I’m saving the world

19 June 2008

John Harris has written an interesting comment piece for the Guardian about being vegetarian. He raises interesting points:

The decisive arrival of the current food crisis must be making them feel even more righteous. As daily news reports now remind us, there are three key factors behind the rocketing price of the most basic foodstuffs: the rising cost of oil, swathes of agricultural land being given over to biofuels, and the fact that the increasing affluence of China and India is spearheading an explosion in the demand for meat and the feed needed to produce it.

Now, thankfully, there comes this new vegetarian(ish) agenda, and the chance to make the case against meat-eating on more level-headed grounds: that even if meat will remain part of most people’s diet, they are going to have to eat less of it; and that right now, this is actually more about human lives than those of animals.

It’s been known for a while that using scarce resources to breed meat for consumption has a bigger ecological footprint than simply growing crops themselves. According to the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, livestock contribute more to global warming than transport, producing 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Toronto Vegetarian Association published a very interesting article too with a lot more detail. As a vegetarian it’s good to think that my diet is less likely to contribute to climate change then prolific meat eating, but the issues are wider.

As poorer nations become richer and diets ever mote meat-focussed it’s important for the richer nations to lead the way in thinking about what impact what we eat has on our environment, as well as ourselves. I’m not going to be a millitant vegetarian and talk of the evils of eating any meat at all, but in doing our bit for the environment we shouldn’t forget about what’s going in our mouths as well as thinking about whether we should drive to the supermarket or fly Ryanair from Glasgow to London. It’s about thinking and reducing meat intake, it’s about local food, organic food. Most importantly it’s not just good for the environment, but it’s good for our short term and long term health.

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