Showing posts with label agriculture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label agriculture. Show all posts

Global Substitution Diets

Meat Society: Number 17 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

One main aspect of over-consumption is the substitution of animal-base foods for plant-based foods as income and wealth swells. Food animal over-consumption is a increasing problem among the world's growing middle class. For example, there are over 300 million obese adults worldwide, up from 200 million in 1995.

Consumption habits have various environmental impacts, particularly on land. The planet has only 1.9 hectares (4.6 acres) of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes. In spite of that, the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares (5.6 acres) worth. People's ecological footprints range from the 9.7 hectares (24 acres) claimed by the average American, to the 0.47 hectares (1.1 acre) used by the average Mozambican.(481)

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), noteworthy improvements have been made in food consumption per person. During three decades, between 1969/1971 and 1999/2001, there has been an increase of almost 400 kcal per person, per day from 2,411 to 2,789 kcal, globally. All the same, at the lower end of the development spectrum, the poor regions of Sub-Saharan Africa saw only modest gains in their prevailing low levels of available food, while Middle Africa experienced a pronounced drop-off.

Despite the 16.5 percent addition to per person global caloric intake, some developing countries have declined further from what was already a very low per capita food consumption level. This was especially so in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya.(482)

In terms of calories from major food commodities, there are monumental differences between developing and industrial countries. Between 1963 and 2003, developing countries had immense upsurges in the consumption of calories from animal-based foods (119%), sugar (127%) and vegetable oils (199%). China showed even bigger hikes in this 40 year period, especially in vegetable oils (680%), animal products (349%) and sugar (305%).

There has been a 62 percent spike in food animal consumption worldwide, with the biggest growth in the developing countries which had an average three-fold increase since 1963. China had a dramatic nine-fold ramp-up and Eastern Asia had a five-fold expansion in the supply of animal food calories per capita.

In industrial countries, over the same four decades, vegetable oil consumption rose appreciably (105%). Animal-based products such as pig sausages, cow burgers, pig pies, etc., account for almost half of all carcass consumed in developed countries. In the US, over half of the energy intake, 58 percent of food consumed, comes from ultra-processed foods such as sodas, and milk-based drinks; cakes, cookies and pies; salty snacks; frozen and shelf-stable plates; pizza and breakfast cereals.(483)

In both developing and industrial countries, there were declines for pulses, roots, and tubers between 1963 and 2003. This is part of the ‘substitution’ effect, a shift in the consumption of foodstuffs with no major variation in the overall energy supply. This shift is primarily from carbohydrate-rich staples like cereals, roots, and tubers, to vegetable oils, animal products, and sugar.

Consumption of pulses plummeted globally, and in particular among developing countries. For instance, there was a 10-fold drop-off in China, from 30g (1 oz) per capita per day in 1963, to 3g (0.1 oz) in 2003. At the same time, there was a sharp plunge in sweet potatoes intake in many developing countries, accompanied by a parallel marked rise in potatoes. In China sweet potato dwindled down from 227g (8 oz) in 1963, to 99g (3.5 oz) in 2003, while intake of potatoes rose from 25g (1 oz) to 96g (3.3 oz) per capita per day.(484)

In Africa and parts of Asia, cereals supply up to 70 percent of energy intake. By comparison, in the UK, cereals provide only 30 percent of energy intake and 50 percent of available carbohydrates. Globally, rice consumption has seen negligible gains. This is due in large part to declines in countries that have predominantly rice-based diets, particularly China and other East Asian countries.

While production of fruits and vegetables has been expanding over recent years, inadequate consumption remains a problem worldwide. States need to help to make fruits and vegetables accessible and affordable to a larger extent for poor households as well as ensure access to markets by smaller producers.

The WHO recommends that average fruit and vegetable intake should be at least 400g (14 oz) per person per day. But in Europe and Australia, fruit and vegetable consumption remains well below the recommended levels for adults. What's more, in developed countries, the poor eat a smaller quantity of fruit and vegetables.(485)

Chapter 13: OVER-CONSUMPTION CLASS, page 129

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

Animal Agribusiness Disorder

Meat Society: Number 8 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

In addition to greenhouse gases (GHGs), there are dozens of grave concerns regarding livestock production. These concerns, listed below, are consequential and must be addressed. On top of that, they potently relate to climate warming since they often generate GHG pollution. For instance, rural displacement may stimulate increase of carbon footprints through migration to urban areas and adoption of animal-based diets.

Food animal production negatively impacts the following 19 areas: (1) the loss of forest and earth's sequestration capacity. This acerbates (2) resource scarcity, and (3) soil loss which is critical to food security. (4) The animal industry's water-use threatens food supply, security and human welfare. Factory farms are the number one consumer of water in drought-stricken California, for example.

(5) There is the moral issue of wasting calories. With a billion and upwards malnourished people, the production of animal protein is far less efficient than producing equivalent amounts of plant protein. (6) Particularly troubling is the trend toward greater intensification and industrial production methods without regard to animal welfare. Animal factory farming is a new phenomenon that has established itself as the predominant mode of food animal production.

(7) Another worry is the consolidation of ownership and the enormous power wielded by multinational trading companies over local and national governments. This unequal power impacts negatively on democracy, local control, accountability and oversight, sustainability disclosure, corporate governance, and policy changes.

(8) There are massive and widespread problems with land rights, rural unemployment, displacement, violence, inequality, poor working conditions, and other forms of exploitation related to the sector. (9) Another major concern is that vast numbers of livestock and feed crops are often located in remote areas with severe effects on the environment, such as deforestation and land degradation, that is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity.

