Saying the Unsayable – Cut Meat Out.

orang-utangToday, at a WWF event in Cardiff, I stood up and said the unsayable. I talked about diet. Gasp! The room was quiet – is she really saying out loud that a population heading for 9 billion humans has to learn to eat sustainably? Is she really saying out loud that eating less meat is the only way to live kindly on this one single planet? Is she really saying that compassion and sustainability turn out to be two sides of the same coin?
Well yes she is. I’m not attacking anyone for eating meat, but asking that they think about where it comes from and how it is treated. I’m asking you to think about the fact that the 95% of non-human animals on this planet are those we breed to eat. I’m asking you to think about just how much land is required to feed them all. Above all I’m asking you to think about how our intensive farming practices are a huge part of the decimation of wildlife in this sorry world. Is it really fair to kill hundreds of orangutans just so that we can have a bit of cheap palm oil in our Ginger Nuts?
So lets not have this conversation in hushed tones lest we offend anybody. Let’s get it out in the open. Either we cut our own numbers, or we change our daily menu.
If you feel your eating habits are in question you are probably right. I’m not saying everyone should go vegan (though think how much help that would be !), I am saying that if you are eating meat 3 times a day you are not only living on a planet 3 times the size of the one we have actually got, you are contributing to suffering and hunger, because the grain used to feed the animals is grain which should rightly be feeding people.
58% of our wildlife is under dire threat. Wildlife populations  have more than halved in 40 years. The fish population has declined 36%. If you are eating meat simply because you like the taste, then either save it for a special treat or take a smaller portion. If you are eating it out of tradition, then think how many traditions have not stood the test of time and have been abandoned. Should animal sacrifice go the way of human sacrifice?
If you are going to eat it, always check that the meat comes from an approved RSPCA supplier ( if it doesn’t, you shouldn’t touch it anyway) and the fish is MSC approved. Those of us in the UK who can afford to buy Fairtrade and Organic, should do so whenever possible (and that’s most of us).
So much of our beloved wildlife is under real and imminent threat of extinction, yet we can do something, but it has to be now. So try a meat-free Monday, or a dairy-free Friday. Every single action in the right direction is going to help.
Once the hedgehogs, the turtle doves, the crickets and the butterflies have gone it will be too late. We only have now.

Eat or Beef?

The farming of animals is classed as a production line, and we slaughter, or kill, more than 155,000 cows a year, and that’s just in Wales. There are 19 abattoirs in Wales, 2 in Gwent. Worldwide 95% of all the mammals on the planet are the animals we keep to eat.

The overall environmental impact of beef is disproportionately higher than every other foodstuff. Cows reared for beef need 28 times more land than pigs, chickens, or lamb, and 11 times more water.

The UK imports 236,000 tonnes of beef, which is equivalent to 790,000 cows, most of which are bought in little pieces, wrapped in plastic, from Tesco.

The head of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who has openly identified eating less meat as an important step in combatting climate change, says “ Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.” A study of tens of thousands of British people’s daily eating habits shows that meat lovers’ diets cause double the climate-warming emissions of vegetarian diets.

Now I am not at all trying to ‘have a go’ at our farmers, I am in fact asking them to farm in a different way, because not only can they help in the battle against climate change, but they can prepare themselves for a changing marketplace in preparation for our changing eating habits.

According to Google, the search interest for “vegan” spiked in 2015, increasing 32 percent from the previous year.

In 2015, millennials surpassed baby boomers as the world’s largest generation. With millennials comes an increase in plant-based eating, as 12 percent of them identify as committed vegetarians.

A rough count shows there are 59 dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Wales, and every restaurant and café I know of has a good selection of veggie food – and I’m not talking about the ubiquitous pre-frozen veggie lasagna either.

In Gwent the internet tells me there are 127 vegetarian- friendly restaurants in Gwent, and 64 vegan- friendly ones – which was a pleasant surprise. Times are changing.

Farmers can grow more food on less land if they cut out beef. When compared to staples like potatoes, grains, and vegetables, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases. It is expected that the population will increase by another 2 billion people by 2050, so it makes sense to free up the land to feed us all.

Compared to beef, 78 times more vegetables and grain can be grown on a single hectare of land. That will feed a lot of people.

We don’t really have a choice whether to abandon our fossil-fuel driven cars or to eat less red meat if we truly want to leave a pleasant and habitable world for the future, but the biggest single intervention we can make is to eat less beef.

And don’t tell me vegan food is boring.  Try it!