Is it possible to be a meat-eating environmentalist? As the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned us, we have less than 10 years to mitigate climate catastrophe. The report called for “unprecedented changes” to all aspects of society to prevent warming beyond this level. Should ditching meat be part of this?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the global livestock industries account for 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year, representing 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. It also notes that 26% of the world’s arable land is used for livestock, not to mention that 33% of all cropland is dedicated to growing animal feed. Deforestation is a huge issue, as 1.5 soccer fields are cleared in the Amazon Rainforest every hour to make room for grazing cattle.
There is also the issue of water availability – raising animals for food uses 1/3 of our potable water supply. Yet, 700 million people across the globe suffer from water scarcity.
Ocean dead zones have been linked to livestock manure and agricultural run-off. As ocean temperatures rise, coral reefs are dying and the water is becoming more acidic as a result. Ocean acidification makes it harder for marine ecosystems to thrive.