Word of Mouth: Will turning vegetarian save the planet?

24th February 2010, The Guardian Online

Even committed carnivores can’t dodge the facts: we’re going to have to cut down on the red stuff. A bit.

“If one cares about the environment, one must care about eating animals … Someone who regularly eats factory-farmed products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

The numbers look pretty unarguable. So much so that – as a senitive meat-eating, trying-hard green – I have to ask if Safran Foer is being too soft: can any meat-eater at all call themselves an environmentalist?

Livestock agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than every train, truck, car and aeroplane put together. The resources consumed by one average omnivore in pursuit of animal protein would nourish as many as 10 vegetarians (there’s lots of argument about this stat – some would put the ratio higher). So, shift people’s diets and the planet can support more people – in fact, it will quite easily deal with the 9.2 billion at which population is currently forecast to peak in about 40 years’ time, even with the threat to agriculture that climate change poses.

Read more here at The Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog

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