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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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Comment Preferences

  •  It's good to encourage people to cut out half (15+ / 0-)

    It's not as scary as asking for 100% vegetarianism and so it's more likely to get some action. Once people are eating meat half as often, some of them may cut it out further.

    Please visit:

    by Noisy Democrat on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:03:59 AM PST

    •  I'd say almost everyone I know (7+ / 0-)

      is already doing this. Tons of people I know are cutting back to eating meat only three or four times a week, or cutting out red meat. More people are getting used to the idea that a meat-free meal actually IS a meal.

      In addition, the number of vegetarians I know has exploded. Back in the 70s i was a freak, an oddity (I have been a vegetarian for 40 years). Now, chances are if i go to an event, a quarter or a third of the people there will ask for the vegetarian option. And there always IS one, even on the rubber-chicken political circuit I frequent.

      I also know at least half a dozen vegans. They would not have existed ten years ago. (I am not a vegan).

      I think people are thinking very differently about their food here now, perhaps in part due to the growth of the sustainable local food movement, which is huge in Cleveland, Ohio.

      Jon Husted is a dick.

      by anastasia p on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 09:33:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are you on either coast or mid-country? (0+ / 0-)

        Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

        by the fan man on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 10:24:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I see this too (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beach babe in fl

        I'm in northern Minnesota where ground beef prepared blandly by church ladies is practically it's own food group, but most of the people I know have seriously reduced their meat intake.  I only eat a serving or two a week at most and haven't had a bite of meat since Saturday.  Essentially my rule now is that I will only eat meat if it is either fish or wild game or if I can verify the origins....essentially that I got it at the farmer's market or from a local farmer and know that it was not part of a large-scale operation.  I've heard this referred to as "happy meats".  

        I started by just wanting to improve my health but over the last few months have really thought a lot about conditions at industrial livestock operations and slaughterhouse/meatpacking operations and decided that I just want nothing to do with contributing to all of the problems involved with that or consume all of those drugs and antibiotics.  For some reason, I even had a couple of dreams in which I worked at a slaughterhouse, which will cure you of a meat appetite in a hurry!

        As I look forward over the weekend, I see oatmeal, canned beans, Cliff Bars, and possibly a fresh-caught fish fry in my future.....

        Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

        by Mark Mywurtz on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:44:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Mine's next to nothing (5+ / 0-)

    primarily due to cost, but also this and other factors.

    I'd say I'm about at the "tenthitarian" point. Or decitarian, or whatever the proper term is....

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:05:11 AM PST

  •  The more I read about this the more (11+ / 0-)

    convinced I am of how important it is to take this action.  And when you take into account the personal externalities of all the health benefits one achieves by reducing your personal meat consumption it's a no brainer.  I've been meat free since the first of the year for the first time in my life and I'm noticing lots of personal positive affects.  My arthritis is significantly improved.  After exercise my muscles get a lot less sore.  I've lost about 8 pounds without even trying.  My taste buds are much more sensitive and my sense of smell is improved.   Unfortunately it hasn't done anything about my loss of hair but can't expect everything!  

    Every time you read about a major disease you always read that a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits improves things.  I'm still looking for the disease that calls for the eating of copious amounts of meat and dairy products.  

    Beach Babe you consistently beat this drum and I hold you at least partially responsible for me taking this action.  Thank you.  To anyone reading this comment give this a try.  You and the environment will be glad you did!

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:07:09 AM PST

  •  other than increased soy (6+ / 0-)

    what would be the best substitute for animal protein?

    "Let's do this!" - Leeroy Jenkins

    by AaronInSanDiego on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:08:54 AM PST

  •  Suckers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster

    More for me :-P

  •  I've been vegan for about 7 weeks now (8+ / 0-)

    and need some support and ideas for menus and shopping.  Although I am an old timer here, I don't really know how to navigate the groups.  How do I join up?

    I started my vegan adventure as a way to work on my cholesterol and bad lipid panel.  In one month, it made a huge difference.  The added bonus is that I feel better and am really enjoying my food.  At least so far.  

    Last night I ate delicious vegan tostadas.   Tonight I plan to make some lovely red lentil dal and try out my fancy new rice cooker.  Onward!

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:24:34 AM PST

  •  I...need a certain amount of protein and beans (0+ / 0-)

    don't really cut it(hehe). I've gone off red meat for years.
    I drink 1 gallon of milk a week(15 grams per day), eat 4 eggs a week(30 grams per day), some cheese and eat a small amount of chicken/turkey day--maybe 70 grams per day(26 kg per year). That's a total of 105 grams of animal protein.
    Google says average american eats 85 kg of meat per year and I am at about 40 kg of all animal protein.
    I read somewhere you can be healthy on 50 grams of protein per day. I know if I don't eat a certain amount of protein I don't feel well. Most soy products are ridiculously expensive. I would guess most soybeans go into animal feed.
    I agree that less meat is a good thing but I find the choices
    limited (by cost).

