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Biodiversity Counts!
Observations and opinions concerning zoos, evolution, nature conservation and the way we treat/support the ecosystems which are supposed to serve us.


It is really time to quit eating meat, Planet Earth is on death row! updated

published 14 April 2012 | modified 18 December 2016

Researchers suggest that fellow humans that like to eat meat – let's call them carnivores – like the taste of meat, and that they are denying moral rights to animals to avoid a bad conscience.

In a publication of 2010 in a journal that bears the appropriate title 'Appetite', researchers report that carnivores that do not want to let animals suffer pain soothe their consciences by stupidly denying that the animals that they eat have the capacity to suffer.

Until recently it was thought that the 'meat paradox' of people, who like to eat meat but do not want to hurt animals, could be solved in two ways. They could stop eating meat and become a vegetarian or simply refuse to realise that animals have to be slaughtered for their daily piece of meat. A kind of ignorance that is hard to believe, if you ask me. But scientists have discovered there is a third way, where intelligent people do realise that meat comes from slaughtered animals, but just think that animals cannot suffer. While reading about this incredibly ridiculous research and its associated findings, I wondered how the idiot who has given approval for (funding) this study soothes his own conscience.

Rather than change their beliefs about the animals’ moral rights, people could change their behaviour. However, we suspect that most people are unwilling to deny themselves the enjoyment of eating meat, and denying animals moral rights lets them keep eating with a clear conscience.

(Stephen Loughnan, University of Kent; lead author of the study)

What did we gain with this redundant knowledge, findings that belong in the category silly walks? Did we need scientific proof, scientific wording for something that we mortals call selfishness?

And what about the fourth option? People who like eating meat, and believe that during the process of evolution man developed omnivorous teeth as a result of being omnivorous, which includes eating meat. While these same people think that the animals that they eat should live their life without having their welfare impaired and being slaughtered painlessly and without stress.

Having said this, it would be great if some real intelligent scientists are able to exploit Loughnan's findings and develop incentives which encourage people to change their eating habits. Because when meat consumption decreases globally, especially in developed countries, this may lead to a significant reduction of greenhouse gas production, and likewise reduction of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. As it is common knowledge that meat production is an industry that is a major contributor to the total amount of greenhouse gases produced globally.

In 2008 Dutch politician Marianne Thieme tried to convince Dutch society that with respect to greenhouse gas emission, industrial livestock farming is probably worse than all the miles we drive in our cars. To back up here case she used the documentary Meat the Truth, the first to address the link between livestock farming and greenhouse gas emissions. This was right after the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organisation published the report Livestock' long shadow. This report aims to assess the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation. The assessment is based on the most recent and complete data available, taking into account direct impacts, along with the impacts of feedcrop agriculture required for livestock production. The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and biodiversity loss.

It is shocking to read that in the year 2000 the global livestock sector produced an amount of greenhouse gases (methane, N2O) that has the same devastating effect on the environment as the CO2 emission of 33 million cars, roughly. Which means that the livestock sector emits about 40% more greenhouse gases than the transport sector, including road, air and railway freight, in total.

So we should decrease our meat consumption. This is exactly what Eric Davidson tells us to do in the conclusion of his study on nitrous oxide (N2O), the most potent of greenhouse gases, that was published on 12 April 2012 in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Meat consumption in the developed world needs to be cut by 50 percent per person by 2050, and emissions in all sectors – industrial and agricultural – need to be reduced by 50 percent if we are to meet the most aggressive strategy, set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to reduce N2O.

Using a different angle in their approach researchers from Dutch and Austrian universities back up this statement about the environmental impact of the livestock sector in a more recently published study. They point out that we should make our agriculture more efficient and sustainable to feed the global population of nine billion people in 2050. Because if we don't make agriculture sustainable and if we don't change our diets soon, planet Earth cannot cope any longer according to Thomas Kastner and his co-authors in PNAS, May 1, 2012. This can only lead to only one conclusion I say, we should decrease our meat consumption.

The world needs vegetarians, more vegetarians, and even more vegetarians, and much less carnivores. There are no cons, only pros. Industrial livestock farming will disappear, animal welfare improves, global warming may come to a stop, diets become healthier, and grain crops will be used more efficiently as human food (without energy conversion loss as feed). A classic win-win situation!

So funding should be made available for research that delivers the incentives that makes people want to stop eating meat. As far as I know Paul McCartney's song Meatless Monday has not been that successful yet. Moreover that's only one weekday, and we should quit eating meat on at least four days of the week.

If you want to know about the impact of you consumption behaviour, click here.


(Sources: FAO – Livestock's long shadow, 2006; Meat the Truth – a documentary, 2008; Appetite, August 2010; Environmental Research Letters, 12.04.2012)


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