Showing posts with label growth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label growth. Show all posts

Livestock Triangle

Meat Society: Number 23 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

There is a “triangle of industrial animal agriculture” that connects the world’s biggest players in the food animal and feed industries: the US, China, and Brazil. The three nations form three points of a triangle, with the US serving as a major exporter of mature, industrialized, livestock production chains.(514)

The US is one of the world’s top cow flesh producer and the second largest pig flesh producer, comprising 18.6 percent and 9.4 percent of world production, respectively.(515) Between 2002 and 2012, the number of animals on the biggest US factory farms swelled by 20 percent. Both US livestock exports and domestic consumption are projected to grow throughout the next decade.(516)

China is a rapidly growing economy with a huge appetite for livestock products and a major market for US production. China became the world’s largest importer of soybeans, used for livestock feed, in 2000, and the top animal carcass producer in 2009.(517) The rapid expansion of intensive animal farming facilities is part of an effort to catch up with the livestock production model now standard in industrialized countries. In 2014, China produced 56.7 million metric tons of pig and 6.9 million metric tons of cow flesh, representing 51.3 percent and 11.5 percent of world production, respectively.

Despite this, with restricted natural resources domestically, especially water, to meet the demand for livestock, China is heavily importing food animal carcass and live animals from other countries as well. Together, China and Hong Kong in 2014 were the top importers of cow and pig flesh. During the first half of 2013, Hong Kong became the largest export market for Brazilian food animal carcass.(518)

Brazil is the world’s largest chicken flesh and soybean trader, the second largest cow carcass exporter, and the fourth largest pig flesh dealer. Brazil is a country with intensifying conflicts between the economic returns of spreading livestock- and feed-centered agricultural production and the need to protect some of Earth’s most ecologically critical ecosystems.

Currently, upwards of 40 percent of Brazil’s soybean harvest is crushed domestically to create soybean meal, half of which is used in the country as food animal feed. Most of the rest are exported. A large percentage of the products of intensive agriculture in Brazil, like pig carcass, chicken flesh, and food animal feed, is exported. In contrast, China only exports a small fraction of these products.

Turning farms into factories has helped the US achieve huge agricultural yields, producing at low cost and high “efficiency” with regard to time, if not energy or environmental efficiencies. As the small players drop out or merge with the big players through vertical or horizontal integration, concentration in the food animal industry is exacerbated. As with energy, transport, communications, health and other vital sectors, the food system is increasingly controlled by fewer, larger transnational food corporations (TFCs).

With broadening market strength and dominance, food integrators are able to influence policy-making and policy implementation in favor of their bottom lines. Subsidies are a key case in point. In 2012, US government subsidies for livestock, soybeans, and corn were US$ 58.7 million, $1.5 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively.(519)

The US model of integration easily found a place in Brazil and has thrived there. Although the export of this model to China has encountered some obstacles, construction of large facilities by national and international agribusinesses is mounting with government policy support.

But this triangle of industrial animal agriculture is not sustainable, and is self-destructive for humans. The externalized costs of factory farming will put progressively heavier burdens on consumers, producers, and even on those who choose not to produce or consume factory farmed products or any food animal products at all.

Chapter 14: DIET OR POPULATION? page 138

Hidden Population: Obesity

Meat Society: Number 22 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

Considerable scientific attention is given to calculating the number of people and rate of population growth, but much less effort is expended on estimating average human mass. This disparity exists despite evidence that average body mass is climbing at a sharp pace. Weight is measured using body mass index (BMI). The overweight have a BMI over 25, and the obese have a BMI above 30.

For the first time in human history obese people outnumber underweight people. Almost 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women worldwide are obese, while under 9 percent of men and 10 percent of women are underweight, defined by a BMI of under 18.5. Severe and morbid obesity are associated with highly elevated risks of adverse health outcomes.(509)

Due to the rapid expansion in animal domesticates population and carnism in both industrialized and industrializing countries, human body weight is becoming a serious public health concern. Moreover, excess human population mass could have the same implications for world food energy demands as an extra half a billion people living on the earth. Obese populations need more food to support their extra mass, and thereby amplify climate-altering gases discharged from food production. Overweight bodies also need more fossil fuel to transport them in cars and planes. So maintenance of a healthy weight has crucial health and environmental benefits. Globally, BMI for both men and women have climbed sharply for four decades. 

In 1975, men had a BMI of 21.7 and women had a 22.1 BMI. In 2014, those figures ware 24.2 for men and 24.4 for women. This means that the average person became 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) heavier each decade. If present trends continue more women will be severely obese than underweight by 2025. 

According to the CDC, in 1960, the average American male weighed 166.3 pounds, which is the same as the average mass for American women in 2010 at 166.2 pounds. The average weight for women in 1960 was 140 pounds, so there was an 18.5 percent gain for females over half a century.(510)

In 2010, the average weight for men jumped to 195.5 pounds, adding almost 30 pounds, a 17.6 percent gain in 50 years. Over 35 percent of American females and males over the age of 20 are obese. An astonishing 70 percent of American adults, who are over 20 years of age, are either overweight or obese. On top of this, around 20 percent of American children between six to 19 years old are obese. 

