Reducing one’s meat consumption is the simplest most effective step one can take to reduce one’s greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, animal husbandry indirectly and directly accounts for almost 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the transport sector.
The expansion of animal husbandry is one of the main causes of deforestation. Firstly, because space is needed for animals to graze and this is often taken from the forest. Also, because feeding the animals in intensive stockbreeding requires large amounts of forage and cereal: it takes seven kilos of soya beans or corn, 36 kilos of forage and 16 000 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef. The soil on which the soya bean crops are grown is mostly taken from the Amazon forest. Deforestation emits large amounts of greenhouse gas.
Moreover, cows release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, when they break wind and burp – almost 100 litres a day per animal! One must also count the CO2 emissions produced by transporting the food to the consumer’s plate over thousands of kilometres.
In total, a kilogram of beef is the equivalent of 18 kilograms of CO2 – as much as a car emits over 100 kilometres! And in the world, each person consumes 40 kilos of meat a year on average (83 kilos in developed countries compared to 31 kilos in developing countries). This is double the amount that was consumed than fifty years ago.
Rajendra Pachauri, the president of the IPCC therefore advises , “Start by giving up meat one day a week and cut down gradually”. One can therefore go from red meat to white meat which is responsible for 5 to 10 times less GEG emissions. Indeed, poultry does not emit any methane and above all, requires a lot less energy to be reared because the animals are killed at a much younger age – after a few weeks compared to several years for cattle. Not to mention the awful conditions of domestic animals.