(10) Food animal production is often located close to cities or ports, where insufficient land is available for processing the waste. This leads to soil, air and water pollution, which cause humans and animals to become prone to ill-health and disease. (11) Factory farming is the number one user of antibiotics in the US, up to 80 percent. This is causing bacterial resistance which defeats the use of these lifesaving drugs.

(12) Another anxiety is that factory farms are inevitably breeding dangerous new strains of bacteria. Factory farming is the number one reason for the rapid spread of bird flu (H5N2) and swine flu (H1N1). (13) A further concern relates to health effects of genetically modified crops, and residues from herbicides, like glyphosate.

(14) Stagnating crop yields is an immense worry. (15) So too are the effects of climate change, such as heat stress and disease, on the production and efficiency of food animals. And, (16) livestock over-consumption, and the effects of an animal-based diet on human health, are immense causes for concern as well.

(17) Nutrient flows in the earth system are instrumental to food security and short-term GHG discharges. Some scenarios project that by 2050 global crops will expand by 82 percent, and livestock production will soar upwards 115 percent from 2000 levels. This massive addition in nutrient pollution, land and water requirements will lead to intensifying global hunger, resource conflicts, and refugee crises.

In addition, (18) there is a multiplicity of concerns regarding dependency, distribution and corruption in the food supply. And, (19) a trend towards eating processed, animal-based foods produced in a different country multiplies GHG emissions per gram, and makes monitoring countries’ individual GHG pollution far trickier. These concerns, as well as others, present troubling perplexities for creating a just and sustainable food production system.

From Chapter 11: WHAT CRISIS? page 112

Addressing Livestock GHGs


(IPCC: Total GHG emissions from economic sectors in 2010. AFOLU is agriculture, forestry and land use.)

Meat Society: Number 7 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

Decarbonizing what we eat is just as important as decarbonizing what we drive or what we use to heat our homes. But animal agriculture is one of the most protected and supported industries in the world. National governments and international organizations shore up global economies, and the major domesticate producers who supply the world, regardless of environmental impact.

Peculiarly, greenhouse gas (GHG) discharges related to livestock production are generally attributed to the place of origin rather than the place of consumption. So efforts to shift consumption in a high animal consumption country might not lead to a reduction in its own emissions profile, which gives the country little incentive to act.

Moreover, livestock production is a valued livelihood and tradition in the heritage of many cultures across the globe. Small-scale animal husbandry is very different from industrial practices, but any efforts to encourage reductions in the industry is perceived as a threat to small farming and livestock heritage.

The upshot is animal agricultural being subsidized and protected far beyond its importance for national economies. And, when dietary guidelines begin to consider what we eat, especially dairy and animal carcass, powerful industry lobbies put their machines into motion, vilifying nutrition panels, scientists, advisers, and journalists.

Discussions, negotiations, and agreements regarding climate change refer to fossil fuels almost exclusively, and there is no question that oil, natural gas, and especially coal, are major sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). At the same time, the lifecycle and supply chain of domesticated animals have been vastly underestimated as a source of GHGs.

Is what we eat politically too hot to handle? Or, maybe it is simpler than this and due to a basic conflict of interests. After all, how many of the world’s leaders and climate negotiators are willing to follow a plant-based diet? The immense demand for food animals and industrialization of food animal production are deeply intertwined, and accordingly, both are perceived as normal and inevitable. 

Animal-based products are the preferred food for most of the world's populations, and efforts to control what others eat can be perceived as threatening. For many lower income countries, animal consumption is aspirational, so pushing for less animal carcass, cow's milk and chicken egg consumption, would make for a politically unpopular platform.

The point of de-legitimizing livestock over-consumption is not to divide the “good” people from the “bad people.” Rather, it is to recognize that what the majority once took as normal, or even “net beneficial,” has turned out to be “net detrimental” and needs to be re-conceived.

Most actions for mitigating climate chaos and slowing temperatures have relied on decreasing CO2 pollution over the long-term. A short-term solution to cut back short-lived GHGs by reducing animal consumption will permit appreciably greater time to implement long-term solutions of lowering CO2. This could cool the planet faster and cheaper, and help to avoid dangerous tipping points, than the current engrossment over CO2.

Replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing alteration of the climate. This intervention would have quicker effects on GHG releases and the pace of temperature advance, than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Climate warming is caused not only by what humans do in terms of burning fossil fuels, but by what humans eat as well. Admittedly, GHG pollution is released as an outcome of all diets, but they are much higher with animal-based foods. Human animals need to halt and reverse the destructive footprint of animal-based agriculture. And, humans need to farm the land much better. Agricultural improvement endeavors should give attention to places with a "yield gap," so larger magnitudes of food can be grown on the same quantity of land.

There are umpteen intergovernmental agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social and environmental organizations working on reducing GHGs from the fossil fuel industry. Hopefully, this will lead to major reductions in CO2 and CH4 discharges from oil, coal and gas production much earlier than 2100. The 2014 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Synthesis report warned that we must reduce fossil-base emissions to zero by 2100, or gamble with severe consequences.

Up to now, though, there are few international agencies or organizations working on reducing CO2, CH4, nitrous oxide (N2O), and other GHGs released from animal agriculture. Instead, livestock production is being actively promoted, and agricultural CO2 releases are set to double in 50 years.(71) Given opposite trajectories of fossil fuel and livestock industries, animal agriculture may well end up being much higher than 30 percent of GHG by 2050, and the leading contributor of GHGs by 2100.

