5 Things To Know This National Vegetarian Week
Happy National Vegetarian Week! It’s the time when scores of Brits give up sausage rolls for the week. Or if you’re like me and vegetarianism was forced upon you from a young age, you’re carrying on eating hummus for breakfast and dinner as you always do!
But apart from a chance for some great veggie food, this week is an opportunity to get the facts on vegetarianism. Could giving up meat be the key to tackling catastrophic climate change? Or is it a fad, best left to the Paul McCartneys (and Greenpeace staffers) of the world?
Here’s 5 things you need to know about the impact of meat on our precious planet – to help you make up your mind, whether it’s just for the week, or for years to come.
1. First things first, there’s no beating around the bush – animal agriculture is a huge cause of climate change.
Globally, the greenhouse gas emissions of the meat industry are greater than every plane, train, car, lorry and boat – put together! Pretty shocking stuff.
2. To be specific, the methane gas from agriculture – from animals’ digestive systems, deforestation, land and energy use – make up around 18 per cent of global emissions.
Fossil fuels cause about 57% of global emissions. But there’s still no doubt that if we all started putting less and less meat in our trolleys, it would start slowing demand and that’d be brilliant news for our planet.
3. Emissions aren’t the only way agriculture harms our planet – farming causes deforestation too.
Cattle ranching is the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon. A few years ago nearly 80% of deforested areas in Brazil was used for pasture. That’s why in recent years people across the globe have been taking on big cattle players.
4. So with huge CO2 emissions and bad news for forests, cutting down on meat is clearly a great thing for the environment. But we live in a world where we’re breaking our records for the hottest year every year and droughts and floods are increasing. We need huge structural change, for our leaders to take tougher action on fossil fuels, for corporations to stop going after profit instead of looking after our planet. Giving up meat can never be a solution alone, nor promoted as a one-size fits all policy to saving the environment.
5. Why? Because for people on the front lines of climate change, being a vegetarian isn’t necessarily the best way of fighting global warming. In the developed world, most of us live lifestyles that are carbon-heavy. We drive, most of our power is provided by coal or gas and some of us fly across the world at the drop of a hat (flights are around 13%–15% of total greenhouse gas emissions from the UK).
We should be cutting down on all of those things. But many people in other parts of the world live much less damaging lifestyles – so they spend their time speaking out against huge corporations and dodgy governments instead.
So, go veggie! Go vegan even! I’m 25 years vegetarian and I’m yet to fall over from a lack of protein. But remember that doing this alone won’t solve climate change – remember to demand 100% renewable power too, demand a stop to the endless production of more and more things, demand that rich governments help poorer ones to decrease emissions.
And yes, if you’re into that kind of thing, then demand more more hummus too (alternatively check out some amazing recipe recommendations from Greenpeace supporters)!
About India Thorogood
Digital Campaigner at Greenpeace UK