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Reduce your Negative Impact on Earth by Moderating Meat and Dairy Consumption

by Sanne Schouwenburg

· Impact Feed

Last year, the Guardian stated that "the single biggest way to reduce our impact on the earth is to avoid eating meat and dairy products. As its so easy to reduce meat consumption I'd like to present you with a few reasons why. Let's start with a short video by James Colquhoun, explaining why we should avoid buying meat from factory farms:

From an environmental perspective, its just an incredibly good idea to lessen your meat consumption to help fix climate change. Back in 2015 The Guardian created a video to show us why:

[Guardian, 2015]

According to this recent report they might have got it by the right end. the EAT–Lancet Commission quantitively describes a universal healthy reference diet, based on:

  • an increase in consumption of healthy foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts), and 
  • a decrease in consumption of unhealthy foods (such as red meat, sugar, and refined grains)  

This is set against the backdrop of defined scientific boundaries that would ensure a safe operating space within six Earth systems, towards sustaining a healthy planet. Read the Lancet report [Lancet, January 2019].

From an animal welfare point of view, it's absurd how ignorant we've all become. Peter Singer, the writer of the book Animal Liberation, wrote about how we treat animals and the reasons why. He points at the hypocrisy in the way we think about animals. People oppose wearing fur, but then see no problem with leather. We say we love animals - meaning kittens and puppies - while eating a ham sandwich.

Some of this is culturally ingrained and has to do with how we are raised. Today we are so separated from food that many do not associate it with its source. Meat comes in white styrofoam packaging with pads underneath to absorb excess blood, and we tend to forget how the meat gets into the packaging. We think of "happy cows" on a farm, and of farmers happily milking their happy cows and of large grazing fields. Image and reality are clearly a little imbalanced.

Many people who are willing to reduce their meat consumption start by cutting out beef and other red meat, while continuing to eat chicken, fish, and eggs. Though, effective altruists generally recommend - from an animal welfare point of view - that you start by cutting out farmed fish, followed by battery-cage eggs, followed by chicken. [Indeed, this is contradictory to the environmental view of cutting out red meat, and only proves there are various incentives to change your diet].

Why cut out on chickens from an animal welfare perspective? Among many other arguments, chickens are generally raised in much worse conditions than cows. You might want to have a look at the Humane Society’s white papers on the subject. Chickens are also a lot smaller. Therefore many more chickens will be suffering to produce the same amount of meat as a single cow. For example, whereas the average American eats less than a tenth of a cow per year, they eat about thirteen chickens in that same period.

The same argument could be applied for farmed fish. The life of a farmed fish is generally better than that of a chicken. However, farmed fish are also generally quite small. You can’t do a straightforward “how many animals?” calculation for egg-laying chickens, because egg-laying chickens live much much longer than chickens killed for meat. Read this post by Peter Hurford on how much suffering a standard American diet causes.

Not to worry, there is no need to become vegan overnight, but you have to admit, its just super easy to do good by discovering and eating some delicious vegan food. It is so easy to moderate our meat and dairy consumption that it seems unethical not to do so.

"No need to be vegan to eat vegan"

Here are some ideas for quick vegan meals to implement in your routine:

You don’t have to miss out on anything if you decide to reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products! There is a plant-based alternative for pretty much every food: from dairy-free cheese pizzas to veggie burgers, and cheesecakes to ice cream. Soya and almond milk are everywhere nowadays too! Baking is super easy without eggs, and it’s fun to discover new ingredients and recipes, treating your palate to so many new tastes and textures.

Find many more delicious recipes on Love Veg:

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