Livestock experts Anne Mottet and Henning Steinfeld, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), warn of the pitfalls of simplification when looking at greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and transport are often compared, but in a flawed way.
Calls for us all to switch entirely to plant-based foods ignore one of the most powerful tools we have to mitigate these ills: grazing and browsing animals.
Once again, the debate on sustainable diets and in particular on (not) eating animal-derived products is resurfacing in the media, as illustrated most recently by an article in The Guardian. The paper reported on a study by J. Poore and T. Nemecek entitled ‘Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers’, published in the latest edition of Science magazine.
Berhe Tekola, director of the Animal Production and Health Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), this weekpublished an opinion piece in the Bangkok Post (25 Jun 2018), reminds readers that livestock are integral to the fabric of life in many developing countries.
The debate over whether a vegetarian diet is better for the planet is top of mind for many as news of water scarcity, climate change, and deforestation seem to worsen by the day. Sarah Taber, a US-based agricultural scientist added another angle to the debate earlier this month when she laid out the argument that calling vegetarianism and/or veganism a universally ‘better’ diet is a form of colonialist thinking.
Agricultural ecologist Ian Scoones has some important and thoughtful things to say about the science and media publications promoting the recent ‘vegan craze’ in rich countries and the impacts of those publications on millions of livestock herders in poor countries.
What the evidence shows is that becoming vegetarian might help reduce your personal footprint—but it will be better to focus on a range of solutions if we want to have an impact on climate change.