Spring is now officially here; the daffodils are in bloom and the first of the year’s lambs are in evidence. The uncomfortable but important question however, is whether they will be springing onto your plate.
At the start of the year I made a resolution to reduce my meat consumption; firstly because as an animal lover it’s becoming increasingly difficult to suppress my nagging conscience and secondly because it seems like the Green thing to do.
As small holdings and family run farms move ever further into the realm of the history textbook, the dominance of factory farming and its impact upon the environment is becoming increasingly difficult to brush under the carpet. The origins of factory farming date back to the 1920’s when developments in agriculture began to pave the way for more intensive farming practises. It was after the Second World War that such methods began to take root in the UK. Yet these techniques are now so imbedded within the industry that according to ‘Compassion in World Farming’, 80% of animals farmed within the EU are a product of such establishments.
Issues of animal welfare aside, one of the main criticisms levied at the meat industry is that its intake of resources is dramatically disproportional to its output in terms of saleable product. This proves a double-edged sword, with waste by-products also dwarfing the quantities of meat produced. Chief amongst these is manure, itself blamed for polluting both air and water systems and releasing harmful levels of chemicals such as Nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
The huge amount of land exploited by this method of farming is another factor causing concern. In recent years UN statistics have revealed that land used by the livestock industry for both pasture and production of feed equates to a massive 30% of the planet’s entire surface area, with a reported 8% of global water supply also being drained by the sector. The use of such space detracts from natural habitats and damages their biodiversity for wildlife.
Unbelievably UN figures also suggest that the livestock industry is more harmful to the environment than the world’s transportation systems in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Such data has led many to claim that as well as encouraging people to make a difference by switching off the lights or taking the bus, individuals need to be persuaded to convert to vegetarian and even vegan lifestyles.
Whilst kicking the meat habit altogether isn’t for everyone, there are plenty of opportunities to dip your toe in the water. Paul McCartney campaigns for ‘Meat Free Monday’s; Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall’s Veg Every Day will give you some amazing tips on how to dress up the green stuff and there are also plenty of relevant dates in the calendar. In June Americans celebrate ‘National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable month’; whilst on the 1st December foodies can enjoy ‘Eat a Red Apple Day’- the perfect alternative to that first advent chocolate, perhaps? If none of these appeal why not celebrate my personal favourite, marked on the 29th September- ‘National Hug a Vegetarian Day’ – just make sure you ask their permission first!