Humanosity says….When it comes to the causes of climate change our taste for meat is one of the most damaging culprits. The farming and consumption of meat is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases. Campaigns to reduce our consumption are ongoing but some are proposing more radical solutions. One such solution is should we ban meat?
At first, the idea seems a little absurd but when you look at the impact of our taste for meat on the environment then the argument starts to make more sense.
A study last year by researchers at the University of Oxford, published in the journal Nature, showed meat and dairy produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and takes up 83% of farmland, but delivers just 18% of calories and 37% of protein.
The man who led the research has said that switching to a vegan diet is the best possible way for an individual to make a meaningful contribution to mitigating climate change.
In light of this, the Guardian spoke to leading barrister Michael Mansfield. He believes that we are probably moving to a future where there will be laws against practices that harm the planet. “I think when we look at the damage eating meat is doing to the planet, it is not preposterous to think that one day it will become illegal,” he said.
Taxes or a Ban?
However is a ban realistic? Although meat consumption is declining very slowly in western societies, demand across the world is rising and likely to continue to rise. It’s not just that the global population will surpass 10bn, it ‘s also the case that as people get wealthier they consume more meat.
In light of this people have suggested that putting taxes on meat may be the way to go. However, Tim Benton, a professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds doesn’t think that there’s a magic bullet and that the ruth is we will have to look at a variety of approaches.
“You could think about changing agricultural subsidies, trade laws, changing what is eaten in hospitals and schools to train people to eat differently. You can think labelling and education, and carbon taxes. All of those have a role but none by themselves will solve the issue, and the idea of saying we’re going to make meat illegal becomes somewhat farcical.”
The truth of the matter is that we aren’t going to wean people off meat through taxes and bans. We have to look at changing farming practices so that we reduce the carbon footprint of meat and educational campaigns to reduce the amount consumed by individuals. For instance, several research projects have shown that adding seaweed to a cow’s diet can dramatically reduce the amount of methane it produces over its life.
The Future of Meat
In the longer term, it may be that developments in the cultured meat sector may replace the farming of animals. In the last couple of years, commercial interest in developing this technology has grown exponentially. Producing meat without killing animals has become the holy grail and dozens of startups across the world are racing to get to market first.
Although there’s is a certain scepticism about cultured meat at the moment, I think that will pass. The reason why is a little thought experiment I regularly play.
I often imagine a history class in a couple of thousand years looking back at our times. In much the same way that we see our distant ancestors as being slightly barbaric, I wonder which of our current practices our descendants will see as barbaric. The one answer I’m sure of is the fact that we kill and eat animals.