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This Is Why Plant-based Meat Can Save The Planet

 In 2019, during a general assembly meeting, president María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés warned the world’s leaders that only 11 years are left to prevent irreversible damage to the climate.  And It may not seem like it but we are running out of time and we need to take action now. Don’t worry it’s not as drastic as Superman shifting the tectonic plates. As individuals, little changes in our lifestyle will make a huge difference for the planet all the same. It’s the collective team effort that the planet needs.

However, do you wonder what’s causing irreversible damage to the planet in the first place? Along with the burning of fossil fuels, animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

  • We will have to double the production of meat and dairy products
  • 83% of the world’s agricultural land is already being used by animal agriculture viz meat and dairy industries.
  • Animal agriculture is a major cause of global warming and the mass extinction of wildlife
  • Millions of acres of forests are being cleared every year to raise ‘livestock’. At this rate, it won’t be long before there are no forests left.

  And this is how fishing industries are affecting all marine life,

  • Overfishing is destroying marine habitats and ecosystems at an unprecedented scale.
  • Oceans absorb almost all of the earth’s excess heat and 85% of all the world’s CO2
  • Marine plants generate 5 times more oxygen than land forests.

To save the planet we must save the oceans but The rate at which the fishing industries are destroying ocean life is so rapid that we run the risk of having virtually empty oceans by 2048.

What can we do about this?

We can reduce our consumption of animal meat and switch to plant-based meat. The scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis of the damage animal farming does to the planet have concluded, avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. Going plant-based is the most effective way for fighting climate change. While it may seem daunting at the first glance, we don’t have to make the change overnight. The small steps will shift the scale in the planet’s favour, slowly but surely.

Eat Lancet Commission’s recommendations for saving the planet

In the scientific community, there is increasing consensus that transitioning towards reduced meat consumption and more plant-based diets is a key feature to addressing climate change. The prestigious EAT-Lancet Commission comprising 37 world-leading scientists from 16 countries with expertise in various scientific disciplines has advocated for a plant-forward diet to better the planet’s health. If the world went plant-based, the global farmland can be reduced by 75% and still feed more than 10 billion people.

Production of Animal meat is inefficient, unsustainable, and costly

The global population hit the 8 billion mark very recently. The number is only going up, rapidly. In 1800 we were 1 billion. In 222 years we have grown by 7 billion. Out of which 10% of people go to bed hungry. Malnutrition is on the rise, millions die every day. We also kill 80 billion land animals and 3 trillion fishes for food. Then how is there a global hunger crisis? It’s because animal agriculture is ridiculously inefficient.

 Imagine this scenario,

  1. You have a farm and there are 100 people you need to feed.
  2. You can cultivate two types of crops, red and green.
  3. The red crop consumes 5 times more resources and is 4 times less efficient in terms of yield than the green crop.
  4. If you were to cultivate only red crops in the land available to you, 75 people would sleep hungry.
  5. If you were to cultivate green crops, however, you would be able to feed 400 people. 300 more people than the requirement.

    Which plant would you choose to cultivate? The green one obviously! I can hear you scream. And yet, we aren’t doing that. That’s animal agriculture for you. Red crops are animal meat and green crops are plant-based meat.

     The Absurd case of Animal farming is that it’s a type of business that’s causing massive losses and we are still funding it. Animal agriculture is depleting the world’s resources at an alarming rate.

    • The water required to produce 1 gram of animal protein is at least 5 times more than what plant protein requires. Plant protein comes in different forms. Peas, soy, wheat, beans, lentils, etc. Some crops may require more water than others but it’s still way less than what animal protein requires. Lentils are the most efficient.
    •  It’s the same with land usage. Of all the agricultural land available on the planet, animal agriculture uses 5 times more land as well.
    • That’s not all, One must think if resource consumption is so ridiculous maybe there is more output, but that’s not the case. Animal agriculture only produces 20% of the total calories we consume.

     How absurd is that? It’s like paying for five meals but you are only served one.

