Be the change that you wish to see in the world
Commonly attributed to Ghandi, but in fact was a precis of a longer speech that he made. Often we can feel that we are too insignificant individually to make a change to the world. What we can do is to change our behaviour to reflect how we would like everyone to behave. So if you want to make a change to the world, make the change yourself. Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
There are countless ways that each one of us can make a difference (See my article about Ethical Banking) such as cutting down on waste, using less energy, recycling or (better still) re-using, using less water, walking or cycling instead of driving to name a few. All of these are very worthy changes, but there is one change you can make that will result in a huge number of benefits for the planet, the inhabitants of the planet and even yourself; Changing to a plant-based diet.
The Meat Industry
The vast majority of meat bought in the UK is produced in intensive factory farms. These farms are part of a destructive global system of mass-produced industrial meat and dairy. This system is driven by supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda; as well as fast food chains like KFC, Burger King and McDonald’s. Many of these household names buy from companies owned by JBS – the largest meat processing company in the world. Through its meat production, JBS produces around half the carbon emissions of fossil fuel giants such as Shell or BP, and is driving deforestation in the Amazon.
The industrial meat system requires a huge amount of land to sustain itself. Forests, particularly in South America, are deliberately slashed and burned every year to graze cattle and grow enough crops to feed billions of farmed animals.
95% of UK chicken is produced in industrial farms. Almost three million chickens are consumed in the UK every day.
Over a quarter of the world’s entire land area is used to graze or grow food for farm animals – food that could have been eaten by people in the first place. Just 1kg of chicken meat takes 3.2kg of crops to produce.
If everyone ate a plant-based diet, we’d need 75% less farmland than we use today. That’s an area equivalent to the US, China, Europe and Australia combined. That’s because it takes less land to grow food directly for humans, than to feed animals, which humans then eat.
In countries like the UK, we need to be eating 70% less meat and dairy by 2030 to prevent climate breakdown. By eating mostly plant-based food, we could feed more people – with all the calories and nutrition needed for a healthy diet – without destroying forests.
Here’s why industrial meat is so bad for people and the planet:
It causes deforestation and forest fires
Industrial meat is the single biggest cause of deforestation globally. In Brazil, farmers are deliberately setting forest fires – like the Amazon rainforest fires you may have seen in the news – to clear space for cattle ranching and to grow industrial animal feed, like soya, for farms back in the UK.
Forest fires are set deliberately to clear land for grazing or to grow huge volumes of animal feed. © Campbell Plowden / Greenpeace
It causes climate change
The climate impact of meat is enormous – roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world.
When forests are destroyed to produce industrial meat, billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. The fallen trees are often left to rot on the forest floor or are burned, creating further emissions.
Healthy trees are essential for absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. If we cut them down, they can no longer help us in the fight against climate change.
It’s killing Wildlife
By clearing forests, destroying habitats and using toxic pesticides to grow animal food, the industrial meat industry is contributing to the extinction of thousands of species, many of which haven’t even been discovered yet.
We depend on a healthy environment for our own survival. The huge abundance and variety of the natural world (biodiversity) is essential for food, clean water and medicines. The rapid loss of biodiversity, largely driven by industrial farming, could be as big a threat to our existence as climate change.
It’s increasing the risk of future pandemics like Covid-19
Destroying forests and other wild areas for animal agriculture is a major cause of new infectious diseases. Three quarters of new diseases affecting humans come from animals. Cutting down and burning forests brings wildlife into closer contact with people, enabling deadly viruses to pass from animals to humans. The more forest that is destroyed, the greater the risk of a new pandemic.
But that’s not the only disease risk from industrial meat. Factory farms can also increase the spread of disease, both between animals and from animals to humans. The risk is higher for industrial meat farms because huge numbers of animals are crammed into small spaces, and the animals themselves have weaker immune systems. This means that viruses can develop more rapidly and have the potential to pass to humans.
Animals are fed antibiotics and other chemicals in order to enhance growth. These will still be in the meat you eat or the milk you drink in some quantity. Diseased and dead animals are often left to rot among the live animals which can result in the spread of disease. Consuming flesh takes a terrible toll on human health, taxing your digestive system and increasing your risk of suffering from life-threatening diseases. Authorities including the British Medical Association have confirmed that people who consume meat and dairy have a greater likelihood of suffering from obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer than those who don’t. More about this HERE.
And here's why it is so bad for animals:
The Happy Egg Co, owned by Noble Foods, is one of the largest free-range egg producers in the UK. PETA visited farms in Cumbria, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire that supply eggs to the brand which are sold in all major supermarkets in the UK.
While the company’s marketing materials depict happy hens roaming vast green fields covered with foliage and trees, PETA’s footage tells a different story. Take a look at the way hens really live on farms supplying the Happy Egg Co:
Click the image above for more information on the PETA website.
An eyewitness visited farms in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire that supply chickens for Marks & Spencer’s Oakham line on multiple occasions – and uncovered sickening cruelty every time. Read more HERE:
Here are a few short films that show the true horror of the meat industry. Please watch them if you can, but bear in mind that some are difficult to watch.
- Hogwoods is a farm which supplied meat to several supermarkets and was very well thought of. The truth was very different as this 30 minute film shows. Graphic.
- Cowspiracy is a film about the meat industry in the US. This is definitely worth watching. It is not graphic but gives a lot to think about.
- Seaspiracy is the fishing version of Cowspiracy.
- Ellwoods Dog Meat is a website with a twist on meat eating. There is nothing graphic but definitely worth reading and makes you think.
- Forks over Knives follows two medical experts as they explore how eating vegan can be the solution to so many common health problems
- Earthlings shows how human dependency on animals can lead to abusive practices. Graphic.
The links below take you to the description and background for the films.The first three films are (or recently were) on Netflix but they may be found on YouTube too if you are interested. The last two can be watched by clicking the title below.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many, many examples of cruelty caused by eating meat and dairy products. This page is a work in progress and I will add to it from time to time.
There are so many reasons to eat a plant based diet, and hardly any for eating meat and dairy. Please consider changing to a plant based diet for the planet, the animals and for yourself! - Dave