13 Nov 2008
Cleaningpro, I think your interpretation of my point is somewhat apocalyptic. The point I was making is that the dairy industry is one of the world's largest contributors to greenhouse gases. I think I’m right in saying that there has never been a point in our civilisations history where we have eaten as much meat and dairy as we do now. I think it is also fair to say we eat more than we need in the west. We don't have to stop eating meet we just need to be sustainable in how we manage our meat consumption.
It is true to say that as living standards rise we expect to be able to eat more meat, this is being magnified by growing industrialising countries (china, India - thankfully India has one of the largest vegetarian populations in the world). It follows that this will lead to further increases in greenhouse emissions.
Meat requires vast amounts of land and energy to produce. Livestock is increasingly being feed with grains and cereals that could be fed directly to humans and from land that could be used to grow corps for food. Over 60% of US grain is fed to livestock and it is estimated that as little as 2.5% of their gross feed energy is actually converted into food for humans, this is a very inefficient use of land and food.
This next piece of information comes from P. W. Gerbens-Leenes et al. 'A method to determine land requirements relating to food consumption patterns,' Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 2002; 90:47-58 and is extracted form the Vegan Society website:
“Efficiency can also be measured in terms of the land required per calorie of food obtained. When Gerbens-Leenes et al.  examined land use for all food eaten in the Netherlands, they found that beef required the most land per kilogram and vegetables required the least. The figures they obtained can be easily converted to land required for one person's energy needs for a year by multiplying 3000 kcal (a day's energy) by 365 days to obtain annual calorie needs (1,095,000 kcal) and dividing this by the calories per kilogram. The figures obtained are summarised in table 1:
Food Land per kg (m2) Calories per kilogram Land per person per year (m2)
Beef 20.9 2800 8173
Pork 8.9 3760 2592
Eggs 3.5 1600 2395
Milk 1.2 640 2053
Fruit 0.5 400 1369
Vegetables 0.3 250 1314
Potatoes 0.2 800 274
On the basis of these figures, a vegan diet can meet calorie and protein needs from just 300 square metres using mainly potatoes. A more varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, grains and legumes would take about 700 square metres. Replacing a third of the calories in this diet with calories from milk and eggs would double the land requirements and a typical European omnivorous diet would require five times the amount of land required for a varied vegan diet.
In looking at land use for animal products this research makes the very favourable assumption that by-products of plant food production used in animal agriculture do not require any land. For example, soybean land is assigned 100% to human soy oil consumption with no land use attributed to the oil cakes used for meat and dairy production. This stacks the odds in favour of animal foods, so the figures in this paper are all the more compelling as to the higher land demands of animal farming.”
This information highlights that reducing meat and dairy consumption would not result in deaths of humans from starvation, but would actually help reduce starvation and human deaths!
Obviously it would not be prudent to burn or leave all the animals to decay, we just need to reduce the amount of livestock and the amount we consume – we don’t need to eat meat 3 times a day!
I am not a vegan, nor a vegetarian. I like meat, but I also like the planet.