The effects of our meat eating habits

By Simon Whalley

The problem of global warming is perhaps the greatest in the 200,000 year history of Homo sapiens. In only 70,000 years, we have gone from an unimportant animal in Africa to become the master of the entire planet and unfortunately; we are waging war on our ecosystem (Harari, 2014). Fortunately, as ‘we’ are the cause of this war on our own ecosystem, there is an opportunity to reverse the damage before our species causes the sixth extinction.

At present, many scientists believe we must reduce global carbon dioxide (CO²) levels to below 350 parts per million (ppm) if we are to maintain temperatures below 2°c of warming. Exceeding this temperature would likely result in mass ice sheet melting (Hanson, et al., 2008).

We are all aware of global warming; but what is actually causing it? Time and again, we have been told that it’s burning fossil fuels. It is true that this is a very big problem. Could it be; however, that our diets are also a key cause of climate change? Our dietary choices, agricultural production and environmental degradation all seem to be connected (Reijnders & Soret, 2003). How can our diets possibly be a problem?

Climate change, water use, forest destruction, river pollution, floods, dead zones in the sea: the impacts of animal farming are massive and global; in many cases greater than those of anything else we do. But we don’t want to know (Monbiot, 2015).

The scale of animal agriculture today is immense compared with the entire history of our species. Around 3,000 farm animals are killed every second of every day. This figure does not include fish and seafood as these are measured in tons. Around 70% of Amazon deforestation is being driven by livestock production, where cows are being grazed on former rainforest land (Goodland & Anhang, 2009). In addition, the remaining 30% is largely being used to grow feed crops to feed to farm animals (FAO, 2006).2 45% of the Earth’s surface area is used by livestock (Thornton, et al., 2011).  In addition, 27% of the Earth’s fresh water is consumed by animal agriculture every year (Hoekstra, 2012). In schools across the country, students are being told by their teachers to conserve water. Governments do the same. However, only 4% of our water use is from households (Hoekstra, 2012).  It takes around 1000 liters (L) of water to produce 1 kilogram (kg) of cereal grain whereas it takes 43,000 L to produce 1 kg of beef (Pimentel, et al., 2004). All this at a time when around a billion humans don’t have enough food to eat.

The United Nation’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) also stated that animal agriculture was responsible for 18% of all CO² emissions in 2006. This equals 7,516 million metric tons of CO² (Goodland & Anhang, 2009). This is a huge figure and it is only going to grow as China and India and other developing countries increase their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In fact, the FAO expect global meat production to more than double by 2050 and milk consumption to follow a similar trend (FAO, 2006). This is unsurprising as the more money people earn, the more meat they demand (Tilman & Clark, 2014). The 18% figure is alarming to say the least and is larger than the entire transportation sector. However, more recent research has questioned the method for determining this figure. Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang (2009) analysed the method used and believe that many factors were overlooked by the United Nations FAO’s 2006 study. Firstly, the FAO state that all the farm animals alive today are part of a natural carbon cycle, whereby they are actually carbon sinks; therefore they don’t include animal respiration in their study. It is true that farm animals do temporarily hold 1-2  million tons of carbon per year, however, this amount is miniscule compared to the forests lost in order to feed and graze them (Goodland & Anhang, 2009). Additionally, the farm animal population has risen from 60 billion to 70 billion over the past 5 years (Compassion in World Farming, 2013-2017). There are now 10 times more farm animals than there are people. This is not a natural occurrence and therefore respiration should be included in the FAO 18% figure. When you include respiration, the amount increases by 8,769 million tons of carbon. The total from animal agriculture then becomes 16,285 million tons (mt) (Goodland & Anhang, 2009). If other factors are included such as overlooked land use (2,672mt), undercounted methane (5,047 mt) and another four categories explained in their study (5,560 mt), then the total becomes 32,564 mt.  This accounts for, according to Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang (2009), 51% of all CO² emissions. More than half of all CO² or equivalent emissions could be because of our diets. CO²  or equivalents is used because domestic livestock such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels produce large amounts of methane (CH⁴) as part of their normal digestive process. Methane is 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas (GHG) than CO². Globally, the Agriculture sector is the primary source of CH⁴ emissions (Enviromental Protection Agency, 2016)  Also, when animals’ manure is stored or managed in lagoons or holding tanks, CH⁴ is produced. These lagoons often leak and phosphorus and nitrogen also enter the river system. This in turn poisons rivers, kills aquatic life, and eventually enters the ocean where it wreaks similar damage (Monbiot, 2015). What difference can my diet make? According to Tillman & Clark (2014), people who eat Mediterranean, pescatarian or vegetarian diets reduce their per capita emissions from food production by 30%, 45% and 55% for the Mediterranean, pescetarian and vegetarian diets, respectively. A vegetarian diet consists of grains, vegetables, fruits, sugars, oils, eggs and dairy, and generally not more than one serving per month of meat or seafood. A pescetarian diet is a vegetarian diet that includes seafood. A Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruit and seafood and includes grains, sugars, oils, eggs, dairy and moderate amounts of poultry, pork, lamb and beef (Tilman & Clark, 2014).  In a further study, it was found that dietary Green House Gasses (GHGs) from meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those from vegans (Scarborough, et al., 2014).