Western countries consume the most animals, and their dietary preference for animal products is unsustainable. The consumption of animal flesh is steadily rising in countries such as China and India that once followed sustainable, vegetable-based diets to a large extent.(72) Only a few countries in the developed North are taking token steps at mitigation. To wit, UK dairy farmers have committed to making a 20 to 30 percent reduction of CO2, CH4, and N2O by 2020, based on 1990 levels.(73)

Even so, the US and other governments' policies are driving demand by encouraging the globalization of Western diets and consumption patterns through trade agreements, and by facilitating animal products at artificially low prices, via subsidies on livestock feed. The US alone spends $38 billion each year to subsidize cows raised for carcass and milk.

If humans bring down GHG pollution from livestock to a great extent, planetary heating could be curbed fairly quickly. By making the food system more efficient and by eating healthier food, humans can trim back GHG outflows from agriculture by up to 90 percent by 2030. That is the equivalent of removing all the cars in the world.(74)

Substantial global diminution in meat intake by 2050 could cut back agriculture related GHG discharges 50 percent (75), and as much as 80 percent, since producing 20 servings of vegetables causes less GHGs than one serving of cow carcass.(76) Lower demand for livestock products, combined with mitigation options in the agricultural sector, will lead to global agricultural non-CO2 releases of 2,519 CO2-e in 2055, which is an approximate halving of 1995 levels.(77)

Substituting food animal carcass with soy protein could bring down total human biomass appropriation in 2050 by 94 percent below 2000 levels, and greatly diminish other environmental impacts related to use of water, fertilizer, fossil fuel, and biocides. And curtailing animal products to 10 percent of the global human diet would enable future global populations to be fed on just the current area of agricultural lands.(78)

Personal action is consequential and everyday choices can lead to enormous improvement. The personal is political, and if individuals act with social responsibility in the present, the future can be a much brighter place for humans and nonhumans alike.

from Chapter 2: MEAT THE FUTURE, pages 19-20

Food Animals' GHGs

Meat Society: Number 6 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

The agriculture sector is responsible for at least 22 percent of total global manmade greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, 80 percent of which comes from livestock production.(60) Despite the oversized footprint, animal products account for only one-third of global human protein consumption.

Eating local food makes environmental sense when we buy seasonal fruit and vegetables from local farmers. But the tendency is to overemphasize food miles and underemphasize other impacts. There is no support for claims that local food is universally superior to non-local food in terms of its impact on the climate or the health of consumers.(61)

On average, transport accounts for just 11 percent of the GHG pollution caused by the food industry. So beans and pulses shipped from the other side of the world can cause far lower impacts than locally produced animal carcass, cow's milk, and chicken eggs. In the UK, GHG releases per item of food would probably be greater under self-sufficiency than under the current food system.

There are many factors that add up to making animal-based agribusiness one of the largest GHG emitter, and driver of deforestation and ocean acidification. In essence, the sector is a major component of all three major sources of GHGs – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Both CH4 and N2O are especially dangerous because they are potent shorter-lived climate forcers that cause accelerated heating. These gases can push the climate to dangerous thresholds, or tipping points, for habitability.

The GHGs generated from a full life cycle of animal products adds up to an extraordinary volume of climate-altering gases. And, since livestock production is the main cause of deforestation, and thereby a reduction of earth's CO2 sequestration capacity, the sector's impact is far greater than its direct releases of GHGs.

This article argues that animal-based agribusiness is responsible for at least 30 percent of all GHGs. For example, in regards to CO2 releases, the food animal sector consumes most of the world’s grain and water, and produces the most waste, and is the main cause of the 26 percent that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 2014 Emissions Gap Report attributed to agriculture (11 percent), forestry (11 percent) and waste (4 percent).(62)

In addition, the livestock sector adds some part of the 39 percent of CO2 that UNEP attributed to industry (18 percent), transport (13 percent), and buildings (8 percent). In addition, there are CO2 releases from respiration, pollution, illness, and other aspects of the lifecycle of animals and their by-products.

For methane (CH4) discharges, livestock waste and digestive process are a major part of UNEP's 2014 estimate of 16 percent of the total manmade GHGs attributed to this gas. Methane is released from livestock production and fracking by the fossil fuel industry. And, in regards to nitrous oxide (N2O), the fertilizer used for animal feed is the main source of UNEP's 2014 estimate of 6 percent attributable to this gas. 

Most of the food animal sector's CH4 and N2O outflows come from manure and fertilizers used to produce feed for the animals. In addition, CH4 is produced from enteric fermentation, a digestive process that causes animals to release methane by exhaling, belching, or excreting gas.

Animal products, both flesh and cow's milk, require extra resources and cause additional GHG pollution compared to plant-based alternatives. Animal production entails colossal energy losses since only 4 percent of crops grown for livestock turn into edible carcass.(63) And 1 kg (2.2 lb) of animal protein requires 6 Kg (13.2 lb) of plant protein.(64) In a comparison of GHGs, protein from cows generates 40 times the global warming of beans, and 10 times that of chickens.(65)

It takes, on average, 28 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of meat protein for human consumption. In comparison, it takes only 3.3 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of protein from grain for human consumption.(66)

Nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock are projected to rise from 7.1 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in 2000 to 13 GTCO2e in 2070. This is greater than all human activities combined can safely produce without exceeding 2°C of planetary heating. And, land use modifications and the carbon footprint from animal-feed were not even incorporated in these calculations. So dietary transformations are crucial for meeting the 2°C target.(67)

Both CH4 and N2O are rising faster than CO2, and livestock is a main source for each potent GHG. Global agricultural non-CO2 releases will climb significantly until 2055 if food energy consumption and food preferences remain constant at the level of 1995. Non-CO2 GHGs will climb quicker with enhanced incomes, due to its link to greater food energy consumption and dietary preferences towards higher value foods, like animal flesh and cow's milk.(68)

Yet, if the demand for livestock products is reduced by 25 percent each decade from 2015 to 2055, this will lead to lower non-CO2 emissions even compared to 1995. Notably, reduced animal consumption was determined to be of greater effectiveness than technological mitigation options.

