The impact of the meat industry on the environment has indeed reached such proportions that it forces people to give up their worst habits. About 1,4 billion cattle are currently used for meat, and this number is growing at a rate of about 2 million per month.
Fear is a great engine of determination. Fear, on the other hand, keeps you on your toes. “I will stop smoking this year,” is no more pious aspiration uttered on New Year’s Eve. But only when premature death is seen as an inevitable prospect – only then is there a real chance that the issue of smoking will actually be resolved.
Many have heard of the effects of eating red meat, not in terms of cholesterol levels and heart attacks, but in terms of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Domesticated ruminants are the largest source of anthropogenic methane and account for 11,6% of greenhouse gas emissions that can be attributed to human activities.
In 2011, there were about 1,4 billion cows, 1,1 billion sheep, 0,9 billion goats and 0,2 billion buffalo, the animal population was increasing by about 2 million per month. Their grazing and feeding occupies a larger area than any other land use: 26% of the world’s land surface is devoted to livestock grazing, while forage crops occupy a third of arable land – land that could grow crops, legumes and vegetables for consumption. human or for energy production.
More than 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger. The use of highly productive arable land for the production of animal feed is questionable on moral grounds because it contributes to the depletion of the world’s food resources.
Other well-known consequences of meat-eating include deforestation and loss of biodiversity, but unless governments intervene, it seems unlikely that the demand for animal flesh could be curtailed. But what popularly elected government would ration meat consumption? More and more people, especially in India and China, are becoming meat lovers. Livestock supplied the world market with 229 million tons of meat in 2000, and meat production is currently on the rise and will more than double to 465 million tons by 2050.
The Japanese appetite for whale meat has ugly results, as has the Chinese love for ivory knick-knacks, but the slaughter of elephants and whales is certainly nothing more than a sin in the context of the great, ever-expanding slaughter that feeds the world. Animals with single-chambered stomachs, such as pigs and chickens, produce negligible amounts of methane, so perhaps cruelty aside, we should raise and eat more of them? But the use of fish has no alternative: the sea is steadily emptying, and everything edible that swims or crawls is caught. Many species of fish, shellfish and shrimp in the wild have already been practically destroyed, now farms grow fish.
Moral Nutrition faces a number of puzzles. “Eat oily fish” is the advice of the health authorities, but if we all follow them, oily fish stocks will be even more at risk. “Eat more fruit” is a different command, although tropical fruit supplies are often dependent on jet fuel. A diet that can reconcile competing needs—carbon reduction, social justice, biodiversity conservation, and personal nutrition—is likely to consist of vegetables that have been grown and harvested through well-paid labor.
When it comes to the bleak future of the world, the complex path between cause and effect is the greatest hurdle for those who are trying to make a difference.