Meat consumption and farming practices destroying natural world
Greenwisebusiness.co.uk, February 18th
People in the rich world should become 'demitarians' – eating half as much meat as usual, while stopping short of giving it up – in order to avoid severe environmental damage, scientists have urged, in the clearest picture yet of how farming practices are destroying the natural world
They said the horsemeat scandal had uncovered the dark side of our lust for meat, which has fuelled a trade in undocumented livestock and mislabelled cheap ready meals.
- There is a food chain risk, said Professor Mark Sutton, who coined the termdemitarian and is lead author of a UN Environment Programme study published on Monday.
The quest for ever cheaper meat in the past few decades – most people even in rich countries ate significantly less meat one and two generations ago – has resulted in a massive expansion of intensively farmed livestock. This has diverted vast quantities of grain from human to animal consumption, requiring intensive use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and, according to the UNEP report, "caused a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health". The run-off from these chemicals is creating dead zones in the seas, causing toxic algal blooms and killing fish, while some are threatening bees, amphibians and sensitive ecosystems.
- The attention this meat scare has drawn [highlights] poor quality meat. It shows society must think about livestock and food choices much more, for the environment and health, said Sutton.
The report also set out a variety of measures by which farming could be made more environmentally friendly, from simple steps such as storing fertilisers more securely and using them more sparingly, and capturing greenhouse gas emissions from their production. Nitrogen use could be cut by 20 million tonnes by 2020, saving £110 billion a year. Reusing waste, such as manure, and treating sewage using modern methods would also save hundreds of billions.