Over the past 50 years, the global food system has become heavily dependent on cheap water and energy, nitrate fertilizers, chemical herbicides, pharmaceutical drugs, and so on. At the same time, production, trade, and processing are progressively being controlled by a smaller handful of transnational food corporations (TFCs).

In a global corporate-controlled food system, governments and regulations are co-opted, and profits come before people and planet. The industry is the recipient of massive state subsidies and support and has vast influence over media, national and international agencies.

From local to global, livestock is one of the top contributors of serious environmental problems.(69) Despite this, there are few cases of the industry being held responsible for any of the problems it creates. Case in point, the USDA estimates that 89 percent of US cow carcass ground into patties contains traces of the deadly E. coli strain.(70) Yet, the animal-based agribusinesses are not held accountable for illness or treatment for the life-threatening diseases they cause.

Alarmingly, many of the world’s recent pollution problems and health pandemics have stemmed from corporate-controlled factory farms. As a ramification of livestock production, there have been decades of deforestation, land degradation, biodiversity loss and extinction, rural conflict and displacement, herbicide and waste pollution, water shortage, air pollution, dead zones, chronic diseases, global warming, and so on.

In spite of its multiple hazards, uncertainties over GHGs from animal-based agribusiness relates to the fact that while most of fossil fuel emissions are measured and accounted for, this is not the case with the livestock sector. And while eating tofu dogs will not correct everything that is wrong with the atmosphere and planet, ignoring livestock's GHG pollution and effects will make a monstrous problem much worse.

from Chapter 2: MEAT THE FUTURE, pages 18-19

Food's Footprint

Meat Society: Number 5 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)

Animal agriculture has an enormous greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, and is the second main source of climate-altering gases. In the EU, for instance, 29 percent of all consumption-derived GHG emissions are food related. This almost 1/3 figure does not include discharges from goods produced within the EU and exported.(50)

There is overwhelming evidence that animal-based diets cause greater planetary heating than plant-based foods, but there are differences in GHG production. The environmental costs per calorie of dairy, chickens, pigs, and eggs are strikingly lower than the impacts of cows - the production of which requires 28, 11, 5, and 6 times the sum of land, irrigation water, GHG, and nitrogen, respectively, than the other livestock categories. On top of that, plant foods use two to six-fold lower land, GHG, and nitrogen than even those of the non-cow animal-derived calories.(51)

Greater trade liberalization, like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), will lead to higher economic benefits for some, and come at the expense of the poor, the environment and the climate if no other regulations and safeguards are put in place. In addition, mounting demand for agricultural goods will intensify the pressure on global water resources over the coming decades.(52)

Deforestation, mainly in Latin America, leads to remarkable amounts of additional carbon pollution due to trade liberalization. In the future, non-CO2 outflows will mostly shift to China due to comparative advantages in livestock production and rising demand for animal products in the region.(53)

Eliminating all CO2 pollution from the energy and transportation sectors is not enough to stop global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that agriculture, land use, land-use modification, and forestry total around 23 percent of total manmade GHGs. This means that powerful GHGs from food and agriculture - mainly nitrous oxide (N2O) from agricultural soils, and methane (CH4) from livestock - will continue to cause planetary heating.(54) 

Excessive nutrient flows cause eutrophication, worsens biodiversity loss, and exacerbates transformation of the climate. Eutrophication is the ecosystem's response to the addition of inorganic plant nutrients, especially phosphates and nitrates, through detergents, fertilizers, or sewage. One example, is the "bloom", or great increase, of phytoplankton in a water body. Negative environmental effects include hypoxia, the depletion of oxygen in the water, which may cause death to aquatic animals. 

Nitrous oxide is the third biggest contributor to manmade climate warming, and although there is far less in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it is a salient greenhouse gas for three reasons. First, it is very efficient at absorbing energy; second, it stays in the atmosphere for a long time; and third, it is the most significant ozone-depleting substance in the atmosphere. Once emitted, nitrous oxide stays in the atmosphere for about 120 years. Nitrous oxide (N2O) lasts a long time, and for over 100 years, each molecule has a warming impact almost 300 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2), and around 9 times greater than methane (CH4). And, N2O outflows could double by 2050.(55)

A 2013 Worldwatch Institute report estimated that global greenhouse gas pollution from the agricultural sector totaled 4.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e) in 2010, up 13 percent over 1990.(56) A 2006 report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that the global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector.

The world’s livestock population is expected to increase 76 percent by 2050, with a 65 percent surge in demand for cow's milk. And, remarkably, 80 percent of growth in the sector comes from industrial production systems. Currently, mirroring their fossil fuel releases, the world’s largest food animal consumers are China, EU, US and Brazil.(57)

The FAO's 2013 follow-up livestock report reiterated that livestock is the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector. The food agency's newer assessment was limited to direct farm discharges, but it still estimated that the animal food industry produce 14.5 percent of total anthropogenic climate-altering gases, which is in excess of all forms of transportation.(58)

The FAO figure still places the animal food industry at second place, after energy production, in terms of global manmade GHG pollution. A 2010 UNEP report likewise showed that animal products caused greater damage than producing construction minerals, such as sand or cement, plastics or metals.

