Meat has been a fundamental part of the human diet since the caveman learnt to hunt and make fire. It is almost universally consumed. Over the course of humanity’s history, meat has always been a luxury. It was reserved for those who could afford it, generally royals or those highest up in the social groups. Now, for the price of around £3-4, we can buy roughly 500 grams of chicken, beef or pork, always laid out and aesthetically pleasing from any supermarket in the UK. Meat is undeniably common.
Now if you’re the slightest bit environmentally conscious, you have likely heard of the dire consequences of mass meat farming. If you have watched any of the recent documentaries on the meat industry, you know that beef is by far the worst for the climate. Here is a quick summary of what it does to the planet.
According to the Guardian, cows and other livestock cause around 14% of human-induced climate emissions. The methane that cows produce in their bodily processes (the nice way of saying defecating, farting and burping) is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Well, we have always had cows you may counter. Much like humans, individual cows aren’t necessarily the problem. Rather, it’s the mass farming of them – commercial farms with millions of cows, all releasing their climate destroying gases. There are around 1 billion cows in the world. This is the result of our global, and arguably excessive, consumption of meat. Without us, there would simply not be this many cows.
So, what can we actually do about it? Asking everyone to suddenly become vegan when for the last three generations, we have grown up in a world where meat is common for at least one meal a day, is never going to happen. If you can, then amazing, that is probably the best thing you can do as an individual for the climate. However, if you can’t (like myself) don’t fret. What we can do is massively reduce our meat consumption. If we shift the attitude towards meat from a necessity to a luxury, like it was back before the days of industrial farming, we can massively reduce our personal emissions. In fact, there are so many recipes that are vegetarian that are actually much cheaper and just as nutritious as meat dishes. If you attend school or work somewhere where food is provided, it is a good idea to recommend to the institution to implement a veggie lunch a few days a week.
Equally, if you are interested in this subject, I recommend researching future meat alternatives. Scientists are finding new innovative ways of replicating meat in a lab – 3D printed meat or ‘meat’ grown from fungi that tastes exactly like the real deal. Whilst it might sound like something out of a science fiction novel, it is probably a good idea to start readying yourself for such future realities.
However, until we have decent sustainable alternatives to meat, the best thing we can do as individuals is massively cutting down. Try eating meat for 4 nights a week, then cut to 3, then maybe to 2. Equally, meats such as chicken or pork have far lower climate emissions than beef – although they are still part of the problem.
Reminding our UN representatives of the imperative of slowing the meat industry is of paramount importance.
So, download the Get2Cop app and select agriculture as your avatar. Pledge to cut down on your meat and dairy consumption and begin making a change for the better.