We all know that we need our rainforests in order to survive but we also need to eat meat to survive, right? According to Tilman and Clark (2014), the answer is ‘No, we don’t’. They assert that if we were to eliminate meat from our diets, we would not only benefit from better health but we would also reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, decrease deforestation and reduce species loss. Many people think that they have to eat meat in order to survive. This is largely the case in Japan; where most people are oblivious to their own history. Japanese were largely vegetarian – they didn’t eat any meat but ate/drank dairy products – or Pescatarian – they didn’t eat meat but they ate fish and dairy – until Commodore Perry arrived in 1854. It was only in an attempt to Westernize that people started eating meat.

“When Commodore Perry arrived in Japan, his crew members were astonished by the number of wild birds that flew to the ship. With no fear, the birds perched on the mast or landed on the deck only to be shot by the crew. When the Japanese witnessed this behavior, they were stunned and exclaimed, “What savages!” It is said that a clause was later added to the treaty between Japan and the United States strongly recommending that Americans follow the Japanese law prohibiting cruelty to wildlife”. (Watanabe, n.d.)

This meat eating practice was in direct opposition to a meat eating ban that had existed for centuries.  The ban was put in place by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1615 because in Buddhist thinking, people are reincarnated as animals when they die, and as such we should not eat animals as they may have been a family member or friend in a previous life (Watanabe, n.d.). It is clear from Japan’s history that we do not need to eat meat. It is purely a consumer choice.

One of Homo sapiens’ greatest strengths is our adaptability. This has allowed us to survive and indeed thrive, on every continent on the planet. We can survive on a meat diet, plant diet, or a combination of the two. As recent as the 1950s, Americans were consuming around 150g of meat a day. In 2007, this figure was around 250g (Daniel, et al., 2011).

Maybe you think this is not the situation in Japan. As a test, next time you go to a convenience store or supermarket, try to find some processed food that doesn’t include any animal products (fish, meat, milk, eggs, meat extract). In fact, meat consumption in Japan has been increasing rapidly since the 1960s (Takahashi, 2014) . The graph in figure 1 illustrates the escalation. In 2010, 823 million farm animals were slaughtered in Japan. These animals do not have any rights as the only Animal Welfare Act that exists is largely for the 12 million dogs and 10 million cats that are kept as companion animals (Honjo, 2010).

So far, we have seen some of the environmental effects of eating meat but are there any other negative effects? In America, where people eat three times as much meat as any other culture or country on Earth, the cancer rate is three times the global average, twice the number of obese and patients suffering from diabetes (Simon, 2013). In broader terms, based on Doll and Peto’s (1981) research, it is estimated that approximately 35% of cancer is linked to our dietary choices. Smoking tobacco is thought to contribute 30% (Willet, 1995). Vegetarians experienced a modest, 8% risk reduction for overall-cancer. For cancer-specific sites, vegetarians had approximately half the risk of developing colon cancer. Also, vegetarians had 23% risk reduction for cancer of the gastrointestinal tract. Vegetarians experienced a 35% risk reduction for prostate cancer compared to non-vegetarians (Tai Le & Sabaté*, 2014).

