So it’s meat free week 23rd-29th of March. I don’t know about you but until around a week ago I had never heard of this. I have been reading the Meet Free Week website and they say that our incredible lust for meat puts a massive strain on our environment, it impacts our health and the welfare of animals. With global meat production set to double by 2020, should we do something to stop this?
First of all, let’s outline the points set out on the Meat Free Week website so that we can have a better understanding of the issues raised.
According to the Meat Free Week website the overconsumption of meat can lead to a number of conditions including Bowel Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Cholesterol, Obesity, Reduced Life Expectancy.
The British, in particular, eat far more than the world average of 41.9kg per annum. The British eat on average 84.2kg per annum, more than double the world average and above dietary guidelines.
The U.N. has identified the livestock industry as one of the biggest contributors to some of the world’s environmental problems. In particular we hear about global warming, deforestation and overfishing. Agriculture uses 70% of the planet’s fresh water.
It is estimated that the livestock and meat production industries contribute between 8 to 10.8pc of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps even more if you include factors such as respiration into the calculations.
In the UK in just 90 days we slaughtered seven millions ducks and turkeys, six hundred thousand cows, five hundred thousand sheep, two hundred million chickens, two and a half million pigs and three million lambs. These figures do not include other animals such as rabbits, fish and seafood also slaughtered for human consumption.
Because we want the meat in our supermarket to be cheap, factory farming has become an acceptable means of farming meat. In the UK, 80% of chickens, 45% of laying hens and 75% of breeding pigs are factory farmed.
More detail is available on the Meat Free Week website.
What do I think?
First of all I would like to point out that I am no expert. I have conducted a limited amount of research in writing this post and I don’t wish to cause any offence. If you disagree with any of the points I make below, please feel free to leave a comment or message me. I am happy to hear what you have to say and if you have some information that would enlighten me and change my point of view please let me know. I am always happy to discuss.
I think some of the health issues/conditions described on the website are unnecessary. I presume there is a factual basis for the information provided so I can accept Bowel Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Disease and High Cholesterol as potential health implications of eating too much meat. If the overconsumption of meat does contribute towards these conditions then we should think about lowering the amount we eat. However, obesity is the result of consuming anything in excess. If somebody obese stopped eating meat altogether but consumed the same number of calories, they would not lose weight. ‘Reduced Life Expectancy’, also listed, is not a ‘condition’ as described on the website.
Despite the minor points I have detailed, I do believe that we have become too used to having meat with our meals. Why couldn’t we have a meal without having to eat meat? I admit that I eat a lot of meat. I eat many things in excess and so meat is probably the least of my worries. Cooking the meat in butter and then covering it in cheese before serving with fries is probably a bigger concern. Ultimately, there are a lot of things that could be detrimental to our health but we do it anyway. Out of the three issues raised on the Meat Free Week website. I consider this the least important but still something worth considering.
I do believe that we need to take the environment and the welfare of our animals more seriously. We have all seen the videos that circulate social media, highlighting the despicable ways some animals are treated. Yet the majority still choose the cheapest meat knowing that it has probably come from a factory farm. The most reputable butchers take pride in the fact their animals have been treated well. As a result, they taste better for it and the meat commands higher prices. But, that is where the problem lies. People cannot afford the higher welfare meat that butchers have to offer. Supermarkets offer meat at much lower prices than butchers and families struggling to make ends meet have no choice. Many restaurants simply wish to make money and using factory farmed meat means a higher margin of profit. I doubt anybody would deny that meat that has been farmed responsibly is better, both in flavour and from a moral point of view. Unfortunately, unless action is taken by government to end factory farming and our ever increasing demand for meat is controlled (by ourselves), we can expect it to stick around for a long time. If there is one point out of the three I feel can be influenced most by this campaign it is this one. Not enough people care where their meat comes from and hopefully, campaigns like this can change that.
Environmentally, I understand that the impact farming has on the environment needs to be addressed. I don’t believe the consumer, you and me, can do much to effect this. Even if we do decrease the amount of meat that we consume, our growing population will still mean the demand for meat and all food is going to increase. The amount of meat produced might not double by 2020, but it will have a year or two later. The amount of meat that we eat can obviously contribute but focus should be on making farming more environmentally friendly. The processes and technology used in farming need to evolve and adapt to the world’s needs. However, farming is always going to be necessary and the amount we farm will not decrease. Although we do need to take a serious look at the impact farming has on the environment, if we are going to tackle global warming etc, we need to prioritise and the effect the energy market, transportation and deforestation has on global warming would be better places to start.
I clearly don’t fully support this campaign. A week without eating meat won’t change anything, but it does raise some points we could all do with thinking about. I don’t believe I could honestly commit to a week without any meat at all. I love meat, my blog is mainly about meat. I do, however, acknowledge that we all need to be more responsible and consider the impact our actions have on the world. This campaign is a way to raise awareness and it has worked. I cannot directly influence the way farming impacts our environment. Perhaps reducing the amount of meat I eat slightly will have a minor impact in the long term but only if we all do the same! If we all make a conscious decision to buy meat that has been farmed responsibly and say no to the factory farmers ill-treated animals, we can change the country’s attitude towards meat. You might have to eat a little less meat than you would like if you can’t afford it but apparently that’s good for your health anyway. Ultimately, it is you who will end up with better tasting meat on your plate.
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Written by Tomos Newland-Jones @MrNewland66