Sounding the Alarm on Carnism

Meat Society: Number 14 in a series exploring issues related to curbing demand for animal products, an important climate change solution for individuals and nations alike, especially in Western states where meat and diary consumption dwarfs other regions.

Excerpt from Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming by Moses Seenarine, (2016). Xpyr Press, 348 pages ISBN: 0692641157

Hundreds of ecologists and agricultural scientists are actively sounding the alarm by highlighting calls for action on animal-based agriculture. A growing body of research points out that eating animal products is inefficient from the perspective of land, water and energy. And, intake of food animals is equally undesirable from a socio-economic, health, biodiversity, climate warming, and animal welfare point of view.

There are hundreds of researchers investigating the link between climate warming and animal-based diets, and over four dozen studies are listed below. These papers are a limited sample of a large body of research encompassing diverse disciplines, from nutrition to environment. Several areas of this literature are beyond the scope of this article, like animal welfare and advocacy, but they are no less consequential.

(1) In 2001, the World Bank began to be critical of funding for large-scale livestock projects due to their impacts on the environment and on social equality. The World Bank strategy recommended that institutions should “avoid funding large-scale commercial grain-fed feedlot systems and industrial milk, pork and poultry productions”(376)

(2) In 2003, Pimentel contended that the dietary pattern in North America is unsustainable. Producing the equivalent measure of protein from animals takes 11 times the amount of fossil fuel and 100 times the volume of water than vegetable protein.(377) (3) In 2007, a group of health researchers concluded that to prevent greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, the worldwide consumption level of animal products and the intensity of emissions from food animal production must be reduced.(378)

(4) In 2008, Tara Garnet argued that animal-based meals must be rationed to four portions a week to avoid run-away global warming. Garnet concluded, "Efforts to encourage us voluntarily to change will not achieve what is needed in the time available. Regulatory and fiscal measures that change the context within which we consume are vital."(379)

(5) Gowri Koneswaran and Danielle Nierenberg concluded that to mitigate climate-altering gases from the food animal sector, immediate and far-reaching changes in production practices and intake patterns “are critical and timely.”(380) (6) The film, Meat the Truth, was presented in London in 2008, and is available in 13 languages in 16 countries. Meat the Truth was the first documentary to link livestock farming and GHG pollution. The book Meat the Truth, is the continuation of the documentary. The anthology contains papers by prominent food scientists, such as Geoff Russell, Elke Stehfest, Barry Brook and Harry Aiking. Researchers from Wageningen UR, who reviewed the calculations of the film, by request of a Dutch Minister, submitted to the collection as well.(381)

(7) In 2009, Marlow's team determined that a nonvegetarian diet required 2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more primary energy, 13 times more fertilizer, and 1.4 times more pesticides than did a vegetarian diet. And the greatest contribution to the differences came from the consumption of cow flesh.(382) (8) Lord Stern, author of the 2006 Stern Review, on the cost of tackling planetary heating, and a former chief economist of the World Bank, stated that the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen should have called for a hike in the price of animal products and other foods that play a part in climate warming.(383)

(9) John Powles argued that finding paths to globally sustainable patterns of animal food production and consumption should be central to climate change policy deliberations. He wrote, “On grounds of geopolitical feasibility (as well as equity), there is no obvious alternative to a policy of ‘contraction and convergence’ - contracting consumption levels in rich countries to leave room for consumption in poor countries to converge upwards.”(384)

(10) A 2009 examination by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency determined that global food transition to less animal consumption, or even a complete switch to plant-based protein food, would have a dramatic effect on land use. Up to 2.7 billion hectares (about 10.4 million square miles) of pasture and 100 million hectares (about 386,000 square miles) of cropland could be abandoned.(385) If implemented, by 2050 universal veganism would cut agriculture carbon dioxide (CO2) by 17%, methane (CH4) by 24%, and nitrous oxide (N2O) by 21%. This would cause a large carbon uptake from regrowing vegetation and reduce the mitigation costs to achieve a 450 ppm CO2e stabilization target by about 50% in 2050.