Figure 2. Diet and health. (Tilman & Clark, 2014)

The threat of cancer from smoking and eating meat is therefore similar. The difference though, is where smoking is heavily taxed to reduce consumption, meat is heavily subsidized in order to increase consumption. It costs on average $498 to raise a cow in North Central America. The same cow will on average be sold for $245. The meat industry in America is given $10 billion by taxpayers (Simon, 2013). In Wales (UK), sheep farms on hills receive £53,000 in subsidies but their income is only £33,000. Each farm is a net loss of £20,000. In addition to this net loss, the sheep destroy all chance of any vegetation growing on hillsides at a time when we desperately need to plant more trees. This doesn’t seem like a fair trade off. In total, the UK government gives billions of pounds to sheep farmers and in return, according to Monbiot (2016), sheep have done more damage to the environment than all the building in the country combined. Slightly over ¾ of Welsh land is used for animal farming. The reason sheep subsidies are so huge is because we are told that the Welsh sheep industry is extremely important for the food supply. However, Wales currently imports 7 times more meat that it exports (Monbiot, 2016). This money spent on subsidies could be spent on education, hospitals, roads or financing green technologies or healthy foods. How would you feel if your taxes were being used to lower the cost of other peoples’ cigarettes? That is what is happening with meat consumption. Vegetarians and vegans who choose not to eat meat are paying taxes to reduce the price of other peoples’ meat. These costs will not worry you if you are eating meat. Maybe research carried out in Nature Climate Change (2016) will. They have estimated costs from climate change to the global economy from the low end of $2.5 trillion to a staggering $24.2 trillion. To put this into perspective, Japans Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is $4.6 trillion. $24.2 trillion would completely collapse the financial system.

It’s not just cancer that is linked with meat eating. Compared to omnivores, people eating Mediterranean, pescetarian or vegetarian diets reduce their risk of Type II diabetes by 16%-41%, cancer by 7%-13% and coronary heart disease by 20-26%. Vegetarians also had 55% lower odds of developing hypertension. Obesity has also been found to be linked with meat consumption. In a study in America, meat consumption was identified as increasing Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference and obesity (Wang & Beydoun, 2009). In a further study concerning longevity, the authors found that:

“Data from adults in North America and Europe raise the possibility that a lifestyle pattern that includes a very low meat intake is associated with greater longevity” (Singh, et al., 2003 ).

So, eating meat isn’t good for the environment or our health, but don’t we need the protein? No one in developed countries suffers from Kwashiorkor. That is the name for protein deficiency. People who don’t have enough to eat are the only people who suffer from Kwashiorkor. Below is a table that shows 5 plant based foods and 5 animal based foods which provide ample protein for your body.

United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Plant based protein per 100g (g)

Animal based protein per 100g (g)

Soy beans


Chicken, pork


Peanut butter




Adzuki beans


Cheese (Cheddar)






Chickpeas, pumpkin seeds


McDonald’s Big Mac


Won’t we have weak bones if we don’t drink milk? In fact, many studies show that drinking milk is actually a cause of osteoporosis (weak bones). The best place to get your calcium is from green leafy vegetables and legumes. It is possible to get calcium from dairy products but they also contain animal proteins, growth factors, lactose sugar, occasional contaminants, and a substantial amount of fat and cholesterol (in all but the defatted versions). This makes them an unfavorable choice for obtaining calcium.  More important than getting the calcium to your bones is keeping it there. This is best done by getting your protein from plants, not animal products. Animal protein—in fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products— tends to encourage calcium’s passage into the urine. This occurs because the high amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids in animal proteins cause an acidification of the blood, and calcium is released from the bones in order to neutralize it (Physicians Comittee For Responsible Medicine, 2014).

Below is a table that lists 5 plant based and 5 animal based foods high in calcium.

United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Plant based calcium per 100g (% of daily total)

Animal based calcium per 100g (% of daily total)

Tahini butter


Cheese (cheddar)










Collard greens






Cottage cheese


The majority of Vitamins B and C are fruit and vegetable based as is Vitamin A. The table below shows 3 plant based versus 3 animal based sources for Vitamin A.

United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Plant based vitamin A per 100g (% of daily total)

Animal based vitamin A per 100g (% of daily total)





Sweet potato








Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin that is not recognised as being reliably supplied from a varied wholefood, plant-based diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, together with exposure to sun. It is necessary to consume fortified soy milk, soy meat or supplements to avoid a B12 deficiency.

