Saving the worldMany global problems could be curtailed if people adopted vegan lifestyles
Whether meat is good or bad for health is a perennial topic of discussion. Religious beliefs and animal rights are issues associated with meat products being considered as food. Of late, climate change, biodiversity and the economy are being linked to meat production. From the point of view of medical science, meat consumption may cause chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity. It can result in a shorter lifespan in the long run, and constipation and diarrhoea and many other problems in the short run.
Scientists claim that meat attracts harmful bacteria and other pathogens, raising the possibility of communicable diseases. Red meat immediately affects a person with high uric acid level. At the same time, meat is claimed to be a major source of protein and the only source of vitamin D among all food items. Some religious leaders believe that killing animals for food is a sin while others argue that God has not forbidden people from eating meat. In Nepal too, the debate rages. Hindu gurus are against killing livestock, but most Hindu followers eat meat.
According to the Department of Livestock, Nepalis consume 330,000 tonnes of meat annually. The country spends more than Rs100 billion on livestock every year, which is 3.33 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Experts say that livestock farming is destroying our planet and the economy. Australian animal rights activist Philip Wollen said, “Meat kills animals, kills us and is killing our economy.” Consumption of meat has invited many health problems.
Large amounts of methane and nitrous oxide are generated through livestock farming. They are respectively 20 and 250 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, emissions from the production of beef and lamb are 250 times higher, and from the production of pork and poultry 40 times higher, than production of the same amount of legumes or grain. Conversely, we can reduce greenhouse emissions by consuming grain. According to a report published in international science journal Nature, a projected 80 percent increase in global greenhouse gas emissions from food production can be avoided if livestock is replaced by vegetation.
Today a billion people worldwide suffer from chronic malnutrition and insecure food supplies, and among them, 20 million people die yearly. While 35 percent of the grain produced worldwide annually is fed to livestock, cutting meat production by only 10 percent will save enough grain to feed 100 million people. So, it is claimed that eliminating meat will end starvation forever.
A heart-touching truth is that people in the Third World sell grain to the West, while their children suffer from starvation. The grain they sell to the West is fed to livestock. Looking at it from one angle, livestock consumes wastage grass on underutilised land and converts it into useful protein, as a result, pressure on grain and vegetables becomes lighter. But some experts believe that this contribution is very small if we look at commercial livestock production around the globe which uses fertile land to raise cattle.
Livestock plays an important role in the global biodiversity crisis. About 80 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon, the densest and largest forest in the world, is due to cattle raising. The livestock industry produces carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are killing our oceans with acidic, hypoxic dead zones. Vegetarian cows are now the world’s largest ocean predator as their manure and other by-products eventually end up in the ocean, and that causes marine animal death.
Experts predict that all our fisheries will be dead by the year 2048 if we continue livestock farming in the current fashion. Billions of bouncy little chicks are ground up alive because they are male. Likewise, 90 percent of small fishes are ground up to make pellets. In Nepal, thousands of innocent male calves are abandoned to die because they are useless.
The human population never exceeded 1 billion until 1800, but now it has reached 7.5 billion as the population growth rate increased rapidly in the last centuries and decades. On the other hand, we people torture and kill 2 billion animals every week. Every year, around 10 thousand species are wiped out because of the actions of human beings. Experts says that we are now facing the sixth mass extinction in cosmological history.
In the near future, water will become the new oil because underground aquifers that took millions of years to fill are running dry very quickly. Millions of poor people are facing a scarcity of pure drinking water today. On the other hand, it takes 50,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beef.
Animal rights activist Wollen says, “If everyone ate a Western diet, we would need two planet earths to feed them, but we only have one, and it is also dying because of our activities.” However, experts are hopeful as animal rights has now become a burning agenda in social justice issues. There are 600 million vegetarians in the world today, and the number is increasing.