In 2009, one of the World Bank's most distinguished environmental assessment experts, Dr. Robert Goodland, wrote a thought-provoking research paper estimating that the lifecycle and supply chain of animal-based meats, egg products, and dairy products accounted for at least 51 percent of manmade global GHGs.(59) One of the main reasons for the difference between the FAO and Goodland's GHG figures is that the FAO's 15 percent estimate is a partial assessment that only takes into account GHG discharges from the farming part of animal-based agriculture.

In fact, all of the lower 11 to 18 percent GHG estimates do not represent a full life-cycle GHG analysis of the animal food industry. These lower assessments end at the farm-gate and, therefore, exclude downstream GHGs from transportation, food processing, packaging, and sale of food animal products. Goodland's 51 percent estimate encompass these post-farm emissions, which are critical to assessing the total contributions of the animal food industry to global warming.

While the pathways between anthropogenic climate-altering gases and planetary heating are complex, and emissions are not equivalent to warming, there is still a strong correlation between livestock GHG releases and planetary heating. After energy production, animal-based agribusiness is the second, and possibly the main source of manmade climate warming pollution. The evidence for this is presented in Parts II and III of the book, Meat Climate Change.

In contrast, if we limit human activity and livestock production in the tropical forests of the world, this could play a valuable role in helping to curb the rise in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Preventing further losses of carbon from our tropical forests must remain a high priority.

From Chapter 2: MEAT THE FUTURE, pages 16-17

US Animal Production

Meat Society: Number 4 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

The US consumes the most livestock products globally, with each American eating an average 125 kg (275 lb) of animal flesh a year – equivalent to over 400 sirloin steaks from cows.(537) Flesh intake is 75 pounds higher than a century ago. Even if the average American eats 20 percent less carcass in 2050 than in 2000, the total US animal consumption will still be 5 million tons greater in 2050, due to population growth.(538)

In addition to animal flesh, Americans ingests 33 pounds of cheese and nearly 60 pounds of added fats and oils. Animal products account for over half of the value of US agricultural products, often exceeding $100 billion per year. Consumption of cheese has spiraled upward and added oils have escalated, too. 

The US has the largest fed-cattle industry in the world and is one of the world's largest producer of cow carcass, primarily grain-fed cows for domestic and export use. In 2013, 25,720 million pounds of cow flesh was produced, compared to 23,048 million pounds in 1993, and 22,986 million pounds in 1983. On top of this, the US is a net importer of cow carcass, purchasing lower-value, grass-fed cows for processing.(539)

In the US, the value of cow's milk production is second only to cow flesh among livestock industries, and is equal to the corn industry. In 2013, 201 billion pounds of milk were produced from cows, compared to 151 billion pounds in 1993, and 138 billion pounds in 1983. Since 1970, milk production has risen by almost half, even as milk cow numbers have declined by a fourth, from 12 million in 1970, to 9 million in 2007. This was possible because milk production per cow has nearly doubled, from 9,700 pounds in 1970 to 19,000 pounds in 2007.

Remarkably, the number of cow's milk operations in the US declined from 650,000 in 1970, to 90,000 in the early 2000s. Over the same period, the average herd size multiplied five-fold, from 20 cows to 100 cows. This shows the industry is becoming over intensive and concentrated.

The US is the world's largest producer and second-largest exporter of bird carcass. It is a major chicken egg producer as well. US consumption of poultry, from chicken and turkey, is considerably higher than cow carcass or pig flesh, but less than total red meat consumption. In 2013, 37.8 billion pounds of broiler chicken flesh and 8 billion dozen chicken eggs were produced. This is considerably higher that the 22.1 billion pounds of chicken carcass and 5.9 billion dozen eggs produced in 1993, and the 12.3 billion pounds of carcass and 5.6 billion dozen eggs produced in 1983. Additionally, in 2013, 5.8 billion pounds of turkey carcass was produced, compared to 4.8 billion pounds in 1993, and 2.5 billion pounds in 1983. Around 18% of US chicken production was exported.

The US is the world's third-largest producer and consumer of pigs and pig products. On top of that, the US is the world's largest exporter of pigs and pig products, with exports averaging over 20 percent. In 2013, around 23.1 billion pounds of flesh was produced from pigs, compared to 16.9 billion pounds in 1993, and 15.1 billion pounds in 1983. During the last two decades, the value of US aquaculture production rose to nearly $1 billion, but it still remains a small part of global production. The vast majority of animal production from this sector comes from Asia and Latin America. 

Chapter 14, DIET OR POPULATION? pages 140-141

Global Carnism

(Meat Atlast 2014)

Meat Society: Number 3 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

Intake of food animals is high in the global North, but the global South is catching up and this confluence spells disaster. While the international food trade complicates using national figures, a country-specific analysis of carnism is still instructive. China is the biggest consumer of both animal carcass and cow's milk products, with the US, the EU, and Brazil in the top five.(529)

In 2011, Americans ate 38 million tonnes (mt) (83 billion lb) of pig, chicken, cow, sheep, and goat carcass, and 40 mt (88 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs. In the same year, Brazilians ingested 19 mt (41 billion lb) of carcass and 30 mt (66 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs. Meanwhile, Russians consumed 10 mt (22 billion lb) of animal flesh and 20 mt (44 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs.