Omega 3s are also found in both plants and animals. The list below shows 5 plant based sources and 5 animal based.

United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Plant based omega 3s per 100g (mg)

Animal based omega 3s per 100g (mg)

Flaxseed Oil


Fish Oil (Salmon)


Chia Seeds


Fish Roe (Caviar)




Cured & Canned Fish (Smoked Salmon)




Oily fish




Seafood (Oysters)


Won’t I suffer from anaemia if I don’t get enough iron? Not if you eat some of the plant based sources of iron shown below against their animal based sources.

United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Plant based iron per 100g (% of daily total)

Animal based iron per 100g (% of daily total)





Sesame seeds
















We have looked at the effects on the environment, our health and our pockets. What about the animals themselves? The picture below is what most people think of when they imagine the life of a dairy cow. A life of blissful grazing in the fields. This is still the case in some places and this is a key contributor to deforestation. Around 97-98% of Australia’s 28 million cattle herd is grass fed like in the picture below (Australian Lot Feeders Association, 2013)

This has led to massive deforestation and the collapse of many wild animal populations such as the koala. There are estimated to be as little as 43,000 koalas left in the wild today (Australian Koala Foundation, n.d.).  In total, there has been a 52% reduction in the populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish (Harrabin, 2014).

In 2015, Australian beef exports to Japan totalled 285,224 tonnes and Japan imports the second highest volume after the US. Japan also took 7,977 tonnes of lamb and 3,733 tonnes of mutton during 2015 (Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2015). Japanese people love koalas yet, I wonder how they would feel, knowing that their diets are causing their population to die off.

10  “Of the 1,250 plant and 390 animal species listed as threatened by the Australian government (excluding extinct and marine species), 964 plant species (77 per cent) and 286 animal species (73 per cent) have deforestation and resulting fragmentation or degradation of their habitats listed as threats.” (World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 2015)

Furthermore, the deforestation is affecting the Great Barrier Reef.

“Deforestation in the northern ecoregions is a substantial contributor of sediment pollution affecting the Great Barrier Reef. Soil surface rainfall runoff is shown to increase between 40 and 100 per cent due to deforestation in this area. Beyond the short term effect of deforestation on soil erosion, using the cleared land for livestock and crops means a continual flow of sediment, nutrient and agri-chemical pollution to the Reef.” (World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 2015)

Clearly, the lives of farm animals are enjoyable in this grass fed system. Unfortunately, the lives of wild animals including the now ‘vulnerable’ koala suffer greatly as a result. Today, livestock is the primary cause of deforestation in the Amazon, Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco, Cerrado, Choco-Darien, East Africa and Eastern Australia (World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 2015).

Figure 3. Map of Deforestation Fronts (World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 2015).

The alternative to grass fed animals is to use what are known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). CAFOs contain at least 1,000 large animals such as beef cows, or tens of thousands of smaller animals such as chickens, and many are much larger—with tens of thousands of beef cows or hogs, and hundreds of thousands of chickens.

The life of an egg laying hen in a CAFO is very different from its natural habitat. Hens have many behavioral needs such as an urge to scout their environment, forage and peck around. They also choose social hierarchies, build nests and groom themselves. In CAFOs they are unable to do any of these natural things. Often they are kept in a cage the same size as an A4 piece of paper. They receive food and water but they cannot even open their wings. As farmers cannot choose the gender of the chicks born, any male chicks are killed soon after birth. Often they are thrown alive into huge grinders, gassed or even thrown in garbage cans where they are crushed by the weight of other chicks thrown on top of them. Around 270 million chicks die in this way in the US alone each year (Simon, 2013). These chicks may be the lucky ones because the life that awaits the females is that of misery and suffering. The first thing that will happen to the female chicks is they will have 1/3 of their beaks cut off. This is to prevent injury as the chicks are kept in such small enclosures that they become extremely stressed and take out their frustration at not being able to live their natural life, that they peck at their fellow chicks and cause cuts and bleeding. The beak is one of the most sensitive parts of a chicken and it exposes the sensitive nerve endings for the remainder of her life. It is also done without anesthesia (Simon, 2013). The cages these hens are placed in are known as battery cages. They are beginning to be banned in Europe yet in Japan they are still common (Honjo, 2010). Broiler chickens – chickens raised for meat – never see daylight. They are fed hormones, anti-biotics and food to make them grow as fast as possible. They live their 7 week life in cramped spaces, often hundreds of thousands together and the drugs and feed they have been fed have resulted in them being unable to walk as they have become too big for their bones to support. But, don’t worry, as soon as they are big enough, they are sent to slaughter.

