Maybe we should just kill the cows? …Vegetarianism and sustainability

CowI’m vegetarian. It can be socially awkward, ‘uncool’ and hard to justify. It always invites the question, ‘WHY?’ and my love of questions does not extend to a love of answering them! That said, growing up with three meat-eating brothers, I’ve defended almost every argument there is to defend, and considered most points of view.

Let’s look at cool side of being vegetarian for once though:

  • It’s good for your health – Vegetarianism can reduce the risk of heart disease by 32% and Vegetarians have lower BMI on average than the general population.
  • It’s generally cheap(er)  
  • Contrary to popular belief it can actually be very tasty! – Simple, nutritious options are endless

They are all benefits to me, but what are the benefits to the wider environment?

  • Fewer Greenhouse Gases – 9% of human related CO2 emissions are caused by the livestock sector and methane from cows and sheep is responsible for 37% for the total methane generated by human activity.
  • Helps preserve ocean eco systems – The latest World Review of Fisheries and Aquaculture found that 19% of major commercial marine fish stocks monitored by the FAO are currently overexploited.
  • Saves water – meat production accounts for over 8% over human water consumption.
  • Makes more efficient use of the land –cattle need 7kg or grain to produce 1kg of meat. A typical diet requires up to 2.5 times the amount of land compared to a vegetarian diet

Of course, it would be unfair not to say there are benefits to eating meat too, but there is a critical balance, and that’s what Green Impact criteria B018 is getting at. MSC fish helps to ensure sustained eco systems, procuring increased amounts of vegetarian food helps to minimise the impacts above, and free range eggs help to support positive animal welfare. Small changes can make a big difference. Maybe it’s not that uncool.

Question of the day: Could you go meat free at least one day a week?

Action of the day: Check out Meat Free Mondays for ideas


Statistics courtesy of the Vegetarian Society

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