In 2011, Mexicans ingested 8 mt (17.6 billion lb) pig, chicken, cow, sheep, and goat carcass, and 10 mt (22 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs in 2011. As well, Indians ate 5 mt (11 billion lb) of flesh and 64 mt (141 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs. While, the Japanese had 6 mt (13 billion lb) of carcass and 8 mt (17 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs, the Vietnamese ate 5mt (11 billion lb) of animal flesh, and Argentines consumed 4 mt (8.8 billion lb). In addition, people in Europe (EU27) consumed 40 mt (88 billion lb) of carcass and 43 mt (94 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs. 

Per capita, carcass consumption in China has multiplied six-fold over the past 40 years, from an average of 20 kg (44 pounds) per capita in 1980, to 52 kg (114 pounds) in 2007. In 2011, the Chinese consumed 75 mt (165 billion lb) of pig, chicken, cow, sheep, and goat carcass, and 64 mt (141 billion lb) of cow's milk and eggs. Pig carcass has been the main component of total flesh consumption, and constituted 54% of total animal flesh intake, 80% of red carcass intake, and 99% of fatty red meat intake in 2011.(530)

In 2011, the proportion of Chinese adults who consumed red meat surged from 65% in 1991 to 86%, while chicken consumption soared up from 7 to 21%, and seafood from 27 to 38%. In 2011, the average intake of red meat was 86 g (3 oz) a day; for chicken it was 71 g (2.5 oz) day; and seafood was 70g (2.5 oz) a day. In India, animal consumption has grown by 40% in the last 15 years, though it is still 40 times less than average consumption in the UK.(531)

Every week, the average person in the UK eats 1.6 kg (3.5 lbs) of animal carcass and 4.2 liters (1.1 gal) of cow's milk. This is equivalent to 6 pig sausages, or 450g (16 oz); 2 chicken breasts, or 350g (12 oz); 4 ham sandwiches from pig, or 100g (3.5 oz); 8 slices of bacon from pig, or 250g (9 oz); 3 burgers from cow, or 450g (16 oz); 3 liters (0.8 gal) of cow's milk; 100g (3.5 oz) of cheese; and a portion of cream.(532) For the entire year of 2011, each UK resident ate an average of 82 kilograms (180.7 pounds) of carcass, equivalent to 1,400 pig sausages, or nearly 4 a day. What’s more, chicken consumption in the UK has doubled from 1987 to 2007.(533)

The average UK carnist eats in excess of 11,000 animals in their lifetime - 1 goose, 1 rabbit, 4 cattle, 18 pigs, 23 sheep and lambs, 28 ducks, 39 turkeys, 1,158 chickens, 3,593 shellfish and 6,182 fish. The diet of each British carnivore requires a vast quantity of land, fuel and water to raise and process the animals that reach their plate.(534)

By way of illustration, the soybean equivalent required to produce a UK citizen’s average annual intake of animal flesh and cow's milk products is 54.4 kg (120 lbs). This total equates to 22.2 kg (49 lbs) of soy for chicken, and 12.5 kg (27.5 lbs) for pig flesh. In addition, 6.7 kg (14.7 lbs) of soy are required for chicken eggs, another 3.8 kg (8.3) for cow carcass and veal, and 1.9 kg (4.1 lbs) for milk. On top of this, 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs) of soy are needed for cheese, and 5.6 kg (12.3 lbs) for other products.(535)

One large-scale survey in the UK looked at the average greenhouse gas (GHG) discharges associated with a standard 2,000 kcal diet in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per day (kgCO2e/day). It was 7.19 for high meat-eaters (defined as in excess of 100 g or 3.5 oz per day), 5.63 for medium meat-eaters, 4.67 for low meat-eaters, 3.9 for fish-eaters, 3.81 for vegetarians and 2.89 for vegans. Dietary GHG outflows in meat-eaters were twice as high as those in vegans.(536)

Chapter 14, DIET OR POPULATION? pages 139-140

Meat Society

Meat Society is 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.

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

See also Pandemics Ahead, a series of articles from Meat Climate Change, that looks at the link between animal protein and global health disasters. See also our COVID-19 Meat Pandemic Bibliography with a categorized listing of Online News and Reports (March to June, 2020).

1. Dietary Transformation

2. Trends in Animal Production

3. Global Carnism

4. US Animal Production

5. Food's Footprint

6. Food Animals' GHGs 

7. Addressing Livestock GHGs

8. Animal Agribusiness Disorder

9. Factory Farming is Not a Solution

10. Structural Demand for Animal Flesh

11. Mitigating Demand for Animal Protein

12. GHGs: A Tale of Two Sources

13. Livestock's Emissions Denial?

14. Sounding the Alarm on Carnism

15. Urbanization and Carnism

16. Over-Consumption and GHGs

17. Global Substitution Diets

18. Class and Global Diet

19. Over-Consumption Curse

20. Diet or Over Population?

21. Hungry Masses

22. Hidden Population: Obesity

23. Livestock Triangle

24. Livestock Equals Food Insecurity

25. Meat and Colonialism

26. Climate Justice

27. Racism and Food Deserts

28. Meat the Patriarchy

29. Greenwashing Cruelty: Humane Meat

30. Diet and Social Justice

For more information, see

Dietary Transformation

Meat Society: Number 1 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

It took 50,000 years to reach a population of one billion in 1830. But by 2000, the world's population was six billion, and it passed seven billion in 2012. The extraordinary multiplication of humans has been accompanied by a similar addition in the population of domesticated food animals. With the projected increase in both groups, over the next 50 years, Earth will need to produce as much food to feed humans as it took to feed the species for the last 10,000 years. 