Pigs do not fare any better.  Pigs naturally live around 15 years but they are killed for meat at the age of 4-5 years old. They are considered the third smartest animal on Earth, only bettered by the great apes and Homo sapiens. It is said that a middle aged pig can be as smart as a 3 year old human child. They love to use their noses to search for things in the dirt. Yet, in CAFOs, sows – mother pigs, live in such small crates that they cannot even turn around. They cannot walk or forage. They are kept in this crate day and night for four weeks after giving birth. Then their piglets are taken away from them to be fattened up to sell as pork product while the sows are impregnated again and the cycle continues another 18-21 times until she is too broken to mother any more piglets (Honjo, 2010). She then faces the same fate as the many piglets she mothered. Male pigs are castrated to make them more docile and easier to control and all pigs have holes cut in their ears to attach a numbered label. In a farm in Japan, pigs’ tails and teeth were also removed to avoid damage being inflicted due to their high levels of stress (Honjo, 2010). This is always done without anesthesia.

The life of a dairy cow is not something anyone would want to endure. In nature, cows are very social animals. They can remember around 100 other cows and rely on the group for safety. Mother cows and their daughters form a very strong bond as do childhood friends. In CAFOs, they live almost all their life indoors in a small space where they sleep in their own urine and faeces. They are constantly impregnated in order to make them lactate – produce milk.  Their calf will be taken away from them almost at birth and the mother and child will bellow for each other as human mother and child would. The calf, if female, will be raised away from the mother to become the next generation of milk makers, while males will be sold to the veal market.  They will be placed in a very small gestation crate and tied to the sides to prevent them moving. It is important that they don’t move and therefore build muscle so their flesh remains tender and pink as this is the way people enjoy eating baby cows. The mothers are fed food as well as hormones to help them grow faster and anti-biotics to prevent them getting sick from the close confinement they live in. They are fed by one machine and milked every few hours by another machine. They are treated as nothing more than a commodity. Animals with complex emotional worlds that are treated like machines in a factory, not only experience physical discomfort but also social stress and psychological frustration (Harari, 2014).

The end of the road for these animals, whether grass fed or from CAFOs is usually the same for all. They will be shipped long distances, often without water or protection against the cold. It is not uncommon for animals to become frozen to the sides of trucks when delivered in winter. Animals that cannot walk are left to die alone. They are not given painkillers as this would decrease profits and as they are classed as ‘downers’, meaning they cannot walk, they cannot legally be sold into the supply system. Animals are first stunned before being shackled by their legs and hauled upside down. They then move along a conveyor to the next station where their throats are cut. At this point, they are supposed to be dead. However, it is common for animals to still be alive when the next person in the factory cuts their belly open from neck to bladder. Cows can be seen in videos on YouTube fully conscious and looking around as they are dismembered piece by piece with a chain saw. Chickens are dipped in scolding water to enable their feathers to be plucked out easily and to kill any bacteria in their meat. This is routinely done when they are still alive. One simple YouTube search for “Farm animal cruelty” will return a plethora of results where this animal abuse, and much worse, can be witnessed first-hand. It is perhaps not for the fainthearted. Many people make the argument that non-human animals do not possess consciousness and therefore are not aware of their own suffering. This claim was ended in 2012 when The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was signed by a prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational neuroscientists. They declared the following:

“The weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates” (Low, 2012).

Harari (2014) summed up the entire situation succinctly:

“If we accept a mere tenth of what animal-rights activists are claiming, then modern industrial agriculture might well be the greatest crime in history.”

