A National week without meat?

This year, the “National Week without meat” takes place from the 9th to the 15th of March in the Netherlands. This initiative of Isabel Boerdam – founder of De Hippe Vegetariër – aims to promote a flexitarian diet in which meat and fish are interspersed with vegetarian dishes. As a matter of fact, the world’s consumption of meat is huge and is responsible for a lot of environmental issues. The causes of this overconsumption are the following: 1) constant human population growth – we are more than 7 billion people at this very moment, and 2) better living standards and quality of life. Hence, the growing demand pushes towards a generalisation of factory farming; a system in which the animal density is high and the production of meat is speeded up, irregardless of the negative effects it causes on the environment, the animals, and the local communities.


The effects of meat production on the environment 

Massive meat production negatively affects the environment. CO2 release in the atmosphere, extensive land use and water consumption are the three main downsides. First of all, meat production is a major contributor to climate change, as livestock feeding, slaughtering, meat processing, food, livestock and meat transportation, as well as meat storing require a lot of energy. Consequently, our food system is responsible for ¼ of all greenhouse gas emissions. According to the “less is more” programme initiated by Greenpeace, “if we reduce meat and dairy consumption and production 50% by 2050, we could reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 64% compared to business-as-usual.”

Cattle in the brazilian amazon (photograph : Rodrigo Baleia)

Secondly, the extensive land use. Livestock need space to stand and graze and need to be fed. As a result, 30% of the world’s land is solely reserved for meat production. Comparatively, it is equal to the size of Asia. Plus, humans tear down forests to feed and graze livestock. As a consequence, biodiversity, the natural environment and indigenous communities are affected.

Lastly, the consumption of water is another huge issue caused by meat production. To produce 1kg of meat, you need 15.400L of water. The “less is more” programme said that, “by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. Industrialized livestock farming is draining and polluting water, threatening our planet’s most precious resource.”


Ethical issues

In addition to what is mentioned above, industrialized livestock farming raises ethical issues as well. To begin with, animal welfare is really not a central issue at all in the current food system. Actually, the main purpose of companies is to raise and slaughter animals as quickly as possible in order to make profit. As a result, many animals are confined in small and unsanitary places and suffer from a lack of open space. Plus, meat industries pump them with antibiotics to achieve greater profit.

Last but not least, the meat industry clearly tends to put profit first at the expense of farmers, workers and communities. In the Amazon area, cattle farming is based on the theft and exploitation of Indigenous land, slave labor and deforestation.

Long story short, it becomes urgent to reduce or even stop our meat consumption. Over the course of a year, eating once a week beans rather than beef enables us to not burn 144 liters of petrol. Adopting vegetarian recipes several times per week and re-organising your favorite meal to reduce meat consumption is the best solution to reduce the effects of the meat industry. If you need inspiration, just have a look at the website of this weekly challenge here. They share some truly inspiring recipes. Together, let’s take advantage of this “National week without meat” and change our consumption habits!

Created on 12 March 2020

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