Animal science often categorize nonhuman animals as wildlife, domestic food animals, zoo animals, and pet animals. The food animal sector has experienced phenomenal development in the last decade, fueled mainly by the global expansion of carnism, population increase, urbanization and income growth often referred to as the 'livestock revolution.'(39)

In 1995, for the first time, the volume of animal carcass produced in developing countries exceeded that of developed countries, and since then the gap in cow's milk output between the two has been narrowing.(40) The livestock revolution has negative implications for global health, livelihoods and environment. Traditional diets are being replaced by diets higher in refined sugars, refined fats, oils and animal products. This conversion escalates the flow of nutrients into the environment, which is linked to global warming and the loss of biodiversity. 

These three human-induced shifts have led to overstepping the ‘planetary boundaries’(41) or ‘the upper tolerable limits’ of the regulatory capacity of the earth system.(42) The planetary boundaries represent critical thresholds for shifts in the major earth system processes beyond which non-linear, abrupt environmental modifications may occur on a continental or planetary scale. The Western animal-based diet is a major contributor due to its effects on planetary heating, biodiversity loss, water and land degradation.

Owing to the extraordinary shifts in consumption habits, livestock production is in direct competition with humans for scarce land, water, and other natural resources. Astonishingly, despite its wide-ranging social and environmental impacts, the livestock sector is not a major force in the global economy, generating under 1.5% of total GDP.

Much of the grain grown in developed nations goes to feed not human beings, but domesticated animals. Livestock requires a lot of grain and the grain is used very inefficiently. By way of illustration, one filet mignon requires 32 lbs. of corn and the animal converts that grain into calories at just 3% efficiency.(43)

Livestock production takes up an enormous size of land: 6.2 million sq. mi (16 million sq. km) are currently used to grow crops — an amount of land about equal to the size of South America — while 11.6 million sq. mi (30 million sq. km) has been set aside for pastureland, an area equal to the entire African continent. Altogether that is greater than 40% of the dry land on the planet. While 56 million acres of US land are producing hay for livestock, only 4 million acres are producing vegetables for human consumption.(44) Humans use 60 times the size of land to grow and raise food than is used to live on. 

Farming takes half the world's available freshwater, much of which is used for irrigation. Farm animals consume one-third of global cereal production, 90% of soy meal and 30% of the fish caught. Upwards of half the world's crops are used to feed animals. In the US, over 33% of the fossil fuels produced are used to raise animals for food.(45) Grain used to feed animals could feed an extra 1.3 billion people. Animal-based diets for the middle class means hunger for the poor. On top of this, the manure from factory farms pollute rivers and the sea, creating dead zones sometimes hundreds of miles wide.

When a tree is cut down, it releases carbon into the atmosphere. But when it is allowed to grow it continues to absorb carbon. The more trees humans cut down, the greater we compound the carbon problem. Conversely, the more acres of forests humans regrow, the stronger the potential for climate recovery. Humans inherited a planet with 6 billion hectares (23m sq mi) of forest and about 4 billion (15m sq mi) remains. At the current rate of forest loss, 19 million hectares (73k sq mi), the size of Washington state, will be destroyed each year. Over half of Earth’s forests will be wiped out within a century. Of the world's 1.5 billion acres (2.3m sq mi) of remaining rainforest, only 500 million acres (781k sq mi) are protected.(46)

Every year, between 10 and 15% of the carbon released into the atmosphere, or 5 billion tons of CO2, comes from deforestation. This is about the same volume of carbon pollution produced by automobiles, trains, ships, and airplanes combined. Fortunately, the cost of rainforest conservation is economical. For as little as the price of a cup of coffee a day, individuals can help to save an acre of rainforest through various land trusts and NGOs. And each acre of rainforest safely stores about 200 tons of CO2, which is in excess of the avoided CO2 from buying an electric car, or installing home solar panels.

Besides the environmental damage, Western mainstream animal consumption is a factor in spiraling human ill-health, diabetes, cancers, non-communicable and chronic diseases, malnourishment, and obesity. And, it is causing antibiotic resistance bacteria, the spread of infectious diseases, hunger and global epidemics.

Rather than curtailing this dietary catastrophe, vested interests continue to promote animal carcass, chicken eggs, and cow's milk consumption, and block all efforts at reform. If people are deliberately misinformed or have no access to reliable information, what chance do they have to make the right food choices?

While elevated atmospheric CO2 can act as a fertilizer to enhance plant growth, and water use efficiency, in a wide range of crop species, these positive effects may not compensate for losses associated with heat stress, lessen water availability, weather extremes, accrued tropospheric ozone, and transformations in weed, insect, and disease dynamics.(47) Extreme temperatures and rising ozone can cause severe losses in a range of staple crops, like wheat, maize, soybean, rice, and fruit.(48) Variations in the yield of these major crops have extraordinary implications for food pricing and availability for families across the world, in developed and developing nations.(49)

Chapter 2: MEAT THE FUTURE page 15

For more information, see

Farmed Fish

Pandemics Ahead: Number 21 in a series looking at the link between animal protein and global health disasters.

