In recent years, more and more information has been surfacing about the tremendous toll industrial agriculture and factory farming has taken on the environment. In fact, the number one cause of carbon emissions comes from animal agriculture itself, and this is the biggest contributor to the drastic decline in the Earth’s rainforests.
This is not the only problem here, as overall health continues to decline from diets that are based largely around meat, causing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer to be at an all-time high. Governments are starting to note the detrimental effects this is causing people and the planet. Because of this, new initiatives are popping up everywhere that aim to reverse or at least slow down this growing problem.
The U.K. government has recommended citizens consume less dairy, and the Netherlands released a new set of dietary guidelines suggesting citizens consume less meat due to sustainability and environmental concerns. Even the U.S. has issued a federal report outlining the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet for health and environmental concerns.
Recently, a monumental announcement has been made: the Chinese government released a new set of dietary guidelines that, if followed, have the potential to see the overall consumption of meat in the country drop by a whopping 50%.
The Chinese Ministry of Health (the government entity responsible for the health guidelines and health-related laws and regulations) is advising the citizens to limit meat intake to only 200 grams per day. At this time, the current consumption of meat and eggs in China is on average 300 grams per day.
The new guidelines were developed by the Chinese Nutrition Society with a goal of reducing obesity rates among its citizens. This couldn’t have come at a better time, considering a recent study found that obesity and other diseases related to diet have been growing in the country, and this could potentially be related to the increasing consumption of meat and dairy products.
How Will This Help?
These new guidelines can definitely benefit public health, but because the population of China is so large, a report from WildAid indicated that if these guidelines are taken seriously by the Chinese population, they would have the potential to reduce China’s greenhouse gas emissions related to meat consumption by an amount that is equal to 1.5% of all global emissions.
It is important that this report has been released, as meat and dairy consumption have been on the rise in rapidly developing countries like China and India. Still, in the U.S. the average amount of meat consumed daily is more than China, at around 384 grams a day. There is hope, however, as Americans are generally eating less meat: 30% are opting out of meat for every meal more frequently and the overall consumption of meat in America has dropped by around one third since the 1970s.
Because China’s population is currently around 1.38 billion, the implications of their new dietary guidelines are huge.
What Most People Are Unaware Of
The production of meat has a tremendous cost on the planet. 45% of the Earth’s landmass is occupied by animal agriculture, and if that wasn’t bad enough, another 33% is used to grow the feed for animal livestock. What’s baffling about this information is that it is still not addressed during the UN climate talks, even though a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stated that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
In a clip from the increasingly popular documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, (available on Netflix) Dr. Richard Oppenlander, environmental researcher and author of Comfortably Unaware had this to say:
“My calculations are that, without using any gas, or oil, or fuel ever again, from this day forward, that we would still exceed our maximum carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions…by the year 2030, without the electricity sector or energy sector even factoring into the equation. All simply by raising and eating livestock.”
Yet the main concern is to carpool more, drive less, and use hybrid vehicles, all of which can certainly help, but it won’t help nearly as much as if everyone simply consumed less meat.
So, How Can You Help?
Well, there is the obvious choice that was mentioned above: you could simply choose to consume less meat. I don’t want to tell you to go strict vegetarian or vegan, but something as simple as just consuming less meat can have tremendous benefits for the planet, and your health. There is an initiative called Meatless Mondays that encourages people and families to consider having one meat-free day a week. This is something that no doubt everyone is capable of, and it’s very likely you can even take it farther than this, but it is a great way to get your feet wet, and step into a new dietary realm.
Aside from all of the amazing new advancements with plant-based alternatives to meat and other animal products, there are also many delicious, unique, and simple vegetarian recipes just waiting for you to try out. Sacrificing meat more often can lead to greater health for you, less torture overall to the factory farmed animals, and is likely to lower greenhouse gas emissions and thus potentially save the planet. What have you got to lose?
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