In 2012, the US came in third, following the Pacific island nations Micronesia and Tonga, for having the highest average weight in the world. By comparison, Americans are 33 pounds heavier than the French, and 70 pounds bigger than the average Bangladeshi.(511)

In 2005, global adult human biomass was 287 million tonnes, of which 15 million tonnes came from being overweight. This extra mass is equivalent to that of 242 million people of average body mass, or five percent of global human biomass. Biomass from obesity was 3.5 million tonnes, the equivalent of 56 million people of average body mass.

North America has 6 percent of the world population but 34 percent of biomass from obesity. In contrast, Asia has 61 percent of the world population and 13 percent of biomass from obesity. One tonne of human biomass corresponds to 12 adults in North America and 17 adults in Asia. 

If all countries of the world had the same BMI distribution as the US, the added human biomass of 58 million tonnes would be equivalent to an extra 935 million people of average body mass. Further, they will have energy requirements equivalent to that of 473 million adults.

Compared with a normal population distribution of BMI, a population that is 40 percent obese requires almost 20 percent more food energy. In a population of one billion, the greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from food production and car travel due to increases in obesity is around 0.4 Giga tonnes (GT) and 1.0 GT of CO2e per year. This is equivalent to between 1 and 2 percent of the recent emissions from the total human population.(512)

A reduction of average weight by 5 kg (11 lb) could reduce transport CO2 discharges in the 34 high-income OECD countries by more than 10 million t. GHG pollution could be diminished another 4 million t through reduction of associated food waste in OECD countries. And, while the shift from cow flesh to other forms of animal flesh in industrialized and countries in transition has lead to food animal lifecycle emissions savings of 20 million t CO2e between 1990 and 2005, GHG releases due to obesity-promoting foodstuffs have increased by more than 400 million t CO2e in advanced developing countries.(513)

Overweight Americans and others in the global North are causing far more planetary heating than people with average body mass. Dietary changes are essential to reversing this dangerous trend. However, this issue is tricky to address since 'fat-shaming' can be a counter-productive strategy.

Chapter 14: DIET OR POPULATION? page 137

Hungry Masses

Meat Society: Number 21 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

Malnutrition affects one in every three people worldwide, afflicting all age groups and populations, and plays a major role in half of the 10.4 million annual child deaths in the developing world. And, malnutrition continues to be a cause and a consequence of disease and disability in the children who survive.(494) The most visible form of hunger is famine, a true food crisis in which multitudes of people in an area starve and die.

There are over 850 million people who are chronically hungry. This is the largest number and proportion of malnourished people ever recorded in human history. Plus, being underweight is a major problem globally. A quarter of women in India and Bangladesh are underweight. And a fifth of men in India, Bangladesh, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Ethiopia are underweight.(495) Being underweight put a person at risk for multiple health problems including anemia, infertility and osteoporosis.

In the entire developing world, or Global South, hunger and poverty are intense and may worsen as economic growth across the world stalls. From 2005 and 2008 food prices almost doubled. To make matters worse, from 2007, there has been a sizable slowdown in food aid, bringing hunger reduction "essentially to a halt for the developing countries as a whole."(496)

As many as 2.8 billion people on the planet struggle to survive on less than $2 a day, and upwards of one billion people lack reasonable access to safe drinking water. There is an enormous and persistent food gap between the Global South and the developed North. To illustrate, the average person in the industrial world took in 10 percent more calories daily in 1961 than the average person in the developing world consumes today.(497)

The large numbers of poor and malnourished people in the world are unacceptably high, but these numbers may be much higher due to under-counting. Misleadingly, the UN set the threshold for hunger as the minimum calories needed for a "sedentary lifestyle." In reality, the number of hungry people could be as high as 1.5 billion, or in excess of 25 percent of the world's adult population if the threshold was set as the minimum needed for "normal activity."

And, numbers of the hungry would jump to 2.6 billion, or nearly 45 percent of the global adult population, for the minimum calories needed for "intense activity." Currently, 4.3 billion people live on less than $5 a day. Although higher than the World Bank poverty criteria at $1.25 a day, one report showed that a realistic poverty measure would be around $10 a day.(498) This standard indicates over three-quarter of humans live in poverty.

One-fifth of the Earth's 7 billion people have no land and possessions at all. These "poorest of the poor" are nonliterates lacking safe drinking water and living on less than a dollar a day. Many spend about 80 percent of their earnings on food, but are still hungry and malnourished. The average US house cat eats twice as much protein every day as one of the world's poorest of the poor, and the cost to care for each cat is greater than a poor person's annual income.(499)

Half of the world's population have enough food to provide energy, but suffer from individual nutrient deficiencies. Billions of people lack iron, iodine, vitamin A, and other vital nutrients. In addition, racial, caste, ethnic, and religious hatred, along with monetary greed, cause food deprivation for whole masses of people around the globe. And, food insecurity is about to get worse. 