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

Industrial fish-farms are booming. In 2012, the production of farmed fish surpassed that of cows. The world produced 63 million tons of cow carcass and 66 million tons of farmed fish. And, consumption of farmed fish may soon pass consumption of wild-caught fish. (977)

About 600 aquatic species are raised in captivity in 190 countries, including hatcheries that produce fish for stocking to the wild, particularly in inland waters. While aquaculture currently accounts for a smaller part of the livestock industry than land animals, it is the fastest growing sector.

From 32.4 million tonnes (71.4 billion pounds) in 2000, global production of farmed fish soared to 59.9 million tonnes (132 billion pounds) in 2010, which was up 7.5% from 2009 already. Like concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs), farmed fish are crammed together in cages, often swimming around in their own wastes.

Eighty-six percent of US seafood is imported, and about half of those imports are raised on factory farms, called aquaculture. Asia is the number one producer of these aquaculture products, dominating 89% of the industry.(978) 

Fragile ecosystems like mangroves are being replaced by fish farms, which are projected to provide most of the fish consumed within 20 years. Farming can occur in coastal areas, such as with oyster farms, and inland, in lakes, ponds, tanks and other enclosures. Similar to livestock's impact on forests, large-scale fish farming is leading to the pollution and destruction of wetlands, estuaries and mangroves, and displacement and impoverishment of hundreds local communities across the world.

Many of the top animal genetics firms have begun research and development in aquaculture. They work with only a handful of species, primarily Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, tropical shrimp and tilapia. Many popular seafood species, like salmon, are carnivorous. So, when they are farmed, they eat up to five pounds of small fish to produce just one pound of flesh - a net loss of protein. 

Incredibly, many aquaculture companies in China, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries feed fish with untreated feces from pigs, chickens, geese and other animals as the primary nutrition. The manure contaminates the ponds with microbes like salmonella and makes fish further susceptible to diseases.(979)

Consequently, farmed fish are given immense quantities of antibiotics to avoid disease, many of which are banned for use in the US. To boot, baby fish are fed testosterone and other growth hormones. Aquaculture may cause harm to the environment directly through (i) the release of organic effluents, and (ii) disease treatment chemicals. They may cause harm indirectly through (iii) their dependence on industrial fisheries to supply feed of smaller fish, and (iv) by acting as a source of diseases or genetic contamination for 'wild' species.

Farmed fish have been shown to have high levels of bacteria, PCBs and insecticides. Around 25% of the food-borne illness outbreaks caused by imported food from 2005 to 2010 in the US involved seafood, more than any other food commodity.(980) Health researchers estimate that the inflammatory potential of consuming tilapia is far greater than that of cow or pig carcass.(981) Farmed salmon may have at least 10 times the sum of cancer-causing pollutants compared to the 'wild' variety, and dioxin levels are 11 times higher. On top of this, farm-bred fish have lower levels of healthy nutrients.(982) Shrimp is the dirtiest of all seafood.

Farmed fish are fed fish-meal, which means that fish low on the food chain are caught, worsening the marine outcome of bycatch. The impact on the menhaden, a type of small fish caught to be fed to farmed fish, is devastating, as this critical little fish is facing severe threats.(983)

Across Latin America and Asia, pollution from aquaculture is leading to dead lakes and extinct species. On top of that, aquaculture production is vulnerable to adverse impacts of disease and environmental conditions, and massive die-offs are a common occurrence in the industry. Disease outbreaks in recent years have affected farmed Atlantic salmon in Chile, oysters in Europe, and marine shrimp farmed in several countries in Asia, South America and Africa. These incidents have resulted in partial or sometimes total loss of production.

In 2010, aquaculture in China suffered production losses of 1.7 million tonnes (3.7 billion pounds) caused by natural disasters, diseases and pollution. Disease outbreaks virtually wiped out marine shrimp farming production in Mozambique in 2011.(984) In 2014 alone, there was (i) a massive die-off of fish in 44 fish farms due to Vibrio bacteria along the coast of Singapore; (ii) over 365,000 salmon were killed due to an outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia virus in Norway, and (iii) Furunculosis bacteria led to the cull of 90,000 trout in New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, (iii) around 52,000 young trout died in a hatchery; and (iv) about 280,000 salmon were killed by a 'rare algae bloom' in Vancouver, Canada.(985)

In 2016, the alarms went off again in the salmon industry in Chile, one of the largest producers of this fish in the world. A massive algae bloom killed 23 million salmon, a loss of up to 20% of the country's annual production, or around 100,000 tonnes, valued at $800 million.(986) Earlier in Chile, an outbreak of ISA, a fin-fish disease caused by a virus, cost the fish farm industry $2 billion in damages in 2007.

Chile's loss is equal to the value of Canada's entire farmed salmon industry, valued at $813 million in 2013. The problem has been made worse by nitrate-rich runoff from livestock from nearby land around the salmon farms, which are typically offshore or in estuaries.

Moreover, farmed fish are becoming inundated with human pollution. For example, young salmon in the north Pacific tested positive for more than 80 different drugs, including cocaine, antidepressants such as Cipro, Paxil, Valium and Zoloft, and dozens of other medications like Flonase, Aleve, Tylenol, Tagamet, OxyContin, and Darvon.(987)

Young salmon were likewise contaminated with nicotine, caffeine, fungicides, antiseptics, anticoagulants, and chemicals from personal care products. The tissues of migratory chinook salmon and local staghorn sculpin also contained these compounds – even in the fish found in estuaries far from sewage treatment plants where the water was previously considered "pristine."

Chapter 26: MISSING FISH, pages 252-3.     Previous  |  Home  Next

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