(11) Sonesson's team in 2010 noted, "One aspect that potentially is one of the most powerful in combating food’s impact on climate change is the choice of products, i.e. our diets. Since the differences in life cycle GHG emissions are so very large between products fulfilling similar nutritional functions, the scope for improvement is large."(386)

(12) A 2010 UNEP report stated: "Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."(387) The lead author of the UNEP report said: "Animal products cause more damage than construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as fossil fuels."(388)

(13) Katherine Richardson and her co-authors noted in their 2011 book that by contributing to global warming “livestock plays a significant role in effecting ecosystem services at global scales by changes such as modified precipitation patterns, warmer climates, carbon storage in soils, changes in extreme events and other predicted feedback changes of global warming with results from local to global scales.”(389)

(14) In 2011, an Australian team showed that the efficiency of grains are 146 to 560 times that of cattle on an emissions intensity basis, and cattle can emit up to 22 pounds of CO2e per pound of flesh.(390) (15) The lead editor of the European Nitrogen Assessment, Mark Sutton, said, “Nearly half the world’s population depends on synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilizer for food but measures are needed to reduce the impacts of nitrogen pollution. Solutions include more efficient use of fertilizers and manures, and people choosing to eat less meat.”(391)

(16) A Swedish group calculated the GHG footprint of 84 common food items of animal and vegetable origin. It covered CO2e pollution involved in farming, transportation, processing, retailing, storage and preparation. The team observed that animal-based foods are associated with higher energy use and GHG outflows than plant-based foods.(392)

(17) Wirsenius concluded that reducing the intake of meat and cow's milk will be indispensable for reaching the 2°C (3.6°F) target with a high probability. He suggested that taxing animal flesh would lead to significant GHG reductions.(393) In a similar way, (18) Foley calculated that shifting to an all-plant diet could increase food calories by 50%, a staggering 3 quadrillion calories per year, and significantly lower GHG emissions, biodiversity losses, water use and water pollution.(394)

(19) Weiss and Leip suggested in 2012 that for effective reduction of GHG emissions from livestock production, releases occurring outside the agricultural sector need to be taken into account. And reduction targets should address both the production side as defined by IPCC sectors, and the consumption side.(395)

(20) A Union of Concerned Scientists report in 2012 warned, “Clearing forest for pastures makes money, but it also causes global warming pollution.” The effects of tropical deforestation are responsible for about 15% of the world’s heat-trapping emissions. And three-fifths of the world’s agricultural land is used for cattle that yields less than 5% of humanity’s protein.(396)

(21) Also in 2012, researchers at the University of Exeter argued that encouraging people to trim back the quantity of food animals they eat could keep global temperatures within the 2°C (3.6°F) threshold. Tom Powell said, “Our research clearly shows that recycling more and eating less meat could provide a key to re-balancing the global carbon cycle.”(397) Powell continued, “Meat production involves significant energy losses - only around 4% of crops grown for livestock turn into meat. By focusing on making agriculture more efficient and encouraging people to reduce the amount of meat they eat, we could keep global temperatures within the two degrees threshold.”

(22) Nijdam's analysis of over 100 protein foods ascertained that the carbon footprint of the most climate-friendly, plant-based protein sources is up to 100 times smaller than those of the most climate-unfriendly, animal-based protein sources.(398) (23) A 2012 UK study concluded that food policies must focus on demand rather than supply-side measures to address GHGs as a global issue.(399)

(24) One study found that a non-vegetarian diet uses about 2.9 greater volume of water, 2.5 greater mass of primary energy, 13 times the sum of fertilizer, and 1.4 extra volume of pesticides. And it generates GHG pollution to a far greater extent than a vegetarian diet.(400) (25) Another group calculated that 22% and 26% of GHG savings can be made by moving from the current UK-average diet to a vegetarian or vegan diet, respectively.(401)

(26) Shifting crops from animal feed to human food could serve as a 'safety net' when weather or pests create shortages. Davidson, director of the Woods Hole Research Center, reasoned that the developed world will have to cut fertilizer use by 50% and persuade many consumers to stop eating so many food animals in order to stabilize nitrous oxide (N2O) releases by 2050.(402)

In 2013, (27) Sutton and Dibb calculated that (i) almost a third of global biodiversity loss is attributable to livestock production, (ii) food animal intake is responsible for nearly half of the UK food GHG emissions, and (iii) the estimated cost to the National Health Service in early deaths is £1.28 billion ($1.82b).(403) 

On a global scale, (28) Emily Cassidy projected that a shift from crops destined for animal feed and industrial uses toward human food could increase available calories by 70% and feed an extra 4 billion people each year.(404) (29) A Swedish report stated that policy makers should discuss and try to influence what their citizens eat.(405) (30) And, a Danish study found that taxes are a low cost way of promoting climate friendly diets without large adverse health effects.(406)

