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Archive for March, 2009

In this post I wanted to give some love to Food for Change, PB&J Campaign and Veg Climate Alliance.  Each focuses their blog on the connection between meat and global warming.  I recommend them all!

Food for Change

Food for Change promotes food choices that are sustainable, ethical and environmentally responsible.

This blog from the UK has a unique focus on animal agriculture on the environment and was founded a year ago by Sophie Pritchard.  Learn about her motivations, ideas and more about the impact of livestock on global warming, the environment and health in her recent interview on Green Girls Global.  Then check out her other posts!

I became frustrated that environmental organisations continued to turn a blind eye to the environmental impact of livestock, particularly when both environmental and humanitarian organisations strongly and publicly oppose biofuels because of their environmental and social impacts when I knew that they caused only a fraction of the problems that the livestock industry does. I asked all these organisations about why they focused on biofuels, considering their impacts are the same as meat, but lower in scale. They all told me that the issue with biofuels was that they were making matters worse, whereas the devastation caused by livestock is long-standing. That didn’t seem like a good enough reason to ignore the issue to me.


PB&J Campaign

The PB&J Campaign is working to combat environmental destruction by reducing the amount of animal products people eat.

I really like how they emphasize that even a small reduction in the consumption of animal products generates significant results.

Check out the PB&J Pledge that will calculate the impact of your meals on greenhouse gas emissions, water and land based on whether or not you consume animal products.   The methodology is derived from sound scientific studies.

PB&J has a long-running blog (since April 2008) with MANY interesting posts on the impact of meat on global warming.

Graph on climate impact of meat consumption

meatgraphfull1


Veg Climate Alliance

Veg Climate Alliance, a new international alliance of vegetarian, environmental and animal rights activists and organizations, stresses that the best thing a person can do to stop global warming and its catastrophic consequences is to switch to a plant-based diet.

Mission Statement

Veg Climate Alliance exists to slow global warming by helping people access the most needed information:

a global shift to vegetarianism is necessary to avoid rapidly approaching catastrophic climatic conditions and other environmental threats.

To accomplish this awareness, we will:

  • Seek the support, advice and partnership of key groups and individuals;
  • Jointly release media statements and resolutions;
  • Jointly lobby governments and international groups, including the UN, to specifically promote the veg diet as a means to combat climate change.

In the same aim we will also provide a central information and communication hub connecting all concerned groups/organizations/communities/individuals.

It’s awesome to see an organization setup to help bring together all of the advocates and supporters of this subject to share ideas and to lobby governmental groups to promote a veg diet.  I hope to be a part of it.  See their blog, veg events listings and their forum!

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updatePlease join the campaign!

Bill S. 527 gives a free pass for factory farms to pollute the air with CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide without regulation!

Farm Sanctuary has setup a form to write to your representative in Congress to vote NO on S. 527.  Please take a few minutes to voice your opposition to S. 527 to your network and Congressional representatives!

Bill S. 527 specifically includes the following text:

CERTAIN EMISSIONS FROM AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION- No permit shall be issued under a permit program under this title for any carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production.

Keep on the lookout for a petition soon.  Here is my personal response:

Please oppose Bill S. 527, which exempts livestock production from the Clean Air Act!

According to a 2006 UN FAO report – 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock.  This is more than the emissions from all the cars and planes in the world combined!

As global meat consumption is predicted to double by 2050, we must take significant measures to minimize livestock production, and its impact.

In addition – the UN FAO report states animal agriculture is responsible for 37% of anthropogenic methane emissions (20 times more powerful than CO2) and 65% of all nitrous oxide (296 times).

In light of the rising dangers of global climate change, the expansion of factory farming must not be left unregulated.

These farms should be expected to INVEST in better farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like every other industrial sector.

Thank you.

More…

NY Times:  Senators Have Beef with ‘Cow Tax’

Grist: The ‘cow tax’: not now, maybe not ever

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notfunny

WSJ Video:  Watch how methane is measured : Gassy Sheep Add to Global Warming

Have you heard that cow farts are causing global warming?

