The worldwide movement to embrace a diet of reduced or absent animal foods offset by partially or fully plant diet is palpable. Whether it is the viral documentary What The Health, the constant reports of increasing obesity, diabetes and cancer, or the horrific weather and storms suggesting global warming is real and happening now, the rise of veganism and plant diets is fast paced.
A series of reports just released have made headlines worldwide suggesting that transitioning away from meats and over to plant alternatives cannot wait and must accelerate worldwide. It seems as if nail by nail, the coffin of animal food gluttony is upon us and welcome. What were the new lessons learned about animal food production and environmental concerns?
1) Grass Fed Beef and Dairy Does Not Solve the Climate Problem. So said headlines in popular news sites. The data came from the University of Oxford and the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN). While some have argued that grazing has advantages over factory meat production, the 127 page FCRN report found no evidence that grass-grazing cattle can solve the problem. The conclusion was drawn from analyzing over 100 research papers.
2) Cow Farts Are More Dangerous Than Previously Recognized. The headlines again indicated harms from meat production with a bit of humor but real consequences. In a NASA sponsored study, new calculations indicated that global methane production by livestock, a major contributor to greenhouse gases, was 11% higher than previously thought and perhaps 15% higher than EPA estimates. Calls for reduction in meat and dairy consumption accompanied this new report.
3) Goodbye to Livestock Farming. In a prominent editorial in The Guardian shared widely, columnist Georg Monbiot published and extensively researched argument to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Point by point, he outlined the serious problems of deforestation and land destruction due to animal farming. The editorial concluded that “the end of animal farming might be hard to swallow….Now it is time for a new revolution….the switch to a plant-based diet…It’s time to abandon the excuses, the fake facts and false comforts. It is time to see our moral choices as our descendants will”. Strong but necessary words Mr. Monbiot.
4) Factory Farming is Inefficient and a Planetary Threat. In another widely shared article in The Guardian, the myth that factory farming is an efficient way to produce animal protein for consumption was turned upside down. On the eve of a livestock conference in London, Philip Limbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, stated that “there is new confirmation of how destructive, inefficient, wasteful, cruel and unhealthy the industrial agriculture machine is”. He called or an immediate reduction in meat consumption.
6) Tyson Blocked from Building a New Plant. In a show of public power, the announcement by Tyson Foods that it was building a $320 million poultry complex in Kansas was met the public campaign to keep them out and avoid damaging the environment. In response, the county removed the tax incentives and the company announced putting the project on hold.
There are many steps needed to achieve a meaninful and sustained transistion from animal to plant food sources. However, the pace is picking up, the discussion is going global, and the environmental concerns are even outpacing the conversations over human health. Nail by nail, the coffin is being sealed and it is time to celebrate beans, greens and grains. The time is ripe to put the health of our planet and that of our future generations as the primary concern by reducing and eliminating meat, poultry, egg and dairy meals starting now.