Climate change

Having meat to eat not worth changing the world's climate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2007, 12:00am

Global warming is one of the most serious threats to our environment and has been called humankind's greatest challenge. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific panel that met recently to discuss global warming, reported that climate change is very likely caused by human activities, including the consumption of fossil fuels and deforestation. The IPCC predicts that by the end of the century, temperatures might increase by as much as four degrees Celsius and sea levels may rise 18 to 59 centimetres.

Scientists foresee floods, melting ice caps, devastating droughts, and stronger hurricanes and tropical storms. Wildlife will struggle to survive. It's not something to be proud of, but the panel does reassure us global warming could be reduced substantially if people took immediate action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Here's what they didn't explain: Switching to a vegan diet is a simple, effective way to lower greenhouse-gas emissions.

The digestive processes of the over 9 billion animals slaughtered for their flesh every year in China and the excrement these animals produce release enormous amounts of methane - a potent greenhouse gas that is 23 times as warming as CO2.

A November 2006 report published by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) revealed the livestock sector generates 18 per cent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all transportation systems, including cars and trucks. The FAO also reported that the livestock industry is responsible for 37 per cent of anthropogenic (i.e. generated by human activity) methane and 65 per cent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide - both of which have more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. The FAO blamed the livestock sector for heavy deforestation, and according to the World Resources Institute, deforestation is responsible for about 20 per cent of all global-warming emissions.

I may not be a scientist, but I think the answer is obvious: Having meat to eat is not worth changing the world's climate, killing animals - both pigs and polar bears - or damaging our health.

Bruce Friedrich, vice-president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals