Vegetarianism and climate change

As ever, those with a cause to promote are leaping upon the latest bandwagon to promote said cause. Now it\’s that we should all eat less meat to stop climate change.

People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world\’s leading authority on global warming has told The Observer

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.

Hmm, this is the same bloke who said he would have to be reincarnated in order to appease for his carbon emissions in this life. Ahem.

The thing is, it\’s actually a little more complex than this.

Last year a major report into the environmental impact of meat eating by the Food Climate Research Network at Surrey University claimed livestock generated 8 per cent of UK emissions – but eating some meat was good for the planet because some habitats benefited from grazing. It also said vegetarian diets that included lots of milk, butter and cheese would probably not noticeably reduce emissions because dairy cows are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas released through flatulence.

It\’s more that veganism will help, not vegetarianism. And, ofcourse, if we\’re to continue to have those dairy cows then we\’ll need to be eating the veal from the male calves as well….

Pachauri can expect some vociferous responses from the food industry to his advice, though last night he was given unexpected support by Masterchef presenter and restaurateur John Torode, who is about to publish a new book, John Torode\’s Beef. \’I have a little bit and enjoy it,\’ said Torode. \’Too much for any person becomes gluttony. But there\’s a bigger issue here: where [the meat] comes from. If we all bought British and stopped buying imported food we\’d save a huge amount of carbon emissions.\’

And that is plain nonsense. The vast majority of food related emissions come from the methods used to grow the food, not from the transport. It might not be all that much of a surprise to people that growing things on a damp cold island in the North Atlantic can take more energy (and thus emissions) than growing it somewhere else and shipping it in. Like tomatoes from Spain, lamb from New Zealand and, as Adam Smith pointed out, wine from Bourdeaux.

It might actually be true that getting more of our protein from non animal sources will help…..but as I say at the top, there are those who will leap aboard a bandwagon to promote their own bugbears and eating locally is just one of those counter-productive things that people are pushing.

2 thoughts on “Vegetarianism and climate change”

  1. “People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world’s leading authority on global warming has told The Observer.”

    Then he should convert to Christianity; they have been into that kind of thing for 20 centuries now.
    It is amazing how old ideas get recycled.

  2. The vegan lifestyle, (and I have personal experience of this), leads to two unsustainable problems.

    1. Enormous stonking great poops that defy the ingenuity of any sanitation engineer,. They lurk in lavatory bowls throughout the western world. Like some kind of challenge to civilisation and good manners. Eventually, they melt away. But nobody knows where they go.

    2. Farts that once ignited, could rival the Hindenburg disaster. Oh, the humanity!

    Be honest, how much of this “back to nature” nonsense do we really want?

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