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Environmental impact of the meat industry



  • I watched the programme, and it was fascinating, and a well-balanced, nuanced look at the world-wide implications of meat production, especially the exponential rise over the past couple of decades.  
    I had thought that the Brazilian rainforest was mainly destroyed for the timber it yielded.  It transpires that huge swathes of the forest (going on memory, I think about 20% reduction) are turned into ranch areas for cattle.
    To feed the cattle and other animals around the world, large areas of savannah (never mentioned when referring to Amazonian deforestation) are cleared to grow soy and maize as animal feed.  So we clear a habitat, use it for a monoculture to grow specific plants (and the diversity of insects is immediately compromised) which are then fed to animals for humans to eat the meat.  Perhaps there is something to be said for using land to grow plants for humans to eat rather than extending the process.
    It is true that increasing wealth in developing countries creates further demand for meat.  However, it was shocking to see the huge (72 oz steak in one sitting, anyone?) quantities of meat consumed through nothing but gluttony.  In this respect, I'm afraid it is the American market that stands guilty in so many ways.
    Intensively reared animals with no pasture and a depressing environment did nothing to assure me that most of these practises are acceptable.
    I am lucky to live in Devon.  There are many farms in the area that produce beef to a high standard (grass fed, low concentrations per acre), upland areas that produce lamb, utilising land that is not fit for arable, pigs from relatively nearby Wiltshire, where many are reared in the open in sustainable and humane ways (as opposed to crated and confined barns).
    There isn't a perfect answer, but we can be more careful about the meat we choose to eat and the balance of meat protein to plant protein, for example, that collectively could make a difference.
    If you didn't see the programme, it is well worth watching on catch-up imo.

  • Like Lizzie27 says, it's not just the animals, there are a lot of us as well actively polluting the planet.
    , everyone has the right to as many children as they want. However, better education would be a start.
    I'd certainly agree that we humans are a polluting lot.
    Along with rights come responsibilities. 
    In poorer countries with a high child death rate, procreation was seen as the answer to keeping a family afloat - more children = more labour for family enterprise.
    That doesn't really apply to  the "Western world" but it is still common here for people to produce children when they are unable to care for them and ensure that they have a good start in life. As you say, education would help as would better access to birth control and furthering the idea that women do have a say in life these days.
    We need children  - not only to provide a work force for the future and to pay for the care of the "oldies" but also to fix our computers, be astounded by their innocence and generally enjoy their company. 
    No real easy solution I fear :)

  • KT53KT53 Posts: 4,432
    I didn't watch it as the trailer for it with the constantly trembling lower lip were enough to put me off.  There are certainly problems with pollution, but there is no simple solution.  If meat consumption ceased there would clearly be a massive increase in crops required, and I very much doubt there is currently sufficient quality land for arable production.  The solution?  Chop down more trees to create arable land, flood that land with fertiliser to maximise production.  The runoff then pollutes the rivers and onwards to the sea.  But that presumably would be a price worth paying to get rid of meat - not to me it's not.
    When somebody comes up with a fully rounded solution I may change my eating habits, but not before.
  • @KT53:  the programme was more nuanced than perhaps the trailer suggested.  There was nothing to say we should collectively give up meat - but a better balance could, perhaps, be struck.
    At the moment, a lot of vegetable protein from beans carries a high carbon footprint from the plants being grown in the far-flung reaches of the world.  
    Flooding the land with fertiliser is, the programme suggested, a by-product of animal husbandry, and it causes vast amounts of pollution in rivers and ultimately in the seas, as anyone who has witnessed the algae blooms off our coasts (many in the South West) will attest.
    You are quite right - a fully rounded solution is needed.  There is no simple answer.  For example, reduction in methane from cattle can be brought about by feeding them a seaweed supplement.  The long-term effects of harvesting the seaweed have yet to be evaluated.
    We cannot give up animal farming totally, but we can, perhaps, modify the means of production to the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 63,956
    Applying manure from intensively reared cattle to the land can, in some cases, result in run off and pollution. Naturally grazing animals ‘fertilize as they go’ and this is naturally incorporated into the pasture (worms, beetles etc) and will not swamp the land. 
    It has also been proved that grass fed cattle give off much less methane than corn fed ones .... grass, not grain, is the natural diet of ruminants. 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 3,182
    Moderation in all things is the answer, but unfortunately not attainable. Never will people of any country give up what they have, what they want, or perceive they need. 
    They won't  produce less, whether that be population, food or things. They won't be satisfied buying what is available locally and doing without the rest. 
    A person can be sensible,  people are greedy. The bigger the group, whether it is corporations, religions or political the worse it gets. 
    Unfortunately I won't live long enough to see any of this change, if it ever does.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 26,165
    I think , for the sake of the oceans, it'd be better if we all gave up fish to let the stocks build back up.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 26,165
    the way Russia and China are hoovering up everything they can find, I fear our efforts at not going to solve things
  • KT53KT53 Posts: 4,432
    For example, reduction in methane from cattle can be brought about by feeding them a seaweed supplement.  The long-term effects of harvesting the seaweed have yet to be evaluated.

    I think it was also on Countryfile that they had a piece with a farmer who creates his own biochar and feeds that to his cattle.  That apparently has also greatly reduced the amount of methane they produce.  The added bonus being that the biochar passes through pretty much intact after doing it's internal job and still adds nutrient to the fields.

    I'm just sick of people getting on their soap boxes and preaching at us.  Yes change is needed but it's far more likely to be achieved if the hearts and minds are won over by reasoned argument, not by some kid or celeb telling us what to do whilst doing something totally different themselves.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 26,165
    Hexagon said:
    KT53 said:

    I'm just sick of people getting on their soap boxes and preaching at us.
    Absolutely this.
    Apart from David Attenborough's Blue Planet moment which seems to have had a huge effect on plastic waste.
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