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Vegan Diet and Climate Change

Posted by on Aug 1, 2010 in Ecology | 26 comments

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I was thinking about writing a post about the Oil Spill in China or the Flood, such as the one in the North-West of Pakistan.  The floods hit all parts of the world in such a frequency now, that it should really scare us.

Instead I write a post about Meat Consumption as a reason for the Changing Climate and, at least partly, the answer to the Climate Change. The reason I write this post now is an answer to all the comments to the last post about the wedding of Chelsea Clinton. My hope was, that because Ms. Clinton serves Vegan food at her wedding it will find lots of people who will imitate her and that vegetarian and vegan diet becomes more accepted in society. But most of the comments did not relate to the intention but are rather hateful, as though the people writing about Ms. Clinton know her personally.

The facts why we should eat less meat are overwhelming. Besides the the Health reasons humanity must cut down on the meat consumption because of ecological reasons. The facts mentioned here are all taken from the German news magazine Sueddeutsche Zeitung – Wissen (South-German Newspaper – Knowledge) April 2009.  I found the article the most comprehensive compilation of fact to this topic.

Every year 40 billion animals are killed to feed humans. It is a fact, that the more wealthy a nation becomes the more meat is consumed.  But to keep this post short we will concentrate on Cattle.

Cattle provides Milk, Meat and Leather. The global population of cattle is an estimated 1.3 billion heads!

To get 1 kilogram of meat the cow has to eat 32 kilogram of fodder. At the age of 18 month the cow is slaughtered. It has used until then, 93 kg Milk Substitute, 5754 kg Maize Silage, 138 kg Hay, 1020 kg Soy/Crop, 31 kg Mineral Fodder. The animal consume 14.500 liter water, 24.45 liter Diesel fuel and 6-7 kWh of electricity. All this is needed to achieve a living weight of 580 kg!

In order to gain 1 kg of meat the cattle has to consume 7 kg of grain. For 1 metric ton of Protein of peas 1.3 hectare land is needed and 185 cubic meter of water. For the same amount of protein from pork 125 pigs have to consume 50 tons of plants, which are grown on 12.4 hectare land and need 11.421 cubic meter of water.

40% of the global crop production is eaten by cows. 18% of the Green house gases are produced by the animals. One fact I haven’t found yet is how much land all the animals, cattle, pork and poultry, demand for raising and feeding. Not to forget the fish farms!

The efficiency rate of the animals are estimated to be about 30%. Of 100% plant protein in the fodder only 30% become meat protein.

To raise all those animals a lot of forests is destroyed. Also the Global Population Growth has to be taken into account. The more people live, the more meat will be consumed. If every person on earth will consume as much meat as the people in the wealthy countries no forest will survive.

Therefore I, personally, am grateful for celebrities such as Chelsea Clinton or Paul McCartney who make vegetarian or vegan diet more acceptable to the public. And it is to be hoped that many people will follow and eat less meat and animal products. In the name of a healthy Climate!

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  21. Caroline K.

    Let me add with permission few points to your article, A few more mind boggling statistics from the New York Times:

    * The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961.
    * In 2010, meat supply was estimated to be 320 million tons.
    * World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050.
    * Americans make up around 5 percent of the world’s population, yet slaughter nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total.

    Even trying to imagine 10 billion animals is hard, let alone the thought of them all being consumed every year and factory farms can be truly horrifying places.

    Giving up red meat for health reasons was never on the cards for me, but after learning more about the environmental issues; I simply couldn’t ignore it any longer.

    Normal medical disclaimers apply; consult your doctor first, blah blah blah 🙂

  22. Desse

    A SEA change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil. It’s meat !!

    The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally like oil meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

    Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.

  23. Matt Cogan

    Howdy Dr. Max,

    I’ve never been much of one for extremist vegan propaganda, but I’ve been making some changes to diet based on increasing evidence that the production of meat, or should I say our consumption levels, is a major environmental and humanitarian issue.

    I could quite happily eat meat in 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. I’m not particular; you name the species, I’d probably eat it – rather strange for someone who professes to love animals and the environment I guess, but I’ve always seen meat consumption as being quite natural for a human and risky to go without it for any length of time.

    What I did come to realize is that my meat consumption was way over the top and I needed to do something about it. I also needed to look more closely at how I source meat products and the treatment of the animals that have died for my meal. I’m not one of those people who balks at the idea of killing my own meat at all, but I don’t want an animal to suffer terribly for my dinner.

  24. Jeremy Hultgren

    chelsea clinton looked so pretty in her dress!

  25. Jess

    Nice Article Max, finnaly something real to read 🙂

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