Should people give up eating meat to save the planet?

Last week, I read this article in The Telegraph where Lord Stern talks about taking up vegetarianism to reduce our carbon footprint. He adds that eating meat could become as socially unacceptable as drunk driving.

But is being vegetarian really the solution to climate change?

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2 Responses

  1. Eating meat certainly has a significant impact on carbon emissions and I agree that we must seek a more sustainable food system. Vegetarians (and vegans more so) rightly claim the moral high ground when it comes to individual carbon footprints from food. There surely is a strong case to be made for limiting meat consumption.

    Over the past few years as I have become conscious of the carbon emissions of food I have significantly altered my diet to decrease my meat intake. I have seriously considered vegetarianism precisely because of this but in the end I will never give up eating meat completely. And I think it’s an unrealistic expectation that humankind would collectively become vegetarian – the analogy of eating meat to drunk driving is silly.

    Eating meat is a primal urge, throughout time humans have sought to refine the ancient process of combining fire and flesh. Eating meat is so deeply embedded in the fabric of humanity I believe nothing can, or should change this habit. That said, I agree with food writers like Mark Bittman who advocate for substantial reductions in our meat consumption (see this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html). It is crucially important to raise awareness of the impact of our food system, and meat is a major factor.

  2. It is true that our meat consumption has increased over the last fifty years, from 144 pounds per person in 1950 to 222 pounds per person in 2007 (http://www.hsus.org/farm/resources/pubs/stats_meat_consumption.html). Although we have a primal urge to eat meat, back when we were a nomadic society we did not eat meat every single day (our diet consisted of mostly nuts and berries, with the occasional kill of an animal). Therefore, I do agree with Andrew that it will be impossible to force everyone to become vegetarians or vegans, but it would be healthier and environmentally friendlier if we consumed less meat. We should take after what the Belgium city of Ghent is doing, where there is one day a week dedicated to being vegetarian (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8046970.stm).

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