While the popularity of plant-based eating has increased dramatically in recent years, citizens in the Global North are still consuming, on average, twice the amount of meat and dairy as is considered healthy, according to a new report from the Changing Markets Foundation, Mighty Earth, and Compassion in World Farming.
Top climate scientists have clearly spelled out the urgent need to drastically cut this overconsumption in order to reach important climate targets and prevent disastrous impacts for hundreds of millions of people.
And yet, as the new report details, existing governmental policies around the world are almost unanimously in favor of continuing the growth of the environmentally ruinous animal agriculture industry. In some cases, policies are even working to interfere with the production of sustainable, humane alternative meat products.
At present, animal agriculture is directly responsible for creating around 16.5 percent of all global greenhouse gases and producing one-third of climate-affecting methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Given the huge impact of this industry, greatly reducing its size is not an option — it is an absolutely vital step to slash carbon emissions and bring about a hopeful future.
As a recent report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized, the window of time left for us to fix our broken food system and avoid total climate collapse is swiftly dwindling. With only around 12 years left to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) if we wish to avoid runaway climate change, we need to be implementing strategies to majorly decrease global meat and dairy consumption right now.
As Bérénice Dupeux, policy officer for agriculture at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), reportedly stated in a press release, “This report is yet more evidence that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the agriculture sector needs to significantly reduce meat and dairy production to reduce overall emissions – just as many other industries are doing.”
She went on, “Given the immense scale of the problem, our political leaders cannot turn a blind eye on climate change and they must address it within the current reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Farm ministers and MEPs have a moral obligation to put the rights of future generations first.”
So what should political leaders be doing to help facilitate the much-needed transformation of how we produce food? Among other steps, the Changing Markets Foundation recommends that world governments fund the research and development of plant-based and other meat alternatives, such as clean meat, plus put forth implementation strategies for dietary guidelines to foster a shift to healthier diets made up of fewer animal-sourced products.
While we eagerly await action from political leaders, we can all help enact major change in our day-to-day lives simply by cutting down on or completely eliminating how much meat and dairy we eat. To learn about the many powerful benefits of making this choice — both for the environment and for your own personal health — check out the Eat For The Planet book!
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