Livestock and global warming pollution

An Anglican bishop, an economics professor and a Nobel Peace Prize winner walk into a bar……and sit down to a vegetarian meal.

It’s not a joke, but a reflection of the increasingly mainstream concept of becoming vegetarian or vegan, or significantly cutting down meat and dairy in your diet, for ecological and climate change reasons.

In 2006, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) published the report Livestock’s Long Shadow, looking at the significant and growing ecological destruction caused by livestock farming all over the world. This report has recently been critiqued and updated in a report that found that 51% of the global warming effect caused by humans is caused by livestock farming (meat and dairy). Livestock produces huge amounts of methane (the vast majority from belching, not farting!), which is a potent greenhouse gas in the relative short term. Much of the land clearing and deforestation happening around the world is also linked to livestock farming, being either to clear land directly for grazing, or to grow feed for livestock.

In recent months, Economics Professor Nicholas Stern and Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have both urged people to cut down the amount of meat and dairy they consume, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Anglican Bishop of London, Richard Chartres has recently become a vegetarian for ecological reasons.

So how about you, can you do it? Cutting down on personal meat and dairy consumption is certainly easier than trying to convince governments to shift their countries away from fossil fuel dependence. It’s a great place to start making a difference!