The UN estimate that climate transformation will affect poor countries the most, and inflate food insecurity. Oxfam predicts world hunger will worsen as planetary heating inevitably affects crop production and disrupt incomes. The organization suggest the number of people in the peril of hunger might climb by 10 to 20 percent by 2050, with daily per capita calorie availability falling across the world.(500) 

Food inequality is also increasing. Worldwide, 2 billion people live primarily on an animal-based diet, while double that sum, or 4 billion people, live primarily on a plant-based diet. The UNEP estimated that calories lost from feeding cereals to animals could feed an extra 3.5 billion people.(501) Another analysis calculated that 4 billion people could be fed with the crops devoted to livestock. The single biggest intervention to free up calories would be to stop using grains for cow carcass production in the US. By far, the US, China, and Western Europe account for the bulk of the 'diet gap,' and corn is the main crop being diverted to animal feed.(502)

By moderating diets from food animals, choosing less resource-demanding animal products, and maintaining non-feed systems, around 1.3 and 3.6 billion more people could fed. And ending consumer waste of animal calories could feed an additional 235 million people.(503)

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that the number of people fed in a year per hectare (2.5 acres) ranged from 22 individuals for potatoes and 19 for rice, to one and two persons, respectively for cow and sheep flesh. The agency added that the low energy conversion ratio from feed to carcass is a concern since most of the cereal grain being produced is diverted to livestock.(504)

A Bangladeshi family living off rice, beans, vegetables and fruit may live on an acre of land or less. In sharp contrast, the average American, who consumes around 270 pounds of animal carcass a year, needs 20 times that.(505) The current global average animal consumption is 100g (3.5 oz) per person per day, with about a ten-fold variation between high-consuming and low-consuming populations.(506)

For most people in developing countries who obtain their protein from plants, eating animal flesh is a luxury. A kilogram (2.2 lb) of animal carcass can cost from $2 to $5 in the local markets, which is several days’ wages. A typical African eats only 20 kg (44 lb) of animal flesh a year, well below the world average.(507)

These findings suggest that over-consumption and dietary habits are of the essence for understanding resource use and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, as opposed to expanding population being the primary driver as is popularly argued. That is, population's importance is related to lifestyle expenditures, and specifically to the over-consumption class.

A 2011 report concludes, “The mass consumption of animals is a primary reason why humans are hungry, fat, or sick and is a leading cause of the depletion and pollution of waterways, the degradation and deforestation of the land, the extinction of species, and the warming of the planet."(508)

Chapter 14: DIET OR POPULATION? page 135-6

2020 Climate Review

As the 2021 year begins, we review some important climate developments last year. First of all, 2020 tied 2016 for the hottest year on record globally. Second, 2020 continues a rapid heating trend as the last seven years have been the warmest in 150 years, and it concludes the warmest decade on record.  

Average global temperatures in 2020 were 1 degree Celsius (about 2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than in the 30-year average between 1951 and 1980. Since 1980, warming has averaged around 0.2 degree C (0.32 degrees F) per decade. NASA Global Climate Change's Vital Signs of the Planet report that CO2 level is now 415 ppm, the Arctic ice minimum loss is 13.1 percent per decade, the ice sheets are losing 428 billion metric tons per year, and sea level is raising at 3.3 millimeters per year. 

The changing climate is contributing to stronger hurricanes, larger and more destructive wildfires, and heavier rainfall that can cause flooding. Rising temperatures are also causing loss of sea ice and ice sheet mass, sea level rise, longer and more intense heat waves, and shifts in plant and animal habitats.

There were record fires in Australia and California, and severe drought in central South America and the American Southwest. Notably, 2020 was a La Nina year, with cooler temperatures in the vast Pacific Ocean. Yet, Typhoon Goni made landfall in the Philippines as the strongest tropical cyclone in history with sustained winds of 195 mph. 

Europe and Asia had their hottest years on record, while South America and the Caribbean had their second-hottest. Europe had its warmest year ever in 2020, with heat waves lasting into September. The world’s oceans had their third warmest year. The Arctic and Siberia were among the hottest regions, around 6 degrees C warmer than the mid-20th century average. In South American, warming and drought resulted in fires across the vast Pantanal wetland.  

According to NOAA, the US experienced $95 billion in climate disaster damages, with major disasters like the western wildfires, a record-breaking hurricane season and the mid-summer Midwest derecho that caused extensive damage. There were 22 weather and climate disasters in 2020 that cost over $1 billion in damages, surpassing the annual record of 16 billion-dollar disasters in 2017. The Atlantic Basin produced 30 named storms, with 13 of those becoming hurricanes. This topped 2005, which previously had the most storms in a season, 28. And, a record-breaking 12 named storms made a US landfall in 2020. Six of the US landfalls were from hurricanes - Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta and Zeta - far above the average of one to two hurricane landfalls per year.

Phoenix, AZ, saw 145 days of 100-degree heat, breaking the previous record of 143 days set in 1989. Miami, FL, saw daily record temperatures (record warm highs, record warm lows) broken or tied a combined 64 times in 2020. The temperature in Death Valley, CA, reached 54.4 degrees C, the hottest in 80 years. Meanwhile, the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk reported a summer temperature of 100.4 degrees F, the first time recorded temperatures above the Arctic Circle have surpassed 100 degrees F.

