Moos’ Blog

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: FAOLivestock’s long shadow, 2006; Meat the Truth — a doc­u­men­tary, 2008; Appetite, August 2010; Envi­ron­men­tal Research Let­ters, 12.04.2012)

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