Friday, July 25, 2014

1491. Environmental Damage from Animal Agriculture

By Linda A. DeStefano, Sierra Atlantic, Spring 2011

Yet another report from the U.N. alerts us to the environmental damage caused by animal agriculture, including greenhouse gas emissions.

Lacking the memorable title of the first U.N. report (“Livestock’s Long Shadow”), the new report (June 2, 2010) has the unsexy title of “Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials.”

The section on animal agriculture says:  “A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.” Edgar Hertwich, lead author of the report, says: “Animal products cause more damage than (producing) construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as (burning) fossil fuels.”

James Hansen of NASA, a leading climatologist who has spoken out repeatedly and strongly about global warming, says: “ ... if you eat further down on the food chain rather than animals, which have produced many greenhouse gases, and used much energy in the process of growing that meat, you can actually make a bigger contribution in that way than just about anything. So, that, in terms of individual action, is perhaps the best thing you can do.”

A report in the Nov./Dec. 2009 issue of the magazine of the highly respected Worldwatch Institute estimates that a whopping 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions is caused by animal agriculture. The authors of “Livestock and Climate Change” recommend that environmental activists start lobbying the food industry to see the financial advantage of a massive marketing campaign for meat and dairy analogs (veggie burgers, almond milk, etc.) so that the production and consumption of animals will be dramatically reduced. They advise that consumers should eat a completely plant-based diet rather than switching from one animal to another (such as switching from beef to chicken).

There’s some merit to their recommendation in terms of getting the corporate food industry on board and making it convenient for people to eliminate or significantly reduce their intake of meat, dairy and eggs. However, it’s also important to support local plant-based agriculture (organic, when possible) by buying fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and seeds and making tasty, healthy dishes, such as rice and beans with a flavorful sauce and veggies on the side.

You can find links to the U.N. report and the Worldwatch Institute magazine article by clicking here.  You will also find downloadable vegan recipes from Sierran Kay Bushnell and two handouts, “Give a Wolf a Break Today: Go Veggie!” and “Don’t Eat a Cow, Man! How Animal Agriculture Adds to Global Warming.”

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