Vegetarian week in Thailand has drawn to a close. In recent years even the Thais seem to have come round to the idea that a vegetarian diet is more healthy.
Traditionally, rice farmers relied on meat to provide those nutrients that rice (the old variety that was full of nutrition, as opposed to the modern ‘high yield’ strains) could not. Meat was necessary. The hill tribes without electricity know this – having no refrigerators to store food means their diets are missing some proteins – proteins that are made up by meat. They eat any animal moving, including squirrels.
But the modern world does have electricity, and plenty of options regarding diet. Meat eating is not a necessity.
American and European families congratulate themselves on driving electric hybrid cars and saving the planet by doing so – ignoring the fact that the electricity is produced by burning the same fuels that power cars. An electric hybrid might be cheaper to run, but that is mostly due to the fact that electricity is taxed less than gasoline. They are only very marginally more efficient than a regular diesel engine. If you really want to reduce greenhouse gasses, you would be better stopping eating meat.
The planets 1.5 billion cows, and its bulls, pigs and other large grazers, contribute more to greenhouse gasses than cars, planes and trains do. Not to mention using 30% of the worlds ‘green land’ cover – land that could be used for crops (‘white land’ cover is ice regions). Land used for crops feeds vastly more people than land for meat or dairy.
When cows eat they generate methane. This is belched (from the front end) and though small in quantity, the methane is 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the usual G.W. culprit carbon dioxide. Put another way – it would take methane from 200 cows to power a car for a year. Yet a single cow produces more global warming gasses than a single car does (Some rough figures) .
Farm waste, washed downhill by rain, is a major source of water pollution. The methane and ammonia in cow dung rise into the air with evaporating water — and fall back down as ingredients of acid rain.
In China, phosphorus and nitrogen contamination are flowing into the South China Sea, killing off marine life.
Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain.
Ranching, the report adds, is “the major driver of deforestation” worldwide, and overgrazing is turning a fifth of all pastures and ranges into desert.Cows also soak up vast amounts of water: it takes a staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.
Wastes from feedlots and fertilisers used to grow their feed overnourish water, causing weeds to choke all other life. And the pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used to treat them get into drinking water and endanger human health.
It seems clear that whether you believe in global warming or not, refraining from beef, pork and milk products will have a positive environmental effect.
But what to put on your pizza instead of cheese ?