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Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

I began my obsession with this topic while canvassing for Greenpeace, which led to an encounter with a vegan restaurant owner who informed me about the enormous amount of greenhouse gasses I could reduce if I ate less meat.  He then invited me to his restaurant for a free vegan lunch!

From that experience, I was in.  I proceeded to create a facebook group in December 2006 called “Fight Global Warming!  Eat Less Meat! (or none at all)“.  Last count: 4412 members.

Since Facebook has phased out the old groups structure, I created a new page with the same name.  You can check it out here:  https://www.facebook.com/climatediet

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I’ve been hearing that this is a powerful documentary which examines the claim that rejecting or minimizing a diet of animal-based or processed foods will prevent degenerative diseases.  We’d also save billions of dollars in ever-increasing healthcare costs.  This would free our government to focus more on fighting the increasingly urgent issue of climate change!  Check out the website http://www.forksoverknives.com/

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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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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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meat-the-truth1

For your information and amusement, I provided a Guilt Trip Rating for each video (GTR, 10 is high, 1 is low).   In my opinion, videos with a low GTR are great for introducing this subject to someone.  Videos with a higher GTR should be viewed with caution.  Enjoy.


  1. ABC News:  2 Simple Steps for Climate Change
  2. Meat the Truth Trailer
  3. Compassion in World Farming:  Livestock Production & the Environment
  4. Holistic Secrets with Rachel Avalon:  On Less Meat and Dairy
  5. Glen Beck:  Al Gore Ignores Eating Meat
  6. Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong With What We Eat (20 min.)
  7. Meat the Facts on Global Warming
  8. Supreme Master TV:  United Nations: Less Meat, Less Heat
  9. Barack Obama responds to Question from Vegan on Meat
  10. CNN:  Going Vegan:  The Impact on your Health and the Environment

1.  ABC News:  2 Simple Steps for Climate Change (5/13/08)

For those in a rush.  Guilt Trip Rating: 2

ABC’s Dan Harris narrates this well-made video made for a mainstream audience that helps us to visualize how the beef production process releases greenhouse gases.  The second part (Step 2) of the video encourages viewers to also get an energy audit.  Point made:  there’s more than one way to stop global warming, eating less beef is a lot easier.  Bravo.

2.  Meat the Truth Trailer

For media types, documentary lovers.  Guilt Trip Rating:  5

This is the trailer to a DOCUMENTARY on meat and global warming made in the Netherlands! I’m surprised I didn’t hear about this earlier.  Takes an incrementalist approach towards meat-eating, mimicing Al Gore’s Powerpoint-style presentation in An Inconvenient Truth.   Shows how one meatless day of the week helps.

3.  Compassion in World Farming:  Livestock Production & the Environment

For those who prefer British accents?  Guilt Trip Rating:  5

4.  Holistic Secrets with Rachel Avalon:  On Less Meat and Dairy

For those who just pay more attention to a lady, or who need their hand to be held.  Guilt Trip Rating:  3

A holistic, innocent, earthy, video blogger who gently lays out the stats and gives some nice homemade graphics :).  Her summary:  “Surprising solution beyond CFL lightbulbs, planting trees, & hybrids”.

Check out Rachel’s website at www.rachelavalon.com.  She is trained in holistic nutrition, reflexology and massage therapy!


5. Glen Beck:  Al Gore Ignores Eating Meat

For those who wishes they could see something good in Glen Beck?  Guilt Trip Rating: 9

As Google reveals, this is one of the most viral videos on meat and global warming out there.  But be careful with this one.  For those who don’t know, Glen Beck is a prominent right-wing talk show host, who thinks the global warming crowd is alarmist and being misled.  It seems that his goal is to manipulate the subject of meat and global warming, as an “all or nothing” sort of issue – in order to further antagonize the skeptics, or to  even divide global warming activists.  This is my hunch at least.  Beck never mentions the fact that one could simply eat LESS meat, though the PETA organizer does mention it at the end.  Beck even prepared a video catching well-known celebrities and of course, Al Gore, eating meat.