  •  Whatvwe really need is better meat, not less meat. (0+ / 0-)

    We need to have more pastured beef sources. Cattle did not evolve to eat grains, they evolved to eat grass. Pastured beef has far less impact on the environment than even  farming does. Cattle can graze on lands that are unsuitable for farming. Even regular farming has a negative impact on the environment. It destroys the habitat of ground-dwelling animals and birds which then has a domino effect on predators up the line. Organic fertilizers can cause just as much damage to the water system if they are washed into  streams and rivers.  Additionally, there is growing evidence that all the health hysteria over fats has been misguided and the real culprits in disease are sugar and (dare I say it) carbohydrates.

    For the records, yes, I have been low carb for while now. I enjoy bacon, eggs, green veggies and pastured beef and my HDL/triglyceride ratio is fantastic.  Those of you who are enjoying your vegan lifestyle-if it works for you, fantastic. Just keep your mitts off my beef and I'll keep my mitts off your tofu.

    "Life is too important to be taken seriously" Oscar Wilde

    by Annie B on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:47:12 AM PST

  •  most of the photos of pollution in China (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    look as though it is industrial in origin, not agricultural.  I'm not sure what good these recommendations will do.  I am pretty sure, though, what would happen if these recommendations were to be codified and somehow enforced, ala Bloomberg's ban on Super Gulps.  

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 09:07:01 AM PST

  •  I think you could call my (5+ / 0-)

    family a group of "vegetarian leaning omnivores." My husband will always be a meat eater, for sure. But here is the thing -- he is quite happy going long periods without eating meat. He's gone weeks and even months without eating meat, and then has something on a special occasion.

    He grew up eating meat every day, and probably at pretty much every meal. When he married me, he didn't go through a big meat withdrawal, in fact, he was perfectly satisfied eating plant based meals. They were well prepared plant based meals, but still.

    Okay, I'll get to my point: much of the meat eating we do is because of expectation. It's expectation put into our heads by the meat industry. Don't you know that you'll fall over and die if you have one meal that doesn't include an animal?

    I think a lot of people would be comfortable on half as much meat (or 1/10th as much) if they could just think of eating vegetables as adding something to their lives, rather than thinking of it as not eating meat and depriving themselves of that robust health that greasy roast beef can provide.

    I think that halving meat consumption would be like falling off a log, really. On average, we eat so much of it, anyway. And it would have a huge, positive environmental impact.

    We really need to stop subsidizing these destructive agribusinesses. I once hear Kris Carr say something like, "Broccoli is revolutionary. Broccoli could take down a government."

    Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this, and attaining enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

    by rb137 on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 09:37:10 AM PST

  •  thereisnospoon just published on Hullabaloo, 37 (3+ / 0-)

    years until we pop the cork on this round of civilization:

    The most terrifying graph you'll see all year

    Someone quoted in the piece:

    Your brain will fight it, even with the numbers on the page staring back at you, because the collapse of civilization is simply beyond human comprehension. To really internalize this information means you would need to accept things like:

    - You are among the last people that will ever walk the Earth
    - Your children won’t survive to middle age
    - All of the beauty, culture, and scientific discoveries we’ve unlocked will return to the ether from whence they came.

    Forgive my French, but that is some heavy shit.

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 10:23:06 AM PST

  •  We only need equivalent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action

    7 oz meat a day to meet protein needs.  That's a can of tuna.  Can't say I keep within the quota everyday, but I try!

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 10:30:44 AM PST

    •  Not much protein in 7oz can of tuna, just 45 grams (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think all the protein a person needs is 50 grams per day.
      A typical can of beans has 20 grams of protein in it
      an egg has 50 grams of almost pure protein, and
      a 12.5 oz(315 gram) can of tuna has 80 grams of protein in it. Eggs are  cheaper.

  •  Halving housing size would also have a huge (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Radiowalla, beach babe in fl

    impact. If you google "buildings" and "greenhouse gas emissions", you'll find numerous sources reporting that 40-50% of greenhouse gas emissions are related to building construction, maintenance and powering. If we could cut that in half...

    Of course, I add this to your point not in substitute of it.


    The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

    by Words In Action on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 12:30:30 PM PST

  •  haven't had grain fed beef in over a year (0+ / 0-)

    but I sure would like to.

    Right now we are spending 100 million a year to warehouse and feed horses because we don't want to kill them. Imagine how many rooftop solar panels that could buy? I've never had horse meat,,,, that I know of, , , , but I've eaten weirder things I'm sure.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 04:20:39 PM PST

    •  I ate horse meat in France (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beach babe in fl

      and didn't find it bad at all.  That was a long time ago.

      Recently there has been  a huge to-do in Europe about horse meat sneaking into prepared dinners.  To me, the take-away is stay the hell away from ground meat of any kind and stay the hell away from packaged foods.

      It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by Radiowalla on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 08:34:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Grain is not diverted, land is. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beach babe in fl

    Our industrial agricultural system has resulted in tax breaks and direct subsidies that make it profitable for large scale industrial farms to produce vast quantities of cheap corn at a huge profit for those farms. It is that cheap corn that make industrial meat production possible. It has also made the entire processed foods and fast-food industries possible. That's why it's cheaper for feed a family of 4 crap from McDonald's than a healthy, home cooked meal.

    Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. It is by the picket line and direct action that true freedom will be won, not by electing people who promise to screw us less than the other guy.

    by rhonan on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 06:21:07 PM PST

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