Of all the ways of combating climate change in your personal capacity, consuming less meat and dairy is probably the easiest and most effective. Livestock farming puts a tremendous strain on the environment - it is one of the leading causes of climate change. It is also one of the largest contributors to habitat destruction, deforestation, and uses enormous amounts of water. On top of this, scientific evidence is now emerging that meat-rich diets are one of the leading causes of public health issues.
What can I do?
Choosing to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet is the ideal situation, but we realise it’s a change many are not willing, or easily able to make. So, we challenge you to reduce your meat consumption by skipping meat for just one day of the week. The concept of Meat Free Mondays has been around for many years, and remain a popular choice. Key to this though, is that you do not compensate by adding more meat on other days!
If meat is your primary source of protein, the suggestion would be to cut back on one or two days of meat consumption. It not only gives your wallet a break, but it certainly helps your cholesterol, the planet and your carbon footprint too.
Why does it matter?
Livestock farming has an enormous impact on our planet:
- Water: It takes 15 500 litres of water to produce a kilogram of beef. To put this into perspective - 1 400 litres of water are used just to produce the beef patties for a small burger like a Big Mac. By comparison, the production of vegetables uses only 2% of the water of beef, and 7.5% that of chicken.
- Food waste: 36% of all crops cultivated to feed to cattle, not humans. A quarter of all fish caught are used for fishmeal, not human consumption.
- Land use: Almost 80% of all farmland is used to grow the food that is used to feed livestock. Twenty-six percent of the ice-free land on Earth is used for pasture. Livestock farming is also the leading cause of deforestation, either for grazing land or to plant crops to feed to the livestock. Sixty percent of all farmland in the world is linked to the production of beef alone - which contributes just 2% of global calory consumption.
- Greenhouse gases: Livestock farming produces 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. Agriculture is the third-largest contributor to greenhouse gases in South Africa.
Unbelievably large amounts of land are cleared specifically for livestock farming - including rainforests and endangered habitats. And a full third of all available arable land is used for feedstock. That’s land that was once nature, and land that could be used for better food security, or for sustainable textiles.
You might wonder what this has to do with the oceans. Livestock farming is also one of the largest sources of water pollution. Vast quantities of hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides that are used on the animals to grow feed crops, run off into the rivers and streams and then heads to the sea. When these pollutants reach the ocean, they are responsible for enormous patches of excessive algal blooms, resulting in vast dead zones where there is just no oxygen left for any life to flourish. To find out more about dead zones watch:
Myth-busting: Going meat-free is boring
Not at all! Skipping meat for a few days of the week not only means you save money, but it means that you can also choose better quality products when you do choose to eat it - in other words, less is more! You get to reward your inner gourmet by limiting your consumption!
Detractors of vegetarian diets often cite "complete proteins" as a reason that humans need to eat meat, but the reality is that a varied, plant-based diet also provides all the necessary nutrients you require - after all, all the meat you eat is from animals that only eat plants! The key is variety - so be adventurous. Some great culinary meat alternatives (which are all cheaper than meat) to try out are: Mushrooms, cauliflower steaks, lentil patties, brinjals, legumes and beetroot. Soya and mycoprotein meat alternatives are nice too, but lack some of the money-saving and adventurous qualities that make vegetarian recipes more exciting to try.
Who can I follow?
Follow Meat Free Mondays - lots of amazing recipe ideas! But don't be held back - almost every cooking channel on YouTube features amazing vegetarian dishes, so use this challenge as an opportunity to be more adventurous in the kitchen!
Take the 28 Day Challenge! Make your Ocean Pledge!
This post is part of the #28DayOceanPledgeChallenge! You can find the other 27 posts and challenges on the Two Oceans Aquarium website, or by signing up for the Challenge newsletter below to receive one challenge a day for 28 days: