Oscar-winning director James Cameron, who recently went vegan for ethical reasons, has been critical of conservationists who continue to eat meat.
In a Facebook video posted in October 2012, Cameron urges meat-eating environmentalists to switch to a plant-based diet if they are serious about saving the planet.
“You can’t be an environmentalist, you can’t protect the oceans without following the path. And the path to the future – in the world of our children – cannot be passed without switching to a plant-based diet. Explaining why he went vegan, Cameron, XNUMX, pointed to the environmental damage caused by raising livestock for food.
“There is no need to eat animals, it’s just our choice,” says James. It becomes a moral choice that has a huge impact on the planet, wastes resources and destroys the biosphere.”
In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published a report stating that 18% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions come from animal husbandry. In fact, the figure is closer to 51%, according to a 2009 report published by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of the IFC’s Environment and Social Development Department.
Billionaire Bill Gates recently calculated that livestock is responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. “(Switching to a vegetarian diet) is important in light of the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry, as livestock generates about 51% of the world’s greenhouse gases,” he said.
Some well-known environmentalists also support vegetarianism, citing the damage caused by animal husbandry. Rajendra Pachauri, chairwoman of the Intergovernmental Commission on Climate Change, recently said that anyone can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions simply by reducing meat consumption.
At the same time, Nathan Pelletier, an environmental economist at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, says cows raised for food are the main problem: they are the ones raised on factory farms.
Pelletiere says grass-fed cows are better than farm-raised cows, pumped with hormones and antibiotics and living in appallingly unhygienic conditions before they are slaughtered.
“If your primary concern is reducing emissions, you shouldn’t eat beef,” says Pelletier, noting that for every 0,5 kg of meat cows produce 5,5-13,5 kg of carbon dioxide.
“Conventional animal husbandry is like mining. It is unstable, we take without giving anything in return. But if you feed cows grass, the equation changes. You will give more than you take.”
However, some experts dispute the notion that grass-fed cows are less environmentally damaging than factory-raised cows.
Dr. Jude Capper, assistant professor of dairy science at Washington State University, says grass-fed cows are just as bad for the environment as those raised on industrial farms.
“Grass-fed animals are supposed to frolic in the sun, jumping for joy and pleasure,” says Capper. “We found from land, energy and water, and carbon footprint, that grass-fed cows are far worse than corn-fed cows.”
However, all vegetarian experts agree that pastoralism threatens the planet, and a plant-based diet is much more environmentally friendly than a meat-based one. Mark Reisner, former staff correspondent for the Natural Resources Conservation Council summed it up very clearly, writing, “In California, the largest consumer of water is not Los Angeles. It is not the oil, chemical or defense industries. Not vineyards or tomato beds. These are irrigated pastures. The Western water crisis – and many environmental problems – can be summed up in one word: livestock.”