    The Paris Climate Agreement, Greenhouse gas emissions, and Global warming

    According to FAO, Animal agriculture is responsible for 15 to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. (This number is much higher at 51% according to Goodland and Anhang, and 87% according to Dr Sailesh Rao) To put this into perspective even if the use of fossil fuel was ended completely, the greenhouse gas emissions produced by animal agriculture alone would warm up the planet by up to 2 degrees Celcius, which is 0.5 degrees more than what the Paris Climate Agreement warned the world about. If that happens, The IPCC has predicted, that the world will see extreme heatwaves, destruction of coral reefs, and ocean levels rising to dangerous levels.

    What Dr Sailesh Rao has to say

    Dr Sailesh Rao is the founder and executive director of The Climate Healers. A non-profit organization dedicated to healing the climate. He is the co-producer of Cowspiracy. He is an expert when it comes to the environment.

    In November 2019 he wrote a white paper, ‘Animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change which shows rather shocking statistics and raises many important questions. He has been working on Veganism being the primary solution to the climate crisis. Dr Sailesh Rao goes in-depth about how FAO and IPCC have misrepresented the numbers and data related to animal agriculture in his white paper. I would recommend you read it. Here are some of the things he observed-

    1. According to Dr Sailesh Rao, the IPCC, a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, when it came to animal agriculture, was slanting the data in the latest climate change 2022 report.
    2. IPCC used FAO’s numbers.  FAO is another United Nations body that tackles world hunger.
    3. Dr Sailesh Rao says that since FAO has very publicly partnered with the International meat secretariat and International Dairy Federation, the industries are pushing FAO to come up with numbers that are favourable to them.

    One such number is the greenhouse gas emissions number. According to FAO, Animal Agriculture is responsible for 15 to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, Dr Sailesh Rao argues that there were blatant errors made when FAO came up with these numbers. And in reality, Animal agriculture is responsible for 87% of greenhouse gas emissions. The 18% number is a diluted one and the reports undermined the danger methane poses. Here is how-

    1) Methane is a greenhouse gas produced by animals in animal farms. Methane stays in the environment for about 12 years on average. Let’s say 10 years. After 10 years it becomes CO2.

    2) FAO and IPCC use a 100-year time frame for measuring climate change and therein lies the error.

    3) According to Dr Sailesh Rao, FAO and IPCC are diluting the numbers by not using an annual or a 10-year time frame.

    4) Methane is very powerful at trapping heat. It is 130 times more powerful than CO2.  But after a decade methane gets converted to CO2.

    5) So when you do the numbers over a century, you are only looking at CO2. Overlooking the fact that some of that CO2 was methane for a decade. And in that decade it caused 130 times more damage is completely swept under the rug. 

    Until we don’t acknowledge that methane is a huge issue we can’t take the steps needed to counter it. Which is exactly what the animal meat industries want.

    Conclusion

    Alright! I hope you have gone through all the resources and the data we have provided in this article. We have enough proof by now to conclude that going plant-based can fight climate change and save the only planet we have. However, there is one major barrier when it comes to consuming more plant-based foods. That barrier is meat appreciation. We enjoy the taste of meat. The practical solution to this barrier would be Plant-based meat.

    Plant-based meat is 10 times more sustainable than animal meat

     Multiple studies have been conducted on 50 different plant-based types of meat to assess their environmental impact and all of these studies found that Plant-based meats have 90% less impact on the environment and resource consumption.  This should come as no surprise since plant-based meats are made from whole plant foods which have the lowest carbon footprint.  

    Plant-based meats have the same taste and texture as animal meat. Recently Jeremy Vine, on his show, presented a sausage expert with two sausages and asked him to tell which one is the “real” sausage. The sausage expert chose the second one as the “real sausage”. What he didn’t know was both sausages were vegan.

    When Jeremy told him that, the sausage expert was quite furious, to say the least. If the experts can’t tell the difference, can anyone else? And as a bonus plant-based meats have a better nutritional profile and none of the side effects. Better for your health and that of the planet.

    Sources

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    https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/protecting-whales-protect-planet

    https://earthsky.org/earth/how-much-do-oceans-add-to-worlds-oxygen

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    https://ourworldindata.org/land-use-diets

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    https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement

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    https://climatehealers.org/the-science/animal-agriculture-position-paper/

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    All opinions expressed by our guest blogger are their own.

    Ankur Gedam

    @da.lit.vegan (Instagram)

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