Why Cut Down on Meat?
Limiting the consumption of meat is important for many reasons:
1. It’s Good for the Environment
Standard industrial farms have a big impact on the environment. manure produced by animals is in such abundance as to cause pollution. Feed arrives from intensive crops that use pesticides and environmentally damaging fertilizers, and they are often located thousands of kilometers away. Industrial farms pollute water, land and air and significantly contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases, climate change and deforestation to make way for pasture and monocultures used for feed.
The industry has also encouraged the use of breeds and hybrids that are ever more productive and adapted to a lifetime in stalls, largely contributing to the disappearance or lack of use of many animal breeds. It is for these reasons that the FAO considers the livestock sector to be the main culprit in the overall loss of biodiversity on our planet.
Small-scale traditional farms can instead be managed in a more sustainable way: grass and hay can be grown on the land where the animals are raised, as can grains and pulses needed to feed them, which allows them to grow at a lower density, using their manure to fertilize fields.
2. It’s Good for our Health
Too many animal fats and proteins are consumed in developed countries, to the point that it is causing illness. Excessive consumption of meat is associated with cardiac disease and certain forms of cancer. Diets particularly rich in saturated fats are linked with the onset of Type 2 diabetes and high blood cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, animals are routinely given antibiotics in industrial farms in order to prevent disease, which is frequent in confined spaces. Over time the bacteria build up resistance and antibiotics can no longer fight them. They can be found in manure, seeping into the soil and polluting rivers and lakes. They travel with the meat, which must often go long distances before reaching our plates…Salmonella, Escherichia Coli and many other bacteria are the globe trotters of our time. Moreover, antibiotics found in the meat we eat are then assimilated by our bodies, making it increasingly difficult to fight even a simple flu.
Meat from animals fed a diet high in grass and hay, instead of industrial feed. Heavy preventative measures are not required in small-scale traditional farms, contrary to the industrial approach, and animals are generally less prone to illness.
There are two winning strategies to prevent these diseases:
- Reducing meat consumption, with particular regard to red and industrially processed meats (cured and tinned meats, ham and heavily processed sausages) that contain harmful additives and preservatives. Choose meat from farms where animals have been fed grass and hay and have not undergone antibiotic or hormonal treatments. This ensures gastronomic pleasure as the quality of the meat is a direct consequence of the way animals are fed.
- Increasing the consumption of plant-based foods: unrefined grains, pulses and a large variety of non starchy vegetables and fruits that, if well balanced, can provide our body with all necessary nutrients.
3. It’s Good for Animals
In 2007 the Lisbon Treaty, ratified by the countries of the European Union, officially recognized animals as sentient beings, granting them certain rights and protections and putting animal welfare on the same level as other ethical principles, such as gender equality, the protection of human health and social welfare…However, animals are still paying a high price in the current system.
Standard industrial farms reduce animals to mere machines, commodities: they are confined in tight cages and small spaces where they spend their brief and painful life, often tied up. In the course of their lives, animals are subject to a variety of mutilations: their beaks are trimmed, their tails or wings clipped and they are often castrated without the use of anesthesia, dehorned at 5-6 weeks to avoid injuring each other due to the stresses and strains of an unnatural lifestyle. Finally, transport to the slaughterhouse usually involves many hours of travel in conditions that generate great suffering. Stripped from their environments and in the hands of workers without proper training, animals are subject to all kinds of stress and fear.
Animal welfare is increasingly important for consumers, who are themselves willing to change their purchasing habits to buy foods with higher welfare stands. In Europe, 62% of consumers confirmed this in a study by the European Commission, while in a Slow Food survey amongst European members, this figure was as high as 87%.
4. It’s Good for Us All!
According to the FAO, in 2010 food prices hit one of the highest ever levels since the nineties. It is a well-established fact that the increase in meat consumption is one of the main reasons for the recent food crisis. The growth in the demand for agricultural goods is not only due to demographic increase, but also to the use of these resources for ends other than feeding humans (animal feed and bio fuels), the devaluation of the dollar, the increase in fuel prices and financial speculation.
In the Global South, meat consumption is a luxury and hunger is the leading cause of death. Hunger is not a natural catastrophe rather a consequence of unjust policies, selfishness, exploitation and indifference. By moderating our behavior, there would be enough meat in the world (and therefore land, water and air) to satisfy everyone’s needs.