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Meat eating is a major climate change factor, as raising livestock is a very inefficient way to feed people. It also directly creates huge amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane.
Vast areas are put over to grazing livestock, and intensive farming, is used to increase yields. Improvements have been made in farming practices recently, following an influential US report on slaughterhouses.
There is also a huge use of chemicals and hormones by the livestock industry, and a vast system of butchering, storage and transport.
Not that you have to give up meat altogether. To quote EarthSave, 'We prefer to talk about eating a more plant-based diet and not to label anyone a vegetarian.'
See Earthsave www.earthsave.org
See Go Veg www.goveg.com or PETA www.peta.org
In fact the single most planet saving thing you can do is become a veg... have a more plant based diet.
The good news is that GE and GM (genetically engineered and genetically modified foods) are being devised which reduce methane and other digestive gas production in ruminants.
Also the nutrient content of staple foods such as rice and plantains are being increased using genetic engineering, so that they have larger amounts of vitamins, minerals, and even protein. This is all great news. Scientific progress to help the world's poor farmers and people.
All we need to do now is end the ridiculous GM food ban in Europe, a classic piece of protectionism, saving local farming against new methods from abroad, if ever there was one. The Green environmental movement is slowly changing its views on all this, as the old guard die off and the younger, less bigoted, people come onstream. If the Green movement doesn't just fade into history like communism that is.
Green and Eco have gone mainstream, making the Green movement an anachronism.
For a summary of the figures read this:
Meat is methane by Marco Visscher
December 2007 issue of Ode Magazine
'What's the biggest cause of climate change? Cars? Planes? Factories? No. The meat we eat. Producing chicken, lamb, pork and beef takes up one-quarter of the Earth's surface. Nearly a third of the world's fertile agricultural land is used to grow feed grains. And to serve the burgeoning meat industry, tropical forests—which are very useful in compensating for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions—are cut down to make room for vast grasslands.
But CO2 is not the main byproduct of livestock farming, though it is responsible for 9 percent of it. Nitrous oxide and methane respectively contribute 300 and 23 times more to the greenhouse effect than CO2—and livestock is responsible for 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions and 37 percent of methane emissions.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculated these figures for a report published last year called Livestock's Long Shadow. The FAO concluded that the livestock industry accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
That's more than is produced by every form of transportation combined. In addition, 1,000 litres (265 gallons) of fossil fuel is needed to produce the meat consumed annually by the average family of four. When this fuel is burned, according to Jeremy Rifkin, author of Beyond Beef, more than 2.5 tons of extra CO2 enters the atmosphere—as much as the average car emits in six months.
Consumers are told to conserve by switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, to take public transportation more often, to turn off the TV when they're not watching.
Why aren't environmental organizations telling them to eat less meat?
The only famously propagandist celebs are Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson, who also campaigns for PETA , the anti-fur lobby.
It has to be said that a mixed arable and livestock farming is efficient as manure is used on the crop fields. This can be the basis of an organic farm.
But that is to look at tiny 'ethical' operations, which are extremely rare.
Some land areas are too poor to use for crops, and grazing animals are a good source of protein, although we are talking about peasants up mountains here.
I don't think MacDonalds has much to do with that!