As the 2020 year ends, some of the changes scientists are exploring include the weird fact that nights are warming faster than days, and how climate change is harming children's diets. Global warming is faster than evolution, and is making baby sharks smaller, undernourished and exhausted. Also, researchers found that global warming has profoundly transformed Arctic in just 15 years, the urban heat-island effect is turning cities into ovens, and that the warming already baked in will blow pass climate goals.

Although the political climate improved in the US at the end of the year, there has been decades of climate denial and limited action. This polluting legacy means that the new administration's climate policies may fall well short of what is needed to slow down abrupt climate change in 2021 and beyond.

Over-Consumption Curse

Meat Society: Number 19 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

As part of due course, many in the over-consumption class suffer from stressful personal and social problems. Individuals often face several personal costs associated with high levels of consumption, like (i) financial debt; (ii) time and stress associated with working to support higher consumption; (iii) time required to clean, upgrade, store, or otherwise maintain possessions; and (iv) the ways in which consumption replaces time with family and friends.

On top of this, aggressive pursuit of a mass consumption society typically correlates with a decline in health indicators in many countries, as obesity, crime, and other social ills surge. One defining characteristic of the consumer class is their marked escalation in food animal consumption.

Appallingly, across the globe, there is a rapid increase in rates of obesity and the numbers of overweight individuals. To solve this health crisis, an array of large-scale programmatic and policy measures are being pursued in a few countries, although, animal consumption remains sacrosanct from change.

Type 2 diabetes is a global public health crisis that threatens the economies of all nations, particularly developing countries. Fueled by rapid urbanization, nutrition transition, and progressively sedentary lifestyles, this epidemic has grown in parallel with the worldwide rise in obesity. Asia's large population and rapid economic development have made it an epicenter of the diabetes epidemic.(488)

Interactions between Westernized diet, lifestyle and genetic background may accelerate the growth of diabetes. On the positive side, Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable through diet and lifestyle modifications. Putting this into practice, though, will require profound changes in public policies, food and health systems. In addition to obesity and diabetes, there are other chronic health problems associated with food animal over-consumption, such as cancer and heart disease.

Few countries are engaged in serious efforts to prevent the dietary and environment challenges being faced. Around 65 percent of US adults are overweight or obese, leading to an annual loss of 300,000 lives and, at least $117 billion in health care costs in 1999.

Another aspect of over-consumption is increasing consumer debt. In 2002, 61 percent of US credit card users carried a monthly balance, averaging $12,000 at 16 percent interest. This amounts to about $1,900 a year in finance charges, which is in excess of the average per capita income in at least 35 countries.

If the over-consumption rates of the wealthiest nations are curbed, this may slow the rate of expansion everywhere else. Be that as it may, there is little evidence that their consumption is slowing, even in the US, where most people are amply supplied with the goods and services needed to lead a dignified life.

Governments could rein in high consumption by removing economic subsidies for everything from gas-guzzling vehicles to suburban home-building. Currently, government economic subsidies total around $1 trillion globally each year.(489) And since over-consumption translates into higher warming, it should be taxed to pay for mitigation and adaptation.

Chapter 13: OVER-CONSUMPTION CLASS, page 130

Class and Global Diet

Meat Society: Number 18 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

Global food insecurity is a problem of distribution, not just production. The poor eat less across the world, and there is more poor in the Global South. Around 17 percent of densely populated India is undernourished, even though per capita flesh consumption is relatively low. In contrast, fewer than five percent of people in the US, where 22 percent of the world’s cattle is raised, are at risk of going hungry.(486)

Overall, the clear trend globally is increasing food animal consumption among the urban middle class. Eating animal-based meals is a status symbol. Even with India's religious prohibitions against the eating of cow flesh, 'non-veg' has become a status symbol in the thriving cities. On top of this, across the world, people typically eat food animals as part of a feast, holiday or celebration.

School cafeterias in the Global North serve animal flesh every day, with few plant-based offerings. This raises expectations in children for a daily dose of animal protein. Even though plants are cheaper, a high-pressure, fast food lifestyle is causing adults to lose their taste for vegetables, and they are forgetting how to cook them. Poor adults have to use more of their scarce money for food.

Another aspect of class and diet is the economic gap between developed and developing countries is reflected in their animal consumption. While people in developed countries fulfill upwards of half, 56 percent, of their protein needs from animal sources, people in developing countries obtain only 18 percent in this way.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the BRICS, are five big developing countries. Economic growth in the BRICS is reflected in their animal consumption, and together, they account for 40 percent of the world’s population. Between 2003 and 2012, BRICS animal consumption rose by 6.3 percent a year and is expected to rise by another 2.5 percent a year between 2013 and 2022.

Increase in food animals consumption affects different species. The global upsurge in carnism is mainly due to the expansion in poultry consumption. On a worldwide level, there was no gain in consumption levels of cow flesh from 1970-2000. This trend reflects the fact that while cattle consumption rose in developing countries such as China and Brazil, it fell modestly in North America, Oceania, and Europe.

