What the meat industry doesn’t want you to know

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This is not one of those ‘go vegan today’ pushovers.

In a world where we consume and produce more every day, we need to develop sustainable ways to be able to ensure the future generation will get to enjoy what we have now. Living as if the generation that will come after us will solve every mess we create, does not do us any good. This brings the question of why we become defensive when we are told the meat and dairy industry is a cause for climate change. For a long time, we have been told that that livestock waste constitutes of methane which is a greenhouse gas. Further to this, we have been persuaded and excuses have been created, that livestock waste is not enough to result to a rise in global temperatures. However, the underlying and not so told truth, is what it takes to have that plate of meat every other day for lunch, dinner and sometimes for breakfast.

Meat, dairy, and egg production involve really strenuous processes, not just for the industry itself, but also environmental resources from plants to water. They are among the leading causes of human-caused climate change, soil erosion, water pollution, and the decrease in biodiversity. Biodiversity, in many countries, has suffered because of livestock keeping due to deforestation. For instance, the Amazon Forest is been depleted every single day as large tracks of the forest are heaved off for livestock production. The Amazon Forest is a carbon sink which is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period. Hectares of biodiversity have been depleted when tractors make the land fit for livestock for the so-called ranch life. Meat processing involves the use of a lot of water from production to packaging. A more displeasing fact is what is used to feed these animals and how it is produced. Livestock in large ranch areas is in most cases fed on grains sourced from large farms created to feed livestock and not humans. This is disheartening because as some parts of the world face hunger, the same food that could feed them is used to feed livestock which will, in turn, become meat which will be eaten by the majority of the middle-class population or developed world.

What we are not being told is what entails the entire process of meat and dairy production. What we are not told is the acres of large tracks of land used which could support biodiversity or even grow vegetables and cereals which could be consumed by a larger human population. What we are also not told is how much water is needed to ensure meat and dairy products are suitable for human consumption. We are also not told the amount of food required to feed just one cow in order to fatten it. All these processes of farming animals are responsible for 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is a global problem, not just a specifics country problem. A recent study by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has revealed that we need to limit global warming to 1.5 Degree Celsius in order to ensure a more sustainable and equitable society. With this new findings, it’s not just the producers who can help to limit global warming but also the consumers.

As highlighted in Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production, we all can play a part in reducing global warming. Producers in the meat and dairy industry need to consider more sustainable ways on meat production and processing. We cannot continue feeding livestock while the human population goes without food. We can join the cause and ensure Zero Hunger for the entire human population in all corners of the worl. We can also not continue to destroy biodiversity by clearing large tracks of land. Sustainable farming is critical to restore biodiversity and ensure current and future generations live in harmony with nature which we are a part of.

As consumers, we do not need to go vegan overnight. Since time immemorial, we have consumed meat and it is part of many cultural practices. However, we can choose to set one day where we do not consume meat, if you are a daily meat consumer, or even one week a month. This also goes for fast food or normal snacking which has meat or dairy products. In essence, producing 1 kg of beef releases between 16 kg and 30 kg of carbon dioxide into the environment, while producing 1 kg of plant protein releases only 1 kg of carbon dioxide. Lifestyle changes, no matter how small, can make a difference. We only need to act now. We can also work to lobby governments and concerned stakeholders to consider sustainable agricultural ways which feed a nation and at the same time ensure biodiversity thrives.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to vicki@nyikasilika.org or vickiwangui26@gmail.com.

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