Fortunately, we have another abundant source of nutrition; the ocean. Unfortunately, this source is nowhere near as abundant as we would like to believe.  Global consumption of fish has doubled since the early 1970s and will continue to grow with population, income, and urban growth in the developing world (Naylor , et al., 2005). This increase has had obvious results. According to Hutchings and Reynolds (2004), when 230 species of fish populations were analyzed, the median decline of breeding populations was 83%. Some species, like the Atlantic cod, aren’t so lucky. They have seen a 99.9% reduction over the past 30 years and the scientists involved in the study state that population recoveries are extremely slow and in many cases, even after 15 years, population recovery hasn’t taken place (Hutchings & Reynolds, 2004). According to the Zoological Society of London (2015), 49% of our marine populations were lost between 1970 and 2012. The author continues “Global population sizes of the Scombridae family of food fish that includes tunas, mackerels and bonitos have fallen by 74 per cent” (Anon., 2015). Research from Jackson (2008) paints a very bleak future for our oceans which are suffering on many fronts, including habitat destruction, overfishing, introduced species, warming, acidification, toxins, and massive runoff of nutrients. These human actions are transforming once complex ecosystems like coral reefs and kelp forests into boring level bottoms, transforming clear and productive coastal seas into oxygen void dead zones, and transforming complex food webs crowned by big animals into simplified, microorganism dominated ecosystems with boom and bust cycles of toxic blooms, jellyfish, and disease. The rates of destruction are increasingly fast and non-linear. He further states that the state of our oceans are as worrying as that of our tropical rain forests and that population losses would be massive and possibly irreversible unless action was taken quickly to reverse the declines mentioned above (Jackson, 2008).

Surely, we can rely on aquatic farming instead of fishing wild populations? There is definitely an opportunity here to derive some of our nutrition in a more sustainable way, however, at present the use of ocean based aquaculture is extremely problematic for both the environment and human health. In research carried out by Cabello (2006), it was found that prophylactic antibiotics; used to prevent diseases of hyper confined fish in unsanitary conditions, stayed in the environment and created antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These bacteria can be passed on to land mammals that feed on their fish host. These problems need to be addressed as at present, there is no regulation in place to control the amounts of antibiotics fed to fish (Cabello, 2006). Additionally, raising carnivorous fish requires the input of wild fish as feed. Currently, we have hunted many of the larger carnivorous fish to near extinction in the wild and next it appears we are going to wipe out smaller fish in order to feed the carnivorous fish we raise in fish farms. If aquaculture is to be sustainable then much needs to be done to reduce the amount of wild fish caught as feed and better ecological practices are needed to reduce the harmful effects the industry currently causes (Naylor, 2000).

As we have seen, our diets are having a profound impact on our own health, the health of the planet, as well as the physical and mental health of the farm animals raised as our possessions. We have seen that we do not need to eat meat in order to survive. In fact, eating less meat will help us live longer with less disease. The choice to eat meat rather than plants is a very recent one in the case of Japan and most countries have very recently significantly increased their meat consumption. With China and India also beginning to demand more meat products, meat consumption will more than double by 2050. Unfortunately, if we wish to continue along the same path of consumption, we have a choice between allowing 70 billion farm animals, and rising, to use up all our forested land and live out their lives as they were intended to, at the expense of our entire ecosystems as in the case of Australia or Brazil, or we can use the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and allow not only animals to suffer for our consumer attitudes, but also our rivers, oceans and air, from the pollution these CAFOs produce. There is of course another option.

“We could choose to eat less meat and fish, drink less milk. No request could be simpler, or more consequential. Nothing we do has greater potential for reducing our impacts on the living planet. Yet no request is more likely to elicit a baffled, hurt or furious response (Monbiot, 2015).

As has been pointed out, Homo sapiens have changed their diets in order to adjust to their environments over the course of our history. It is clear now, that in order to remain within 2°c of warming and avoid rapid ice sheet melting and all its consequences, we are at a point where we need to question our diets once more and adjust as necessary. Unfortunately,

“Livestock keeping is so embedded in our cultural and religious identity that to challenge it is, it seems, to attack the foundations of society. We like to see ourselves as free thinkers, but we all have our sacred cows. (Monbiot, 2015)

Whatever we choose, if we continue to focus on only clean energy at the expense of our diets, we will likely be witness to the sixth extinction. Even perhaps, a part of it.


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