Chicken consumption in China and India is determined by class and lifestyle to a larger extent, than by population growth. Similarly, in Russia, the world’s biggest cow carcass importer, demand depends on prosperity from oil and gas export revenues, since the population peaked in 1991, at around 150 million. While animal carcass is cheap in Brazil, it is expensive in South Africa. Several economic crises in South Africa have ensured that the rising demand for animal flesh is almost entirely limited to cheaper chicken carcass.

The world face increasing demand for food. Between 2005 and 2050, food demand may soar 59 to 98 percent higher than the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate of 54 percent, from the 2005/2007 levels. There are many uncertainties, but food projections are more sensitive to socio-economic assumptions, than to climate warming or bioenergy scenarios.(487) The global middle-class is the key driver of food demand. 

The FAO range in food estimates is wide, in particular for consumption of animal calories - between 61 percent and 144 percent. This is due to differences in specifications, income, and price. With higher population and lower economic growth, consumption per capita drops on average by 9 percent for crops and 18 percent for livestock. This shows that a consumption tax on food animals can greatly lower climate-altering gases.

Chapter 13: OVER-CONSUMPTION CLASS, page 130

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

Over-Consumption and GHGs

Meat Society: Number 16 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 stuff humans consume, like food, gadgets, toys and accessories, is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gases (GHGs), and around 50 to 80 percent of total land, material, and water use. Between 60 to 80 percent of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption.(476)

However, human shoe sizes are not identical, and it is the same with ecological footprints. Consumerism is much higher in developed countries than in poor countries. Those with the highest rates of consumerism have up to 5.5 times the environmental impact as the world average. The US have the highest per capita emissions with 18.6 tonnes CO2e. Luxembourg had 18.5 tonnes, and Australia came in third with 17.7 tonnes. The world average, for comparison, was 3.4 tonnes, and China had just 1.8 tonnes.

Lifestyle and consumption impacts are highly unequal within and between countries. For example, the carbon footprints of citizens in G20 developing countries like Brazil and India are far lower than those of their counterparts in the rich OECD nations like Germany and the UK. On top of that, there are significant differences in the consumption effects caused by rich and poor citizens in developed countries like the USA.

Overall, the world's rich are largely responsible for causing climate chaos. Moreover, climate warming is inextricably linked to economic inequality. A natural disaster crisis driven by climate-altering gases generated by the ‘haves,’ is affecting the ‘have-nots’ the hardest. 

Fifty percent of the world’s carbon outflows are produced by the world’s richest 10 percent, while the poorest half, 3.5 billion people, are responsible for a mere 10 percent of CO2 emission. Further exaggerated, the wealthiest one (1) percent of the world’s population emit 30 times the pollution of the poorest 50 percent, and 175 times the volume of carbon of those living in the bottom 10 percent.(477) 

The average GHG footprint of a person in the poorest half of the global population is just 1.57 tCO2. This amount is 11 times less than the average footprint of someone in the richest 10 percent of the world. The average emissions of someone in the poorest 10 percent of the global population is 60 times less that of someone in the richest 10 percent of the world.

The vast majority of the world’s wealthiest 10 percent are high emitters who live in developed 37 OECD countries, although this is slowly changing. In South Africa, the richest 10 percent of citizens already have average lifestyle consumption footprints ten times higher than the poorest half of the population. In Brazil, it is eight times as high. Still, around a third of the world’s richest 10 percent are from the US.

The per capita GHG footprints from the wealthiest 10 percent of Indian citizens are one-quarter of the poorest 50 percent of those from the US. The poorest 50 percent of Indians have a carbon footprint that is one-twentieth of the poorest 50 percent in the US. And, the poorest half of Indians, around 600m people, has a total emissions footprint about the same as the richest 10 percent of citizens in Japan, around 12m people.

While the total climate-altering gases produced in China divided on a per capita basis have now surpassed those of the European Union, the per capita lifestyle consumption footprint of the wealthiest 10 percent of Chinese citizens are considerably lower than the richest of their OECD counterparts. This is because a large share of China’s emissions is from the production of goods consumed in developed countries. The poorest half of the Chinese population, over 600m people, have a total GHG footprint that is one-third that of the wealthiest 10 percent of US citizens, around 30m people.

The richest citizens in the Global North and Global South can and should cut their GHG footprints through lifestyle modifications. Still and all, they cannot solve the climate crisis alone. Effectual solutions require reduced footprints from the vast majority of citizens in the Global North, who are distinctly part of the over-consumption problem.

One author, Oppenlander, argues, “Our civilization displays a curious instinct when confronted with a problem related to overconsumption - we simply find a way to produce more of what it is we are consuming, instead of limiting or stopping that consumption.”(478) This is certainly true for food animals, due to the combined efforts of governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and transnational corporations (TFCs).

For decades, the consumption of goods and services has risen steadily in industrial nations, by virtually any measure: (i) amount of household expenditures, (ii) number of consumers, or (iii) by extraction of raw materials. And, consumption is growing rapidly in many developing countries as well.