Actually, most of the methane emissions from cows and other livestock aren’t from flatulence or farts.  They’re from burping.  About 98 per cent of the methane from a cow is emitted through its mouth. (source:  Kebreab, Journal of Animal Science. 

In fact, the average grain-fed dairy cow belches out about 500 litres of methane each day,  compared to about 600-700 litres a day per grass-fed cow, due to their unique enteric fermentation digestive process. (source:  Ermias Kebreab of the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment).  In total, livestock’s total gas emissions include 37% of all methane (20 times more powerful than CO2) and 65% of all nitrous oxide (296 times).  Yes it’s much funnier to talk about farting than burping/belching.  It certainly raises more eyebrows, which explains why many of the headlines on cattle methane go for the “farting to blame for global warming” angle instead, despite its inaccuracy.

The answers to the commonly asked questions below will help dispel the inevitable joke/comment on our gassy footprint.

How many livestock are there?

  • In 2007, at any given time, there were approximately 1.3 billion cattle, 1 billion sheep, 1 billion pigs, 800 million goats and 17 billion chicken (UN FAO).  This means – one cattle for every five people, one sheep for every six, one goat for every eight, and 2.5 chickens for every person.
  • 10 billion animals are raised and slaughtered each year in the USA (30 animals for each American)

How much do livestock eat?

  • Each day, a cow eats about 20 pounds of grain, 40 – 60 pounds of ensilage, 30 pounds of hay and drinks about 15 – 25 gallons of water

Do they poop a lot?

  • Animals raised for food produce 1.4 billion metric tons of manure, which is 130 times more excrement than the entire human population put together, for a total of 87,000 pounds per second.

When one looks at the number of animals which are eaten, and the amount of crops and energy that are required to feed them, it becomes increasingly clear that we must define the problem as rising meat consumption, not the cows themselves.  According to the UN FAO, annual global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tons in 2000 to 465 million tons in 2050.

It’s important to understand that methane emissions from livestock are only one part of the “meat footprint”.  The emissions from the meat production process includes many other steps which generates high levels CO2.

Some of the ways which the animal agriculture industry generates its CO2 emissions include:  the clearing forests for cattle grazing or planting feed (Brazilian Amazon especially), slaughtering livestock in factories, and transporting, storing and packaging the meat.    So please don’t let anyone keep you from holding in farts (it’s bad for you) or keep you from enjoying beans.

Correction:  A previous version cited that the average dairy cow belches out about 100 to 200 liters of methane each day, according to Michael Abberton, a scientist at the UK-based Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research.   Guess you can average it out.

picture source

But whether it’s farting or burping, it’s given plenty of ammunition for global warming skeptics to make light of global warming, and the research & policies that are proposed to address animal agriculture’s impact.

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The meat and global warming link just got a huge publicity boost.

Mark Bittman, author of Food Matters, vegan until 6, and food columnist/blogger at the NY Times,  tonight appeared on what many consider to be the mother of all political talk shows (if you exclude the Daily Show) – the Colbert Report (1.3 million viewers)!!!

See the interview on Eat Me Daily or on Comedy Central

Bittman begins by explaining what it means to “eat consciously” and how we could help ourselves and the planet by adopting a more plant-based diet.  He then explains the meat and global warming connection with help from Colbert!

Bittman was able to both talk about this subject seriously and play along to Colbert’s jabs.  It was especially awesome to see Colbert read the statistics himself.

Those of us that have been talking about meat and global warming can now say “It was on the Colbert Report”.  Enough said!

