by Countryside Alliance

Surely avoiding animal products is one of the most effective things we can do to help the environment, as raising livestock generates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming?

It is extraordinary that when we are told that giving up meat is one of the most important things we can do for the environment no mention is made of fossil fuels. The global GHG (greenhouse gas) amounts to 49 gigatons a year. Of that amount 37 gigatons stems from the use of fossil fuels. That is what needs tackling.

The “avoiding animal products” argument is spurious, fuelled by misinformation and bad reporting on science. Enteric methane (such as produced by ruminants) is not comparable to the gasses produced by burning fossil fuels. It is part of a carbon cycle and is reabsorbed into the soil.

Pasture is one of the most important carbon sinks we have in the UK and, with our soil and therefore cropping ability seriously depleted, regenerative farming practices, which include rotating livestock, are going to be ever more important for our food security. What is important is to change our farming practices to cut as many carbon emissions as we can – but this goes for crops as well as livestock. Of course we should think about our meat consumption – good quality, high-welfare animal products should be what we aspire to.

The consumption of animals is cruel – don’t they have a right to life? If animals are properly treated and reared, then “cruelty” is not an objective standpoint. It is true that intensively reared animals have a less natural life, but if they are, as our laws dictate, fed, watered, without fear and without pain, the cruelty argument doesn’t stand. In the UK we have very strict welfare regulations, and some of the highest standards in the world, though of course it is true that there are exceptions and there are those who mistreat animals, be they pets or farm animals. What is also true is that domesticated animals (for if you apply this argument to farm animals, it should also apply to pets of any kind) wouldn’t have a life at all without us.

If we can get all the dietary nutrients and protein that we need elsewhere, why should we still eat meat? Because it is a natural part of our diet. Current research shows that while you can get your nutrients from other sources, these do not provide the same nutritional values as meat, dairy or fish. And, most importantly, we should still eat meat because people think it is delicious and we live in a democracy, allowing us free choice.

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