An emerging body of research is examining environmentally significant consumption, a broad term used to encompass consumption practices that have particularly serious environmental consequences. Stern notes that “(consumption) is not solely a social or economic activity but a human-environment transaction. Its causes are largely economic and social, at least in advanced societies, but its effects are biophysical.”(479)

Consumption is the result of social, economic, technological, political, and psychological forces. Global, private consumption expenditures - the total spent on goods and services at the household level - topped $20 trillion in 2000, a four-fold spread over 1960 (in 1995 dollars).(480)

There are in excess of 1.7 billion members of 'the consumer class' and nearly half of them are in the developing world. An over-consumption lifestyle and culture that became common in Europe, North America, Japan, and a few other pockets of the world in the 20th century, is going global in the 21st century.

Around 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe are responsible for 60 percent of private consumption spending. In comparison, the 33 percent of the global population living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent of private consumption.

US consumers are leaders in over-consumption. With less than 5 percent of the global population, Americans use about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources - 25 percent of the coal, 26 percent of the oil, and 27 percent of the world’s natural gas. On top of that, the UNEP calculated that 33 percent of the average US household's carbon footprint in 2010 was due to emissions caused abroad from the production of goods imported into the US market.

As of 2003, the US had a larger number of private cars than licensed drivers, and gas-guzzling sport utility trucks were among the best-selling vehicles. New houses in the US were 38 percent bigger in 2002 than in 1975, despite having fewer people per household on average.

China and India make up 20 percent of the global consumer class, with a combined population of 362 million. Notably, this Asian middle class is bigger than all of Western Europe. All the same, the average Chinese or Indian member consumes substantially less than the average European.

China and India’s large consumer class constitutes only 16 percent of the region’s population, whereas, in Europe the figure is 89 percent. This suggests that there is considerable room for growth in the developing world, and a vast opportunity to reduce over-consumption in Europe and the Global North.

Chapter 13: OVER-CONSUMPTION CLASS, pages 127-8

Urbanization and Carnism


Meat Society: Number 15 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

Rapid urbanization has had, and will continue to have, a profound effect on food consumption patterns. There is higher caloric intake because cities offer a greater range of food choices. This is combined with lower-energy expenditure in urban jobs, and a reduction of physical activity of 10 to 15% compared with rural work. Plus, there is greater inactivity in leisure time.(473)

Urbanization affects lifestyle and food consumption by modification of dietary behavior. To boot, urbanization in the next few decades will primarily be a problem in developing countries that are unprepared to deal with an increasingly unhealthy demographic.(474) Obesity and diabetes are advancing faster in cities than in rural areas of the Global South.

The urbanization niche has been seized by the fast food industry by providing quick access to cheap take-away meals. These meals are crafted to satisfy consumers' demand for foods high in salt, fat, and sugar. As such, the most popular fast food items, like hamburgers, pizzas, and fried chicken, have 30% of their food energy as fat.

In China, the expansion in the consumption of animal products is higher for urban residents compared with those living in the countryside. In 1997, intake of animal foods was greater for urban people, 178 g (6.2 oz) per capita per day, compared with rural dwellers at 116 g (4.1 oz) per capita per day).(475)

Only 10 or 20 years ago, in many parts of the world, consuming the flesh of food animals was a luxury. But animal-based foods are now a part of the daily diet for a growing number of the middle class in developing countries. Big supermarket chains such as Walmart from the USA, France’s Carrefour, the UK’s Tesco and Germany’s Metro are conquering the globe. Their expansion has sparked massive investments by domestic supermarket companies. Fast food restaurants and chains are also rapidly advancing.

In regions where supermarkets have made major inroads into the food retailing system, the entire food economy, from farm-to-fork, is affected. For urban consumers, supermarkets can bring nutritional benefits with substantial improvements in the standards of food quality and safety.

Using fossil fuel, supermarkets have solved the problem of keeping animal-based products chilled at competitive prices. Cheaper and safer animal-based foods becomes available to the urban poor because of supermarkets, which induces demand. Stores bring the benefit of convenience as well, a particularly attractive feature to the urban consumer. In addition to population growth, urbanization and access are key structural forces driving carnism.

Chapter 13: OVER-CONSUMPTION CLASS, page 126

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

GHGs: A Tale of Two Sources

Meat Society: Number 12 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 food animal sector plays an often unrecognized role in planetary heating. Animal agriculture specifically drives global warming and is linked to proliferating greenhouse gasses (GHGs), the food crisis, and water emergencies. Animal agribusiness has large footprints on the air, land, water, energy, materials, health, and other areas. These GHG footprints are part of food animals' life-cycle and their byproducts' supply chains.

Ominously, livestock's footprints consist of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and other GHGs, that have a larger cumulative effect on climate warming than from each gas added up individually. And, unless food animals' GHGs are reduced along with fossil fuels, they may set in motion various environmental feedbacks that result in surpassing climate tipping points. 