Some highlights:

  • Colbert:  And my guest tonight is NY Times Food Columnist Mark Bittman! I’ll ask him what foods taste best grilled over a burning NY Times!
  • Colbert:  You say that you are a vegan until 6 pm.  But after that anything goes? Seriously? Does that just go for food?
  • Colbert:  You say that feeding a family of four – a steak dinner, is the equivalent of driving around in a SUV for three hours with all the lights on.
  • Colbert:  How does oil or fuel go into me having a steak? Bittman:  It’s been said, by the United Nations that about a 1/5 or 1/6 of all greenhouse gases are produced by industrialized livestock production.  Colbert:  Industrialized livestock? Oh robot cows.
  • Bittman:  We churn out 10 billion (livestock) a year in this country which means about 30 animals per person in the United States.  We eat those, it increases global warming.  To the extent you eat less of that meat you reduce global warming.
  • Colbert:  You say if we ate 3 fewer cheeseburgers a week, it would have the same impact as taking all SUVs off the road.
  • Bittman:  If we reduce the amount of meat and processed food in our diets, we’re losing weight, we’re making ourselves less susceptible to lifestyle disease, and we’re actually helping the environment and reducing global warming.  It’s like, almost everything.
  • Colbert:  If I could only eat one thing what would it be?  Bittman:  Uh…I dunno (Bittman hesitates…Colbert begins to end show) …cheeseburgers!

Related:  10 online videos on meat and global warming

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If you read the comments from articles about the impact of meat on global warming, it’s likely you’ll encounter arguments against vegetarianism, especially if the word “vegetarian” or “vegan” is in the title.

These arguments tend to be not only misguided but irrelevant as they shift the focus of the debate from “Should I reduce my meat intake to help stop global warming?” (the question we should all be asking ourselves) to “Should I be a vegetarian?” (the question you ask yourself after you try it out for a bit)

Take this example of a popular “Have your say” discussion from the BBC which asks the question, “Should we eat less meat to help the environment? (with a staggering 2281 comments)”

People who are Vegetarians do so voluntarily. No one forces them to eat meat, or give up their chosen diets no matter how unnatural they are. Why, then, must they try to force the rest of us to live their chosen lifestyle? Surely, they must realize that they are in the vast minority and eventually there will be a backlash against them & their totalitarian methods by the silent majority? They & the weak-willed politicians that give in to them, had better be careful of just how far they push us.

David Zimlin, Dunedin, Florida, United States

But you’ll also encounter gems like this one..

I was at the lecture. Dr Pachauri spoke in a personal capacity only and as a previous (omnivore).  His figures come from transparent, international organisations and they are clear. If we took 1 meat free day each per week it would reduce CO2 emissions = 5 MILLION cars being taken off the road.  The panel ALSO referred to subsidies of grain and welfare.  If you want to carry on, selfishly and as usual feel free, but please go and discover another planet to ruin. I want to look after this one.

[inmyshoes], United Kingdom

As the last commenter shows, you don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to talk about it – or to blog or twitter excessively about it.  I’ll admit it.  I’m not 100% vegetarian.  I’m currently maybe 90% vegetarian (I eat a little seafood, and eat a little dairy).

Some might suggest this makes me a hypocrite,  and might argue that advocating for a more meat-less diet must mean that I must also have a 100% meat-less diet.

But the numbers speak for themselves:

  • If the average American were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent, that would be the equivalent of switching from driving a Camry to a Prius. (source:  Eshel, University of Chicago)
  • Beef production generates more than 13 times the total greenhouse gases from producing chicken. (source:  Fiala, Ecological Economics, picture)
  • $20 trillion would be saved from the cost of fighting climate change if the global population shifted to a low-meat diet – defined as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week. (source:  Stehfest, Climatic Change)

More:  10 WTF Statistics on Meat and Global Warming

In my opinion, a small reduction in meat consumption (especially beef) from a lot of people is a relatively affordable and easy thing to do.  Compare it to the efficiency and ease of green options such as biking to work or school, buying a Prius or installing solar panels (which are all great ideas).  Eating lower on the food chain is the simplest and most “bang for your buck” green thing to do.

But the question of whether one should be 100% vegetarian or vegan is something to be answered with time… as it requires more effort, discipline, and practice.

If you don’t think you can be vegetarian for one day, why not try out the model of NY Times Food Writer, Mark Bittman, who is vegan until 6pm.

Perhaps we all just need more frequent reminders that global warming is an imminent danger and very real.  Afterall, it is why I blog about it and how I contribute to fighting it.

MSNBC’s “Countdown to Doomsday” explains the risk of thawing frozen methane:

More on methane deposits in the future…

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