When we sit down to eat a meal, we’re probably thinking of how excited we are to dig in … and perhaps how proud we are of ourselves for cooking a wholesome meal. But we probably don’t look at the food on our plates and begin calculating the impact caused by its production. But maybe we should, considering our food has a huge impact on the environment, our health, and animals.
The global animal agriculture industry currently occupies over half of the world’s arable land resources, uses the majority of our freshwater stores, and is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector. Additionally, this system causes rampant air and water pollution, land degradation, deforestation and is pushing countless species to the brink of extinction. But most shockingly, after all of this – one in nine people still suffer from lack of food.
Unfortunately, it seems we are doing a much better job at feeding the 20-odd billion farm animals raised for meat and dairy on the planet than we are people. And most frighteningly, our pursuit of expanding animal agriculture is putting our future food security at great risk.
Adding insult to injury, our diets that are high in meat and dairy is also harming our health. As noted in a recent New York Times article on this issue, “The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has estimated that over half a million deaths worldwide in 2015 were linked to diets high in processed and red meat, which the W.H.O. now classifies as carcinogenic and ‘probably carcinogenic,’ respectively.”
We need to do something to change the course of this devastating food system train we’re on – and fast. Luckily, some of the top thought leaders in the world are taking a stand.
Recently, 200 experts in global health, medicine, biology, policy, and climate research signed an open letter urging the World Health Organization (WHO), an international organization concerned with public health, to address factory farming.
Soon, the WHO will meet in Geneva to select a new director general. The 200 experts are urging the candidates for the new director general to do just one simple thing: recognize and address factory farming as a public health challenge.
The letter (which you can read in full here) also includes a series of policy recommendations, such as:
- Ban the use of growth-promoting antibiotics in animal farming and provide incentives to meat producers to dispose of antibiotics and animal waste in ways that prevent environmental contamination.
- Stop subsidizing factory farming.
- Adopt nutrition standards and implement education campaigns that warn of the health risks of meat consumption.
- Finance research into plant-based alternatives to meat.
Recent studies have calculated that is health guidelines on meat consumption were followed worldwide, food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 29 percent to 45 percent. Even though this would require major changes to food systems, WHO has the power to battle public health threats. And it’s been done before. For instance with, WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty promoting anti-smoking policies among the participating countries.
Knowing all that we do about the impact of meat consumption on the environment and animals, we are faced with a choice – either we can continue to buy into this destructive industry … or we can choose better.
“In order for us to course correct in time for meaningful change to unfold, we have to kick-start a global sustainable food movement now. It’s time for each and every one of us to recognize that the livestock system is at the heart of our environmental crisis,” explained Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder of One Green Planet, “The best part is that we can all exercise our power to be a part of the solution starting today. After all, the real battle for the future of our planet – and the future of the human race – is being fought on your plates, multiple times a day, with every food choice we make.”
You can start eating for the planet by doing nothing more than choosing a delicious plant-based meal over one laden with animal products. If you look at it from a personal perspective, you can cut your own carbon footprint in half just by leaving meat off your plate for one year. (Plus save a lot of water, redirect grain for people to eat, and help protect endangered species…)
We all have the power to create a better future for our children, and the countless animals we share the planet with, by making one easy swap. If you’re ready to start doing this in your own life, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.
Image Source: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project/Flickr
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