According to one study, by 2050, the food animal sector may alone account for 72% of the total “safe operating space” for human-caused GHG pollution, 88% of the safe operating space for biomass use, and 300% of the safe operating space for the mobilization of nitrogen compounds in soils and elsewhere. This would lead to irreversible changes, irrespective of efforts to mitigate GHGs in other sectors.(356)

For reducing carbon-based emissions, an argument can be made that fossil fuels are not essential for human survival and that many non-carbon sources of energy already exist, and should be used instead. Oddly, this argument is often inverted when dealing with animal agribusiness GHGs. Animal-based diets are routinely viewed as non-negotiable and indispensable to human survival. And, the common perception is that other protein sources are not as good or available.

All the same, a World Bank review of the connection between consumption of animal products and health determined that in many situations, the partial displacement of carbohydrate staple source of energy with animal products may have neutral or no beneficial health effect. Another socioeconomic inquiry noted, “the use of plant source of protein and fat, such as soy products, nuts, and vegetable oils, may provide even greater health benefits and should therefore be considered simultaneously when considering investments in development.”(357)

Red meat consumption is associated with an enhanced hazard of cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality. In contrast, substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with lower mortality.(358) Similar to pollution from fossil fuels, animal-based diets have profoundly negative effects on human health and the environment. And, in turn, animal-based diet related illnesses and animal waste pollution, generate immense quantities of CO2 in health care, habitat restoration, and so on.

Interestingly, Pope Francis's 183-page encyclical on the environment, released in June 2015, discusses the environmental crisis and the immorality of capitalism. It argues passionately for economic and cultural equality. For all that, the encyclical remains completely silent on animal agribusiness GHG pollution.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is headquartered in Rome, not far from the Vatican. The agency has acknowledged numerous times the significance of livestock's GHGs and the sector's contributions to planetary heating. Despite this, the Pope and the Church refuse to call out the exploitative and destructive practices of the animal flesh, cow's milk and chicken egg industries in their encyclical to save humanity from escalating temperatures.(359)

In October 2015, the FAO's director and the French Minister of Agriculture both called for targeted policies and investments in food security and agriculture, to be at the center of debates on climate. They warned that failure to do so would unravel recent progress made in combating world hunger.(360)

The FAO's director indicated that there was a need to reduce deforestation and overfishing, and to improve soil fertility, to achieve lower emissions. He said the FAO was ready to assist countries through agroecology, 'climate-smart' agriculture, integrated coastal management, sustainable land management, and forest landscape restoration. Curiously, the director did not call for a reduction in food animal production or suggest that stepping up animal-based consumption was unsustainable and self-destructive.

The animal carcass, chicken eggs, and cow's milk lobbies are well-organized, and many politicians minimize and ignore animal agribusiness GHGs due to conflicts of interest. Case in point, a European Parliament member belittled the problem by saying, "I don't believe that the world will come to an end because of cows burping and farting."

A senior member of the staff of the German Environment Minister confessed, "We have exempted agriculture from the climate protection strategy in order to limit the number of potential sources of conflict.” While, the chairman of the German Advisory Council on the Environment was explicit in stating, "No one dares to say that we ought to eat less meat and more plant-based protein."(361)

Carbon and food based emissions are both real and dangerous. While one is increasingly being placed under a policy microscope, the other remains completely untouchable by priests and politicians alike. Fear of a public backlash and neoliberal attack by transnational food corporations (TFCs) prevents the powerful solution of dietary change from seeing the light of day.

Chapter 11: WHAT CRISIS? page 103

Mitigating Demand for Animal Protein

(Global meat consumption 1961-2009)

Meat Society: Number 11 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

Eliminating subsidies for domesticates and feed crops would increase the price of livestock products and lower the intake of food animals. Placing limits on advertising and warning labels, as with tobacco products, would likewise curb demand. On average, a 10% spike in the price of cow flesh results in a 7.5% lowering of intake, and around 35% of carnists admitted that when chicken prices rise, they simply eat more vegetables.(652)

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published a report in 2013 on reducing carbon emissions in livestock production FAO 2013 authors admit that with the burgeoning volume of domesticated food animals, complementary measures may be needed to ensure that overall greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution is curbed. Yet, oddly enough, the report provide few details on how to achieve this reduction, thereby ignoring a vast body of research that shows how mitigating demand for animal flesh could feed larger numbers of people with less GHG pollution. 

For over five decades, numerous institutes and research reports have demonstrated that cutting consumption can significantly reduce climate-altering discharges from the animal agribusiness sector. There were stacks of books published from the 1960s to the 1990s on animal-based diets and the environment. For instance, Ruth Harrison, in 1964(653); Frances Lappé, in 1971(654); Robbins, in 1987(655); Fiddes, in 1991(656); and Rifkin, in 1992.(657) These early works were influential and clearly linked carnism with environmental devastation.

Less well-known, but equally critical academic analysis was conducted by Joan Gussow and Katherine Clancy in 1986(658); Ehrlich, Ehrlich and Daily, in 1995(659); Burning and Brough in 1991(660); Joan Gussow, in 1994(661); Robert Goodland, in 1997(662); Michael Fox, in 1999(663); and Subak, in 1999.(664) These early investigations were based mainly on narrative, demographic, and ethnographic data since there was a general lack of primary research on the sector's climate-altering gases.

