World Meat Free Day 2016: Why vegetarianism could be our future

According to the FAO the UK consumed on average 85.8 kilogrammes per person in 2012

Louis Dore
Monday 13 June 2016 11:10 BST
According to the FAO, 40 per cent of the food grown in the world today is feed for animals
According to the FAO, 40 per cent of the food grown in the world today is feed for animals (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Today is World Meat Free Day, and people all over the world are trying to go meat free for one day – but environmental concerns may mean we should all be considering the choice permanently.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), in 2012 the United Kingdom ranked 22nd for meat consumption per person. We consumed on average 85.8 kilogrammes per person per year.

Of this amount 22 kg was estimated to be beef, 27.9kg was pork, 29.2kg was poultry and 6.1kg was mutton and goat.

According to the FAO, 40 per cent of the food grown in the world today is feed for animals, and it says that figure is likely to increase to 60 per cent in the next 20 years with the emergence of an expanding global middle class who can afford to eat more meat and dairy.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that we are at a low point in our consumption of meat globally, following the financial crisis of 2007.

However, the cost of meat may not be the only reason we should consider taming our carnivorous taste buds.

Our meat consumption also affects the environment, as government targets for methane reduction are burdened by the agriculture sectors need to cater to demand for methane producing animals.

The United States' Environmental Protection Agency says that methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas and that globally, over 60% of total CH4 emissions come from human activities.

Global efforts to reduce methane have been prioritised more and more in recent years as our issue with consumption becomes more apparent.

In January of last year the White House announced targets to cut methane emisisons from the oil and gas sector by 40-45 per cent, and encouraged farmers to use biodigesters to capture and use methane emissions from agricultural waste.

Methane emissions are dropping on the whole - this year we will produce 47.86 million metric tons of methane equivalent to carbon dioxide - but our passion for meat means that agriculture is still the slowest sector in terms of methane reductions.

23 per cent of the planet’s arable land is taken up with beef cattle.

In 2010, the UKs Department of Energy and Climate Change reported that agriculture had surpassed waste management as the sector producing the highest amounts of methane, due to slower reductions than any other sector.

Meanwhile in 2015, the agriculture sector dominates more and more of the methane emissions pie – nearly half of our total emissions.

In 2014, a YouGov survey for Eating Better Alliance revealed that over a third of people in the UK (35 per cent) report they are willing to eat less meat, with one-in-five (20 per cent) saying they had cut back in the last year.

This is not simply to do with environmental or monetary concerns either, as there are health benefits to lowering meat intake.

Red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer. Evidence compiled in hundreds of studies suggest that diets with high fruits and vegetable intakes may reduce cancer risk.

Consumption of these meats is also associated with increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Sue Dibb, Coordinator of the Eating Better Alliance, said "Eating less meat is a simple way to eat healthily and it’s better for the environment too. World Meat Free Day is a fantastic campaign that can really make a difference to the world we live in.

"As an alliance, we are encouraging changes in the attitudes of businesses, governments and consumers, but we cannot do this alone.

"Every individual has the power to make change happen and we urge everyone to pledge to join this growing movement."

Joyce D’Silva, Ambassador at Compassion in World Farming, said "Pledging not to eat meat for a day is a simple, positive solution that we can all be a part of. Eating too much meat is devastating for our health, the environment and causes suffering to animals."

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