Over the past decade, veganism and vegetarianism has increased in the UK by over 350%. There’s also been a whole host of new terms coined, such a flexitarianism, pescetarian, ovo-vegetarian, pollotarian. The list goes on and on, getting more and more complex. But what has brought on this surge of diet and lifestyle changes in our generation, many of which can be rather drastic?

Firstly, Facebook has been a great platform for spreading the word about the crimes of meat industries. It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t seen a video or doesn’t know about the cruelty of battery farms and slaughterhouses. But this is often not enough to turn people towards vegetarianism, which isn’t surprising.

“if everyone cut their meat consumption in half, predictions show we could solve world hunger, climate change and save hundreds of thousands of other plant and animal species worldwide from extinction”

Meat is an integral, natural and delicious part of our diet, and even if more people stopped eating meat, this wouldn’t stop the actions of these industries. To stop this brutality, we need to be more aware of where our food comes from so we can put the nastier places out of business. One way to do this is by opting for free-range over mass-produced products in supermarkets.

But a more influential issue has caused people to turn away from meat – the impacts of the global meat industries on our planet and the environment. As a species, we eat way too much meat, far more than our recommended daily intake should be (it’s literally overkill). And we do this with little regard to where our food comes from, and what the environment must endure to produce it.

For example, the global meat industry produces 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the world’s transport industries combined. Furthermore, animal grazing uses up a staggering 26% of the Earth’s land with an additional 33% used to grow plants to feed those animals. This land use is hugely detrimental to the environment, particularly because it often involves the active removal of forest land and other ecosystems, and produces huge quantities of pollution.Grazing accounts for the endangered statuses of 14% of animals and 33% of plants considered endangered species in the US.

So, more people are turning away from meat. But if vegetarianism or veganism isn’t for you, you can do your part for the environment in much easier ways. Flexitarianism is just a fancy way of saying you eat less meat, by dropping it from your meals a few times a week. Or choosing chicken over beef, which contributes 12 times less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every meal.

“the global meat industry produces 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the world’s transport industries combined”

It’s not a matter of giving it up all together; people should just be more aware of where their meat comes from and what/who has had to suffer for it to be delivered to your local supermarket.

In fact, if everyone cut their meat consumption in half, predictions show we could solve world hunger, climate change and save hundreds of thousands of other plant and animal species worldwide from extinction. Think about that the next time you’ve had bacon for breakfast, mince for lunch and steak for dinner.

Megan Harvey is an MSc student in Science Communication at the University of Manchester. Her background is a BA in Biological Sciences at Oxford University. Her interests are in marine biology, environmental sciences, and the impact of humanity on our planet and Disney movies.

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