How is Meat Industry Impacting Climate Change in Your Country?
When the circulating pattern of wind swirled around the room, there came through the open door an aroma of roses and delicious food. The strobing, blinking and twinkling lights added to the beauty of the hall. This was an extravagant wedding ceremony in the country.
The menu included; pieces of chicken, mutton chops, roast, beef steaks and gravy dripping over the carmalized skin of meat that provided plenty of options to eat with a number of different salads.
No matter how much of an environmental enthusiast you are , no matter how much you are fed up with the arguments of being eco-friendly or not, people around you will still choose money over environment. Without the smallest pang of doubt, people overlook this annual rate of extravaganza. Is this really necessary, one wonders? It is a reflection of our choices and our lifestyles. Food choices plays an important role in the development of a country. While it is unethical to waste food, a country like Pakistan, especially cannot afford to do so, as many people are struggling to get access to the basic needs.
Pakistan is a country where people enjoy eating all varieties of meat. They are an essential part of our festivals. Because of its demand, the meat industry in the country is growing rapidly. Livestock plays an important role in our agriculture based economy.
Pakistan meat consumption was 11.7 kg per person in 2000, and now it has tripled since 2016, i.e. 32 kg. It is estimated that it will rise to 47 kg in 2020 according to a paper published in the National Institute of Health (NIH), United States of America. Meat demands increase because of higher income and growing urbanization. 60 per cent of all mammals are livestock. Huge patches of land are cleared for the rearing of animals and for the growth of their food causing deforestation. 80 per cent of all land is dedicated for this purpose thus contributing to deforestation and biodiversity loss. Livestock maintainace is responsible for 9 per cent of the human caused carbon dioxide emissions (UN FAO).
Livestock is also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle emit methane which is 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. It is responsible for 37 per cent of methane emissions (UN FAO). With the increase in consumption, this amount will increase more rapidly.
About 30 per cent greenhouse gas emissions originate from the global food systems. The top 20 meat and dairy companies combined emit more greenhouse gases than Germany, Canada, the UK and France. When the demand for meat is increased, more land is required to accommodate the livestock.
As more meat is in demand, many companies are producing processed meat that is equally potent as tobacco or alcohol and moreover, it is carcinogenic. A five headed western disease dragon is gaining more strength and momentum since the recent years. So what is this dragon?
Heart diseases, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, and obesity refers to the heads of the dragon. Because of our unhealthy eating habits, they are gaining more momentum. It is said, ”You can’t break a glass bottle from inside”. If you really want to get rid of these diseases, you have to change your food choices.
Do you know the highest carbon footprint comes from meat? So we should stop eating meat? How the meat lovers will survive then? Will going vegan help solve the problems? Will the plant based diet be able to feed everyone and will it be able to give sufficient nutrients?
What if we all go vegan for a while? Do you think in a country where ‘desi moms’ have their own particular beliefs for diet and nutrition, would they be able to opt for the plant based or lab grown meat? It would be quite difficult at first, but it is really important that we make that transformation.
A recent research showed that if we all go vegan or consume less meat we can feed 9.6 billion people by this organic farming. We have to invest in plant based technologies. We have to give people choices by making the options attractive and affordable. By making effective policies and by adopting best practices we can cope with this challenge.
Maria Waseem, is a student at the College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of the Punjab who has an interest in nature and art.