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Meat: An Exploration, Part II

IN PART II OF AN EXPLORATION INTO REDUCING MEAT CONSUMPTION, AYLA DUNN BIEBER DISCUSSES COMMON ROADBLOCKS TO EATING LESS MEAT, AS WELL AS HELPFUL SOLUTIONS AND TIPS…

Camp parent Lianna Levine Reisner writes:

Our family has chosen not to eat any animal products, first for health reasons, but we are really committed to this holistically because animal agriculture contributes to a huge amount of environmental degradation, from CO2 and methane emissions to land overuse and rainforest deforestation, to water use and water pollution. Meat itself is the worst offender, but poultry, dairy, and eggs are significant as well. Exercising responsibility for climate change on a day-to-day basis is very much related to what we eat, and I feel like I can have more integrity as a climate activist when I align our kitchen with our values.

There are a ton of resources about this on the web, but I really like Brighter Green’s research and position papers. I also just came across this report which summarizes the environmental benefits achieved by one school district in California that has dramatically reduced the meat and dairy in their meals. It’s worth reading to see how much the district’s footprint has been reduced by this one, relatively simple change!

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you for your input and resources Lianna!

 

Keeping the conversation going from last month’s Dirt

Last night, Emily Selover and I facilitated our first meeting in a three-month series on Sustainability, which we are calling Community Exchange, held at the Hungry Hollow Co-op. This month’s topic was ‘reducing our meat consumption’. We talked about roadblocks, challenges, and hesitations to reducing meat-eating; and then about tools, strategies, and resources to help us moving forward. I wanted to share some of the highlights in hopes they might resonate/help with your own exploration of the topic.

 

Roadblocks/Challenges/Hesitations:

  • Convenience of cooking meat – ‘it’s what I know/what’s easiest’
  • Partners not being on board – the need to cook separate meals
  • Breaking family habits/traditions
  • Time/need to pre-plan
  • Worry that I won’t feel full
  • Not being in touch with the process of meat production on a visceral level (it is easy to buy a clean piece of meat pre-packaged in the store)

Tools/Strategies:

  • Pre-plan your meals for the week and take your meals/recipe lists with you to the store
  • Get inspired to broaden your veggie-based repertoire (use Pinterest, share cookbooks, get together with friends for a recipe exchange)
  • Focus on reducing by creating manageable goals
  • Substitute a percentage of the meat that would normally be in your meal with a meat-free alternative (slowly weaning yourself off the reliance on meat while incorporating new recipes)
  • Work on legislation to tax beef, move subsidies away from the meat industry, etc.
  • Think about learning more about processing road-kill (there’s lots to read about and plenty of great arguments for this mode of meat-consumption—though it might seem wild to think about at first)
  • Join a Zero-Waste community for support/ideas/friends to cook with/people to do activism work with (look no further – Emily and I are starting one! Shoot us your email address if you want to join)

 

Endless thanks for being on this journey together and for all your efforts toward sustainability!

Ayla

 

Meat: An Exploration

Ayla Dunn Bieber tackles the subject of meat consumption and how reducing it is the best way to fight climate change…

Meat: it is a hot topic. Below we will be looking strictly at the environmental impacts of eating meat. Spoiler alert – It’s a doozy!

All of the text that I’ve highlighted in green below was taken directly from https://veganuary.com/why/environment/. I found their website hugely informative and well sited and wanted to provide you with direct quotes.

image source: www.gotdrought.info

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, farmed animals contribute 14.5 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than every car, plane, truck and train on the planet. [1]

The largest single cause of deforestation is agriculture. [2] Meaning, due to our global meat demand, we are cutting down the earth’s rainforests to clear more land to either graze game (mostly cattle) or grow crops to feed these animals. We’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year – that’s equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute. [3]

Humans have wiped out 60 percent of animal populations since 1970, with many scientists believing we are in the era of a sixth mass extinction, and the first to be caused by a species. [4]

The three leading causes of this unprecedented massacre are:
-Destruction of habitats, largely to create farmland
-Wild animals being eaten
-Fishing [4]

In fact, agriculture and over-exploitation (including fishing) are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change. [5] Quite simply, eating animal products is destroying our wildlife.

When you read these statistics, how do you feel?

I felt shocked, disgusted, admittedly skeptical, and then ultimately, horrified. Truth be told, I’d been hearing whispers of information like this for some time. But, I chose to look the other way as I very much enjoyed eating meat and felt like my body needed it. That all changed abruptly a few weeks ago, when I got together with a few members of our camp Administration to watch the film “Cowspiracy”.

After watching this film (which did spark debate within the scientific community around how the filmmakers quantified and calculated GHG emissions), I could not ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Though the UN’s 14.5% estimate (the first quote in this article) is likely more accurate than the higher emissions percentage suggested by “Cowspiracy”, the truth is still overwhelmingly clear: WE MUST REDUCE OUR MEAT CONSUMPTION. It is clear that it is the single biggest thing we, as individuals, can do to reduce climate change.

For me, one of the most impactful lines in the movie was last one: ‘You can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat, period’. Daniel and I had begun the conversation about our own meat consumption before the movie, but the pace of our decision making quickened that night. The next day we began our meat-consumption-reduction. So far we have cut out most meat entirely, eating a small amount of chicken or fish (about once a week) and occasionally eating dairy.

I still have a lot to learn and I encourage each of you to dig in with me, if you haven’t already. Let’s continue to educate ourselves so we can be the effective environmentalists we want to be.

A place to start: consider cutting your meat (especially beef) consumption in half. This is a great goal to begin with in this new year!

Our friends at The Hungry Hollow Co-op are offering the coupon below to give readers a discount on produce as we transition towards more plant-centered consumption! Just present your coupon at checkout to receive the discount.

Please share your thoughts and information on this topic. Like all sustainability efforts, it is key that we are in this work together!

 

Until next time,

Ayla

 

1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, ‘Tackling climate change through livestock: a global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities’, 2013 http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3437e.pdf [Accessed 1 December 2018]
2 ‘Forest conversion’, World Wildlife Fund http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/deforestation/deforestation_causes/forest_conversion/ [Accessed 1 December 2018]
3 ‘Deforestation: overview’, World Wildlife Fund https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation [Accessed 1 December 2018]
4 Damian Carrington, ‘Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds’ The Guardian, 30 Oct 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds [Accessed 1 December 2018]
5 Jessica Aldred, ‘Agriculture and overuse greater threats to wildlife than climate change – study’, The Guardian, 10 Aug 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/10/agriculture-and-overuse-greater-threats-to-wildlife-than-climate-change-study [Accessed 1 December 2018]