If you've been to one of our trainings or seminars, you may have noticed that food at IBG events is mostly vegan. You wonder why? Here are 8 reasons why we want to consume less meat:
1. Deforestation of the rainforest
Our diet has a greater impact on the global climate than you might think. In South America alone, 40 percent of the rainforest was cleared for pasture land and growing animal feed in the past four decades. With the increasing clearing of the forests, also forest fires can spread faster. The reason why we need the rainforest is clear: the Amazon Rainforest processes more than two billion tons of CO2 every year and produces about 20% of all oxygen worldwide. You do not live in South America, so what does that have to do with the meat you eat? Much of the animal feed grown there is exported - for example to Europe.
2. Greenhouse gases
Another effect of meat consumption on the climate is the production of greenhouse gases: The livestock industry is the cause of 14 to 18% of greenhouse gases emitted worldwide. That's more than all traffic worldwide (13.5%). Cows, for example, emit large quantities of methane, which is produced during digestion of the feed. When the manure of cows is used on fields, nitrous oxide is produced. Methane and nitrous oxide are significantly more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide: methane is 25 times more harmful, nitrous oxide almost 300 times. This explains why production of one kilogram of beef causes between 7 and 28 kilograms of greenhouse gases. Fruit or vegetables cause less than 1 kilogram. Eating less meat, therefore causes less greenhouse gases.
3. Pollution of groundwater
The pigs kept for farming in Germany produce twice as much sewage as the human population. The consumption of animal products contributes to the production of more liquid manure and thus contaminates the groundwater and soil with, among other things, nitrates and phosphates. Why do we need clean groundwater? For our drinking water for example.
4. Waste of water
There is also an enormous amount of drinking water being used for the meat we eat: up to 15,000 liters of water are needed to produce 1 kilogram of beef. This high amount, as much as you use for taking a shower every day in one whole year, is needed for the irrigation of the crops grown for animal feed and the animals' drinking water. Meanwhile, 2 out of 5 people worldwide have no permanent access to safe drinking water. Conscious nutrition and eating less meat thus saves valuable drinking water.
5. Unfair distribution
For 1 kilogram of meat, you have to plant 100 kilos of crops for animal feed. Farmland for meat and dairy production covers 83% of land worldwide - but only 18% of our nutrition needs. About 1 billion people worldwide are starving. Less meat consumption means that land can be better used and potentially more people can be fed.
6. Soil erosion
Erosion destroys fertile soil. The earth is easily removed by wind and water. A quarter of the world's land surface is degraded, dry land and deserts are spreading. This loss of fertile soil puts the lives about 1.5 billion people on our planet at risk. What's the reason for erosion? Intensive agriculture, the overgrazing of the areas with too many animals and the over-use of land. But also chemical fertilizers, pesticides and mechanical compaction which reduce life in the soil layer and thus the fertility of the soil. Around 70,000 square kilometers of land turn into desert every year due to the erosion of soils. That's about the size of Ireland.
7. Animal suffering
If you look at documentaries about the living conditions of livestock, it becomes clear that this is oftentimes neither respectful nor ethical treatment. The life expectancy of livestock is 1/10 or less of the natural life span. It is scientifically proven that animals feel pain just as we would. What right do we really have to overrule this?
8. Health risks
Because livestock live in such a small, crowded space, in most cases prophylactic antibiotics will be mixed into the feed to prevent the spreading of diseases. These antibiotics are ultimately consumed by those who eat the meat of the animals. The excess of antibiotics can lead to so-called multi-resistant germs, which are dangerous to humans. In the case of animals from organic agriculture, by the way, this can largely be dispensed with, as the animals have enough free space and therefore do not easily infect each other.
So is it bad to eat meat?
Keeping livestock for meat consumption is not generally wrong. After all, there are many areas in in the world in which people's existence depends on livestock farming, since nothing else can be grown on their land (for example mountain areas or dry lands). Meat in small amounts (300-600g / week) covers our nutritional needs and is not harmful to our health, either. From the point of view of the environment, social justice and animal welfare, eating meat in your favourite Sunday dish is not a bad thing, as long as the meat is from animals that have lived in ethical and environmentally friendly circumstances. We cook vegetarian, in large part vegan, at our events and seminars, not because we want to ban meat consumption overall, but because we want to encourage a more conscious consumption. (Also, because it's easier to cater to participants' different diets this way. And because we have quite a lot of amazing vegan recipes.)
You think the topic is interesting and would like to learn more about it? Or you would like to cook vegan more often, but are missing the recipes? You can always contact the IBG sustainability working group! The group is a space for all those who want to discuss sustainability or who are looking for suggestions and tips for more sustainability in their everyday life and work.