Eat ANY meat? Guilt! Guilt! Shame! Shame!

However, it is nonetheless an informative video that brought attention to this issue, and includes some points I can agree with.  Gore should bring up the impact of livestock on global warming.  I just hope people aren’t introduced to this subject through Beck.

Round 2 – Beck and PETA spokesperson Matt Prescott met again earlier this month

6Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong With What We Eat (20 min.)

For science, whole-system types.  Guilt Trip Rating: 4

This guy is great.  Non-vegetarian and author who blogs at the NY Times about cooking, with occasional blog posts on the impact of meat on global warming.  The video explains how industrial agricultural is to blame for our diets and for harming the Earth.

Summary from TED itself:  “In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.”

7.  Meat the Facts on Global Warming

For those who can take the heat.  Guilt Trip Rating: 9

From MeatTheFACTS.org,  A serious guilt-trip.  Hits all the angles:  global warming, deforestation, poverty, water, world hunger and starving children.  No narration.  Just the facts & ominous techno music mixed with a heart monitor, suggesting that the end is near.  Which is probably true…


8.  Supreme Master TV:  United Nations: Less Meat, Less Heat

For everyone, literally.  There are subtitles for 14 other languages.  Guilt Trip Rating:  6

“Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace, has said that people should give up eating meat at least once a week in order to help prevent global warming.”

One of many videos from Supreme Master Ching Hai, on meat and global warming. You may not agree with all of her spiritual views, but you can agree that she is channeling her energy for the planet. “Supreme Master TV” is a multilingual video channel which regularly emphasizes why and how to go vegetarian and vegan.

9.  Barack Obama responds to Question from Vegan on Meat

For everyone, Obama fans.  Guilt Trip Rating: 2

It’s very interesting to watch Obama’s respond to this question on the environmental impact of our diet.  He explains that as a result of climate change and livestock production, the global food system is under immense stress – and says rising global meat consumption is a threat. He gives some tangible examples.  He also ties the question to health, noting that the US healthcare system could save a trillion dollars if obesity levels were lowered to 1980 levels.   YESiree.  Of course, he says all this in a much more articulate and non-threatening sort of way.  Yay, this is the president of the USA speaking!

The question – Nikki Benoit: Thank you, Senator, very much for your strong environmental position.

The United Nations actually has reiterated that factory farming is contributing more to global greenhouse gas emissions than all of transportation. I think that as a global community we really need to be the leader and moving more towards non-factory farming animal agriculture. It’s very egregious. There’s 10 billion land animals that we are funneling our precious water and grain through when 70 per cent of all of our grain could help feed the world’s hungry. So, as the next leader of the most amazing nation in the world, how can we set the example on the more nutritional, plant-based diet that’s more eco-friendly and sustainable, that can maintain our water resources and all of our grain. Thank you very much.

10.  CNN:  Going Vegan:  The Impact on your Health and the Environment (6/11/08)

For everyone, particularly those who just need to hear it from CNN.  Guilt Trip Rating: 3

The reporter, Alina Cho, talks about the facts while showing off some vegan food in action.  She concludes by telling viewers  that she is not saying one has to cut meat entirely out of his/her diet to make a significant impact (despite the story on veganism).  Unfortunately, the video quality is not great.

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cows

This is a useful post for illustrating meat’s carbon footprint to different people.  Do you like exotic food?  Know a Prius or SUV owner?  Don’t plan on going veg anytime soon?  There’s something for everyone. Hopefully, at least one of these ten studies will help you or someone you know to consider eating less meat.

1.  Livestock’s Longshadow

This is probably the most cited and comprehensive study on the impact of meat on global warming and the environment.  Estimated that livestock produces 18% of all greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined.  Summary:  Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment

Steinfeld et all., United Nations, Food and Agricultural Organization, 2006.

For those who just want to hear it from a “legitimate source”.

