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In an important, new study (pdf download) by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), scientists, looking to increased weather instability due to climate change and increased future global populations are sounding the alarm about our unsustainable food system.  They are recommending that over consuming rich nations particularly the US and Europe at least halve their consumption of animal protein to prevent destruction of our natural world due to water, land and air pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The Guardian, uk

People in the rich world should become "demitarians" – eating half as much meat as usual, while stopping short of giving it up – in order to avoid severe environmental damage, scientists have urged, in the clearest picture yet of how farming practices are destroying the natural world

I would disagree with stopping short of giving it up.  No good reasons not to give it up completely and many good reasons to do so.      

      Carcasses, Smithfield Market, London
                                    London Meat Market, photo Stefan Schafer

The quest for ever cheaper meat in the past few decades – most people even in rich countries ate significantly less meat one and two generations ago – has resulted in a massive expansion of intensively farmed livestock. This has diverted vast quantities of grain from human to animal consumption, requiring intensive use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and, according to the Unep report, "caused a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health". The run-off from these chemicals is creating dead zones in the seas, causing toxic algal blooms and killing fish, while some are threatening bees, amphibians and sensitive ecosystems. "The attention this meat scare has drawn [highlights] poor quality meat. It shows society must think about livestock and food choices much more, for the environment and health," said Sutton.
They are referring to the horse meat scandal in Europe and how it highlights our "lust for meat, which has fuelled a trade in undocumented livestock and mislabelled cheap ready meals. "
Unep warned: "Unless action is taken, increases in pollution and per capita consumption of energy and animal products will exacerbate nutrient losses, pollution levels and land degradation, further threatening the quality of our water, air and soils, affecting climate and biodiversity."
In our quest to mitigate climate change we often become concerned mainly with curtailing supply of dangerous fossil fuels rather than trying to reduce demand for their use. We will lose if we don't consider that market forces will find a way to supply if the demand exists.  Livestock/meat production is one of the greatest contributors of a build up of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.  It is also the easiest way to a rapid reduction of those same dangerous emissions.
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