Who can afford a ticket to the newly discovered planet Kepler-452b or the anti-senescence genes found in the crocodile DNA? Not a bunch of people. For now and for more decades to come, we and our children have one finite planet and life.
Individuals decide if they want to live and survive, and act accordingly. When they don’t, it is simply called ‘suicide’. Individuals are free to decide for themselves but not for the others and not for our species, right?
As one of the representatives of the human species and of planet Earth, I invite you to rationally connect some dots on a controversial subject: meat consumption. It is not an ecological or global health issue if we consider one individual impact, but what happens when our personal choice sum up with others?
We are close to 7.5 billion humans today. There are also 60 billion cows, pigs, sheep, chicken, etc, killed and eaten this last single year. This number is expected to double with the emergent middle class of developing countries. The only way to reach the huge and increasing meat demand today is industrial production. Eating meat at this current pace and at our population scale has become irrational from a purely human-centered perspective, and this is why:
1. The first cause of deforestation is meat-based agriculture. The unnaturally high density of cattle and poultry not only produces carbon emissions but destroys forests that could neutralized a part of their carbon emissions. Half of the world’s cultivated crops (corn, soja, wheat) are needed to feed the animals. Instead of directly feeding humans with these crops and mitigating deforestation, we inject them in the meat-industry funnel (since 7kg of grains equals 1kg of beef meat), raising local market costs and reducing the amount of available food and spatial resources.
2. Fish consumption is actually worse. As we are facing increasing problems because of climate change (climate refugees, hazardous meteorological phenomenons, etc), we are vacuuming oceans. So what? Oceans are the biggest carbon-neutralizing element thanks to phytoplanctons. Overfishing for direct human or fish farms consumption, as well as pollution of all sources (industrial & urban wastes, cattle & fish farms sewage), strongly affects ocean ecosystems. It ends up threatening big key species like whales and sharks which at the same time live on, feed and allow the regeneration of the phytoplanctons.
3. The first causes of human mortality in the world today are cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Saturated fat, mostly and highly present in meat and dairy, as well as fried oil, salt & sugar, have been known for long to be responsible for cardiovascular diseases. Last year, despite lobby pressures, the World Health Organisation finally classified processed meat as carcinogenic and unprocessed meat as likely carcinogenic. The more the animal is distressed during his ‘life’ and his slaughter, the more toxins will be found in its meat.
4. The most likely future causes of mass human mortality are pandemics. Viruses and bacterias have been crossing species boundaries, and industrial farms are nothing less than the best super-germs incubators ever designed on Earth. The cocktail of vaccines, antivirals and antibiotics given to animals (from the cow to the shrimp!) allow the resistance development of germs inside the breeding units, but also outside as medicine residues are found in the meat we eat. Swine flu, avian flu and others are unfortunately just early signals of much more virulent ones.
The WHO, FAO, OECD, INRA, Stanford Institute, Harvard University and many others recognized these significant and increasing impacts and coming risks of meat consumption on ecological and global health. Many and more legitimate reports are published online. Like says Idriss Aberkane, truth goes through different stages: ridicule, opposition, evidence. Why evidence is so difficult to embrace? By ignorance or arrogance? As a species, are we too confident in our technological hegemony to respect simple ecological, biological and epidemiological rules?
Recently, a vegetarian catering policy has been introduced in Germany, banning meat and fish from government official functions canteens. Find out more about it on this link. This has generated strong controversial reactions: pro-ecological policy versus pro-individual knee jerks. Which is more beneficial for our societies and species? And what is the most shocking?
As we are all concerned, kudos to Angela Merkel and Barbara Hendricks for recognizing that current meat consumption is damaging to the environment and global safety. I thank them for taking action by implementing this pioneering policy. Let’s see if other governments will follow.