2.  Diet, Energy and Global Warming (pdf)(view as html)

One of the first major studies on this subject, which concluded choosing a vegan diet reduced more greenhouse gases than switching from a SUV to a prius.  Summary:  Vegan Diets Healthier for Planet, People than Meat Diets

Gidon Eshel and Martin, University of Chicago,  December 2005.

For the veg-curious and hybrid or SUV owners.

3.   Kangaroos and Greenhouse Gases

Concluded switching from beef to kangaroo meat would significantly help fight global warming.

Articles about this subject are surprisingly popular.  Though I don’t think I would touch kangaroo meat, many people seem curious about this new alternative.  To me, this is fine.  It brings a lot of awareness to the impact of livestock on global warming, which is the most important thing.  Apparently, about 58% of Australians eat kangaroo meat.  Summary:  Kangaroo Farming would Cut Greenhouse Gases

To start conversations with exotic food lovers, cute Australians, global warming skeptics, and maybe animal rights activists.

George Wilson, University of New South Wales (May 2008)

4.  Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States

Concluded that reducing meat consumption will more effectively lower one’s carbon footprint than “buying local”.  Summary:  It’s the Meat Not the Miles

Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon Universit(April 2008).

For locavores and the “just buy local or organic” discussions.

5.  Climate Friendly Dining Meats

A look at the individual carbon footprints of beef, pork, chicken and fish.  Beef accounts for only 30% of all meat consumption, but contributes 78% of meat’s greenhouse gas emissions.  AFP summary:  Hamburgers are the Hummers of Food in Global Warming.

American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, Chicago (Feb. 15).

For the everyday meat eater.

6.  The Cheeseburger Footprint

Concludes: “The greenhouse gas emissions arising every year from the production and consumption of cheeseburgers is roughly the amount emitted by 6.5 million to 19.6 million SUVs.  There are now approximately 16 million SUVs currently on the road in the US. ”  Total Cheeseburgers = Total SUVs?

Jamais Cascio, ref: Energy Use in the Food Sector (PDF), a 2000 report from Stockholm University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, (Dec. 2006).

To help cheeseburger-eating, frequent SUV drivers feel even more guilty.

7.  Climate Benefits of Changing Diet

Concluded that if the world shifted to a low-meat diet, the world could cut $20 trillion off the cost of fighting global warming (that’s $20,000,000,000,000).  Summary:  Eating less meat could cut climate costs

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Earth System Science and Climate Change Group, Wageningen University Research Centre, February 2009.

For any discussion about the dismal state of the world economy or stimulus packages.

8.  Global Environmental Costs of Beef Production

A well-cited article by scholars, ahead of its time.  Showed “cows emit between 2.5 and 4.7 ounces of methane for each pound of beef they produce.  Because methane has roughly 23 times the global-warming potential of CO2, those emissions are the equivalent of releasing between 3.6 and 6.8 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere for each pound of beef produced.”  (Nathan Fiala – interesting researcher on this subject, Scientific American)

For those who give you links to carbon footprint calculators.

Susan Subak, University College London (July 1999).

9.  Amazon Cattle Footprint (pdf)

This is an impressive study with maps and graphs on how cattle ranching is responsible for 80% of the continuous deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.  According to Dr. Norman Myers, 5% of the world’s deforestation is currently due to cattle ranching.  Overall deforestation is estimated to be responsible for 20% of all greenhouse gases, more than transportation.  Summary:  How Cattle Ranches are Chewing Up the Amazon Rainforest.

For the everyday treehugger (a good thing) who isn’t cutting back on meat.

Greenpeace (January 2009)

10. Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow–calf system by the life cycle assessment method

Concluded that producing 1kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home.  Summary:  Meat is Murder on the Environment

For the next time your wife/husband/roommate/etc. complains about you leaving the lights on or wasting gas.

Akifumi Ogino, National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science, Tsukuba, and Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto, Japan (July 2007)

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