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As for our health, eating too much meat can cause obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. However, on the other hand, we get vital minerals and other nutrients from meat, many people earn a living through raising animals and meat has become an important part in many of our diets. So what do we need to do?
According to Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London, meat consumption is ‘out of control.’ He advises the World Health Organisation, as well as the Department for the Environment, on food policy.
‘If you were growing meat yourself, it is an incredibly slow process and killing and eating an animal is a special day. At Christmas if we were well off we had beef. It was a big deal. We killed an animal as an exception, for a feast,’ he told the press. Lang advocates eating meat once a week at the most.
Celebrities are also joining the argument. Sir Paul McCartney advocates Meat-Free Mondays. On the movement’s website, he says: ‘I think many of us feel helpless in the face of environmental challenges’, adding that: ‘Having one designated meat free day a week is actually a meaningful change that everyone can make, that goes to the heart of several important political, environmental and ethical issues all at once.’ The movement has received a lot of support from celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Joanna Lumley and Sir Richard Branson.
The movement cites research from various environmental networks. It explains that the UK’s Food Climate Research Network believes that food production is responsible for between 20 to 30 percent of global green house gas emissions. (And livestock production is responsible for around half of these emissions.) And the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has concluded that the livestock sector is ‘one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.’
Even though when it comes to climate change we hear more about pollution that we do about the food industry, the group Compassion in World Farming estimates that if the average UK household halved its consumption of meat this would cut more emissions that if car use was cut in half. Some people even estimate that 20 vegetarians can be fed on the amount of land needed to feed one person consuming a meat-based diet. Growing crops to feed animals means there is less land on which to grow crops for humans.
We’re on course to double meat production by 2050. Whilst few people are saying we should stop eating meat altogether, there’s no denying that cutting back could have positive consequences for us and the planet.
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