Animal Aid

Take Action on World Environment Day

Posted 1 June 2009

June 5th is World Environment Day and this year’s theme is 'Your Planet Needs You-Unite to Combat Climate Change'. Often we feel helpless to act on large-scale environmental problems such as climate change, but each individual really can be part of the solution by simply changing our eating habits.

World Environment Day was established by the United Nations, which estimated in a recent report that animal farming (from farm to fork) is responsible for more global greenhouse gas emissions than the entire worldwide transport system combined, including planes, trains and cars. According to Green MEP Caroline Lucas, a vegan driving a 4x4 actually does less damage to the planet than a meat-eater on a bicycle.

Animal farming uses 30 per cent of the planet’s land surface. Less land would be required if plant crops were fed directly to humans, as currently around half of the global food harvest is eaten by farmed animals. As the demand for meat and other animal products grows, more pasture and cropland is needed to keep animals and/or to grow feed for them when they are confined - as the majority are - in factory farms.

In Brazil, vast areas of the Amazon rainforest (an important carbon sink) is being destroyed to farm beef cattle and/or to grow soya, the vast majority (80 per cent) of which goes to feed intensively farmed animals. A Greenpeace report published today (1st June) details a three-year investigation into these cattle farms and the global trade in their products, many of which end up on sale in Britain and Europe. After the US, Britain is the second largest importer of processed Brazilian beef. Meat from the cattle is canned, packaged and processed into convenience foods. Hides become leather for shoes and trainers. Fat stripped from the carcasses is rendered and used to make toothpaste, face creams and soap. Gelatin squeezed from bones, intestines and ligaments thickens yoghurt and makes chewy sweets.

Cheap pasture from clearing and seeding rainforest is very attractive to farmers without easy access to the expensive agrichemicals and intensive land management techniques used in more developed countries. However, within a few years, the planted pasture becomes overrun with native grass and is unsuitable for cattle. Many farmers then take the cheap option and raze adjoining forest to start again, leaving swaths of unproductive deforested land in their wake. Since the 1970s, around a fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed. And, according to Greenpeace, around 80 per cent of the area deforested in Brazil is now cattle pasture. Friends of the Earth estimates that cattle farming in Brazil has been responsible for 9bn-12bn tonnes of CO2 emissions in the past decade, almost equivalent to two years total output from the US. The cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world and is a disaster for the fight against climate change.

At this year's climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December, governments will consider the idea that richer countries could offset their carbon emissions by paying to maintain forests in tropical regions. But why wait for governments to act, when our actions, as consumers, have the greatest influence? Eating plant-based foods instead of those from animal sources can reduce the carbon impact of your diet by up to 60 per cent. With one simple step, you can protect the planet, help end animal suffering and boost your health. What other diet has such overwhelmingly positive benefits? Find out how simple it really is by ordering Animal Aid’s FREE Veggie or Vegan Guide, including recipes, shopping tips and nutritional information.

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