilometers in a class B gasoline car. How to drive from Lisbon to Ulaanbaatar!
Industrial meat has a high environmental cost. This not only increases climate change, but also the loss of biodiversity or the contamination of an increasingly scarce and important resource such as water. In addition, the excessive consumption of meat can also have serious effects on our health.
But, if you have come this far, I want to give you a hopeful fact that shows how any small reduction in meat consumption can have a huge effect on the planet. In 2017 in Spain, we ate 5% less meat than in 2016 and that meant a saving of almost 2 million tons of CO2 equivalent. As much as a medium-sized coal-fired power plant produces!
The comparisons made here are made so that you understand the dimension of the problem, not to justify a greater use of the car or that we think that it does not matter the origin of the energy because it reduces the consumption of meat or vice versa. To curb the threats we face, climate change, biodiversity loss, scarcity, water pollution, etc., we need combined action in all areas of life and in all sectors. Dietary changes are not enough, but they are important for our health and the health of the planet.