(31) One more study concluded, “The emission cuts necessary for meeting a global temperature-increase target of 2° might imply a severe constraint on the long-term global consumption of animal food. Due to the relatively limited potential for reducing food-related emissions by higher productivity and technological means, structural changes in food consumption towards less emission-intensive food might be required for meeting the 2° target.”(407)

(32) In 2014, the "Meat Atlas" by Friends of Earth Europe, claimed that livestock directly or indirectly produces nearly 33% of the anthropogenic climate-altering gases.(408) (33) Also in 2014, the Chatham House report concluded that dietary change is essential if planetary heating is not to exceed 2°C (3.6°F).(409) 

(34) Researcher Aiking warned, "Under the current conditions of an unprecedented global population size it may be time to rethink issues such as consumer freedom (diet choice) compared with global food security, the use of 2.48 million tons of fish for cat food, and free trade."(410)

(35) Bajželj's model of agriculture related GHGs is one of the most robust experiments. The study warned that severe reductions in animal consumption are necessary, otherwise, agricultural GHG pollution will take up the entire world’s carbon budget by 2050, with animal agribusiness being a major contributor.(411)

(36) Tilman in 2014 projected that dietary trends, if unchecked, would be a major contributor to an 80% surge in global agricultural GHGs by 2050. This means all other sectors, like energy, industry, and transport, would have to be zero carbon by then, which is highly unlikely.(412) (37) Eshel's investigation showed that the biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints are not to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat.(413)

(38) West's team calculated agriculture emissions of climate-altering gases are between 20% and 33% of total manmade GHGs - from deforestation, methane, and fertilizers. In contrast, by not feeding crops to domesticates, using fertilizer where it is needed, and avoiding overuse, countries could bring down GHG outflows markedly.(414)

(39) Ripple and other scientists suggested that just like a carbon consumption tax, a tax on animal flesh could encourage people to eat less of them.(415) (40) Elin Hallström's team found that simply reducing carcass over-consumption to dietary guidelines will lower GHG pollution from livestock production in Sweden from 40% to 15–25% by 2050, and cropland use from 50% to 20–30%.(416)

(41) Soret's health-based 2014 study used a nonvegetarian diet as a reference, and found that reductions in GHGs for semi-vegetarian diet was 22%, and for vegetarian diets it was 29%. On top of this, the mortality rates for non-vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, and vegetarians were 6.66, 5.53, and 5.56 deaths per 1000 person-years, respectively.(417)

(42) In 2015, Elin Röös's team assessed three animal-based diets - a diet corresponding to Nordic recommendations, the current average Swedish diet, and a low carbohydrate-high fat diet. They determined that all three diets are above the sustainable level of climate impact.(418) (43) Another Swedish study determined that taxes on animal flesh and cow's milk could reduce emissions of GHG, nitrogen and phosphorus, by up to 12% from this sector.(419)

(44) The 2015 Chatham House report concluded, “Interventions to change the relative prices of foods are likely to be among the most effective in changing consumption patterns.” The report adds that countries should aim "to increase the price of meat and other unsustainable products" through a carbon tax.(420) And (45) Hallström's 2015 review found that dietary change can reduce the sector's GHG emissions and land use demand by up to 50%.(421)

(46) Talia Raphaely's edited collection of articles in 2015 includes one by Robert Goodland, who argued that food animals contribute 51% of GHGs. Raphaely describes how carnism impacts all aspects of human life and humanity's long-term survival prospects. Yet, society continues to ignore the negative impacts of consuming animal flesh and the sector's high contribution to global GHG emissions.(422)

(47) In 2016, a large-scale study showed that methane (CH4) from manure, ruminants, landfill, and waste, and nitrous oxide (N2O) from crop cultivation, are offsetting the land carbon dioxide (CO2) sink by two-fold.(423) (48) Another 2016 study concluded, “Deep cuts, by 50% or more, in ruminant meat consumption… is the only dietary change that with high certainty is unavoidable if the EU climate targets are to be met.”(424)

(49) Chalmers' team determined that livestock carbon consumption taxes in Scotland can reduce household demand for food animal products and result in a 10.5% reduction in Scottish food GHG emissions.(425) Also in 2016, (50) Springmann found that adhering to health guidelines on food animal consumption could cut global food-related emissions by nearly a third by 2050. Moreover, widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would bring down emissions by 63%, and veganism by 70%.(426)

Chapter 11: WHAT CRISIS? pages 108-111

No comments:

Post a Comment

New Release

New Release - Cyborgs Versus the Earth Goddess

Now Available! Cyborgs Versus the Earth Goddess: Men's Domestication of Women and Animals and Female Resistance by m seen...