For people who already view efforts to curb climate change and energy use as a government “conspiracy” to control the masses, the suggestion that we should go vegetarian to reduce carbon emissions is guaranteed to elicit howls of protest.
However, a growing chorus of voices is calling attention to just how harmful a meat-based diet is to our energy and carbon budgets. The latest to join: Lord Stern, author of the landmark 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change.
Speaking with the Times, Lord Stern this week extolled the virtues of a vegetarian diet, noting that, “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases.”
His comments come on the heels of a report from World Watch, “Livestock and Climate Change,” which finds that global livestock operations might in fact be responsible for far more carbon emissions than previously thought: as much as 51 per cent, compared to the 18 per cent estimated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2006.
The World Watch report concluded that livestock-related emissions could be significantly reduced through a large-scale switch to meat and dairy analogs — products like soy burgers and soy chicken patties, for example — or the development of laboratory-cultured (“in vitro”) meat.
While carnivores might cringe at such statements, Lord Stern’s remarks this week earned a welcome from — surprise, surprise — the Vegetarian Society.
“What we choose to eat is one of the biggest factors in our personal impact on the environment,” said Annette Pinner, chief executive of the Vegetarian Society. “The single most damaging foodstuff is beef and all non-vegetarian diets required significantly greater amounts of environmental resources, such as land and water. One of the best choices you can make for the planet is to reduce the amount of meat in your diet.”
(Not to mention that numerous medical studies have found a diet that emphasises whole grains and vegetables over meat is far healthier for us.)
All right, all you meat-eaters out there … what say you?