Friday, 1 June 2018

Vegan Planet?


An interesting study from Oxford University suggests that the best way of legally saving the Earth is for people to cut meat and dairy from their diets (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth). The authors point out that whilst meat and dairy provide fewer than one fifth of our calories and less than half of our protein, their production occupies more than 80% of farmland as well as generating more than half of the greenhouse gases linked to agriculture. Production also involves lots of water. The study, in addition,revealed that different farming techniques produced very different figures with beef cattle raised on deforested land (like parts of the Amazon) generating 12 times the amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) as well as using 50 times more land than cows raised on natural pastures. Fish are not really a viable  alternative as they also found that the farming of freshwater species generates a surprisingly large  amount of methane from excrement and waste food dropping to the oxygen-poor bottom of the pools. The study suggests that cutting out the most harmful 50% of meat and dairy production would result in around 2/3rds of the savings that could be achieved by total abolition. This would certainly leave more land for other species, improving the planet's general viability. Personally, I think it unlikely that there will be a mass move to eliminate meat and dairy products from the food chain. Such foods have a high cachet but price is very important to many people (especially the poor). I also suspect that many farmers would be resistant to change (especially if they don't operate in a beneficial area). Any substantial reduction in meat and dairy consumption would, however, be a positive move (as would limiting carnivorous 'pets', having fewer children et cetera). We can but hope.

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