The destructive obsession on meat
If you look around how people eat you quickly conclude that our culture carries some kind of an obligation to eat meat. Every day. Every restaurant from a 3 star one in Crissier to a ski place in Verbier serves almost everything with meat.
Why? Because we don’t know the facts, and even if we do, we want to fit in. We just block out and carry on.
But maybe we should eat like our ancestors. Rather than mindlessly consuming meat at every meal, we should think of meat as a rare privilege, not a right. Reserve it for a few special occasions, such as Christmas, and otherwise eat it no more than once a month.
Not only meat is actually bad for you, the quantities of it raised for food now are a huge planetary problem, including climate change.
Now – of all countries – the US may issue a call to limit meat consumption. Their Agriculture Department is about to recommend that people are told not only what foods are better for their own health, but for the environment as well. It is an attempt not only to have diets better adapted to our ecological resources, but also to try to revert climate change. People need to eat more plant-based foods and less meat.
A study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year said raising beef is more harmful to the environment than other meat. Beef produces more heat-trapping gases per calorie, puts out more water-polluting nitrogen, takes more water for irrigation and uses more land.
But all meat is bad. Sustaining unhealthy animals in crowded sheds requires enormous flood of antibiotics. These drugs also unnaturally accelerate growth, a use that remains legal in the United States and widespread in the European Union, under the disguise of disease control.
Massive meat production is raping the land as well as the sea. Farm animals consume one third of global cereal production, 90% of soya meal and 30% of the fish caught. If the grain was instead made available for people, an extra 1.3 billion could be fed.
Meanwhile, the lands of Europe, the US and many parts of South America have been devastated – stripped of their original vegetation, emptied of wildlife, pillaged of their capacity to hold water and carbon – all to produce more meat. It is hard to think of any other industry with a higher ratio of destruction to production. As wasteful as feeding grain to livestock is, grass feeding on such a massive scale could be even worse.
The meat industry has fought for years to ensure that no government guidelines call for eating less meat. Now the agriculture industries in the US are furious, demanding that an environmental element is not a part of any message referring to healthy lifestyle.
It is madness, and there seems no end to it: the world’s livestock population is expected to rise by 70% by 2050.
Meat is bad news and societies need to be encouraged by their governments to reduce consumption.
To start with, George Monbiot proposes in the Guardian that all children should be taken by their schools to visit a factory pig or chicken farm, and to an abattoir, to witness every stage of slaughter and butchery.
If we cannot bear to see what we eat, it is not the seeing that’s wrong, it’s the eating.
National Geographic infographic
Scientists at the University of California discovered that the human body views red meat as a foreign invader and launches an immune response