At the beginning of the 21st century, a flurry of scientific papers began to probe the impact of diet and livestock on ecosystems, providing the missing primary data. Namely, in 2000, research by Renault and Wallender,(665) and Dutilh and Kramer(666) were published on water productivity and energy use in the food animal sector.

In 2003, Wirsenius,(667) Leitzmann,(668) Pimentel and Pimentel,(669) and Reijnders and Soret(670) conducted primary research on metabolism, nutrition, water use, protein choices and other aspects of livestock production. In 2004, Rattan Lal measured carbon outflows on farms(671), and in 2006, Eshel and Martin calculated the climate-altering pollution from various diets.(672)

This valuable body of pertinent scientific research was widely available before FAO's 2006 and 2013 assessment of GHG emissions from animal agribusiness. Peculiarly, the popular environmental literature and volumes of primary data on demand-side analysis were both ignored by the UN authors. Moreover, since the vast majority of people on the planet already eat a climate-friendly, plant-based diet, then it makes sense for the FAO to concentrate on transforming livestock over-consumption.

By way of illustration, a team of Italian researchers noted that a plant-based diet based on organic products has the smallest environmental impact. Their findings, published online in 2006, showed that cow carcass had the greatest impact, along with cheese, fish, and cow's milk.(673) This and many other studies were ignored by the FAO. The mitigating demand approach, based on personal action, helps to solve the food crisis, and social inequalities as well. The UN food agency refuses to come to grips with the larger issue of the inefficiency of animal-based diets, and by all odds, the Earth could support larger numbers of people for a given area of land farmed if humans ate lower on the food chain.(674)

In 2007, McMichael's team investigated ways to reduce the impact of livestock production on the environment and concluded that current efficiency measures were not producing the magnitude of amendments required to sufficiently impact GHG footprints. The most equitable way was a constriction and convergence policy. The team concluded that Western countries should considerably reduce their red meat consumption, and developing countries should not surpass this lower target.(675)

Demand-moderating policies are vital because of the overall low potential for reducing agricultural GHGs by technological means. Besides, there are inherently large land requirements for ruminant flesh production. So what humans eat does matter.(676)

Based on improvements in scale, the FAO's strategies for 30% GHG reduction have increased vulnerability and negative side-effects. Even if, somehow, efficiency improves and yield gaps are closed, the projected demand for food animals will continue to drive agricultural expansion.(677) Mitigating demand is an effective way to reduce the sector's climate-altering gases, but is not entertained by the leading food authority in the slightest.

FAO 2006 projects that the global agricultural area may expand by 280m ha (1m sq mi) in 2030, from the current 5.1b ha (20m sq mi) to 5.4b ha (21m sq mi). One team used these estimates and assumed a minor transition towards vegetarian food, with a 25% diminution in animal consumption, and a somewhat lower food wastage rate. In this scenario, land use drops to 4.4 billion ha (17m sq mi), and land use in high-income regions dwindles down further by about 15%.(678)

Demand-side measures offer a greater potential of 1.5 - 15.6 Gt CO2e per year in meeting food security and GHG emission challenges, than do supply-side measures. The latter offers only 1.5 - 4.3 Gt CO2e per year at carbon prices between $20 and $100.(679) At the national level, in the UK, for instance, the average diet embodies 8.8 kg (19.4 pounds) CO2e per person every day. Eliminating food animals from the diet will lower food-related climate-altering discharges by 35%.(680)

The UN food agency encourage public subsidies for the cattle industry to increase efficiency, but to help mitigate the escalating environmental impacts of cow carcass production, the FAO should instead call on governments to should stop subsidizing cow flesh production, and cease the promotion of cattle consumption. Governments should also regulate and control the future expansion of soybeans and extensive grazing.(681)

In an evaluation of processed protein food based on soy-beans and animal protein, researchers observed a variety of environmental impacts associated with primary production and processing. Notably, the impacts for animal flesh were four to 100 times greater than that vegetable protein, while the comparison of cheese impacts ranged from 5 to 21 times greater than vegetables. And, the energy use for fish protein was up to 14 times larger than protein of vegetable origin.(682)

Mitigating demand for animal protein is an effective way to reduce GHGs, but the FAO and other UN climate reports ignore this approach. The German consumer protection organization, Foodwatch, calculated that shifting from a conventional diet based on animal flesh and cow's milk, to a conventionally-raised vegan diet would reduce GHG pollution by 87%, while shifting to an organic diet containing animal carcass and cow's milk would only reduce emissions by 8%. By contrast, a 100% organic vegan diet would reduce GHG pollution by 94%.(683)

If humans restricted their diet to primary producers – eating plants, instead of eating the herbivores, fish and other animals that eat plants - the Earth could support much larger populations of people. Plus, there would be comparatively less land degradation because fewer acres would be needed for food production. 

For demand-side animal protein measures to work, given the difficulties in implementation and lag in their effectiveness, policies and reforms should be introduced quickly. Also, mitigation programs could be integrated with other plans of actions, such as improving environmental quality and dietary health.

Chapter 17: THE POLITICS OF MEAT, pages 173 - 4.

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