The amount of land used around our planet for raising and growing feed for cattle and other mammals so humans can eat ‘meat’ is more than used by all of our other agricultural requirements altogether. Meat-eating produces greenhouse-gases. The digestive processes of ruminant cattle release large amounts of methane. Even more importantly, overgrazing damages and impoverishes soils, substantially reducing their capacity to store carbon – thus releasing large amounts of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere contributing to global warming.
Carbon Brief explains how our meat-eating produces greenhouse-gases making the climate emergency worse.
Animal-based foods have higher carbon and land footprints than their plant-based alternatives, and are most commonly consumed in high-income countries. The study, published in Nature Food, investigates how the global food system would change if 54 high-income countries were to shift to a more plant-based diet.
High-income countries could cut their agricultural emissions by almost two-thirds through dietary change, the authors find. They add that moving away from animal-based foods could free up an area of land larger than the entire European Union.
If this land were all allowed to revert to its natural state, it would capture almost 100bn tonnes of carbon – equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions – the authors note. They add that this level of carbon capture “could potentially fulfill high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”.
As a biologist, I know that people eat a lot more meat than is actually healthy for them. We all need certain amino acids found in animal protein for a healthy diet, but there are many sources that can be developed that are far less damaging to the environment than grazing cattle; e.g., poultry and farmed insects. The thought of eating the latter may be very off-putting to some Western cultures, but they were a staple source of protein for our remote ancestors and some cultures today still consider insects/arthropods to be delicacies (to say nothing of Westerner’s appetite for marine arthropods like rock lobsters, crabs, and the like.
In any event, given that our ‘business as usual’ meat-eating produces greenhouse-gases is condemning our species to likely extinction in a hothouse hell as a result from allowing global warming to run away. Changing our diets in a way that will allow the vast inventory of land currently used to support the meat industry to be repurposed and optimized for carbon capture and storage. It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that all cattle grazing and feeding has to be eliminated, but only that no more can be grown than are required as tools to help manage the land for optima sequestration.
Nevertheless, animal agriculture needs to shift from the exploitation to stewardship of the land. And, it is clear that this kind of shift in the Australian environment will not happen as long as it is under the control of a COALition puppet government giving its allegiance to multimillionaire special interests rather than the future survival of the citizens who voted them into office.
To have any hope that our families will have a safe future where they can survive, we must remove Captain Humbug (AKA Scotty from marketing) and his Liberal/National COALition and their fellow traveling puppets of the special interests. We need to do this by electing people who accept and understand that their first priority in government must be addressing the climate emergency to organize and support whatever needs to be done to stop and reverse the global warming process enough to allow humans and the biosphere in general to survive in a reasonably healthy state.
To help Australians do this, we have formulated our Vote Climate One Traffic Light Voting Guide to rank where we think every candidate stands on this critical issue. We don’t tell you who to vote for, but rather who should be placed towards the last to ensure that your preferences don’t end up helping to elect a special interest puppet.