Why have a Meat Free Monday?
Australia is joining the global move to encourage people to have one day a week free of meat. It’s a small move with a big impact on the environment, on animals and on health.
Eating less meat can help minimize the ecological footprint of your food because stock breeding has a detrimental impact on the environment.
A United Nations report1 states that emissions from livestock make up 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions while other studies have found the percentage to be has high as 51%2. That is more than every form of transportation combined. Two of the gases they produce are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of global warming potential, and 37% of the emissions from livestock are methane. Nitrous oxide comes from livestock manure, and these emissions are 65% of all nitrous oxide emitted in the world.
There are a host of additional issues regarding meat production, these include the vast amounts of water it takes to produce meat, deforestation to make pastures, overgrazing turning pastures into deserts, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones making their way into our drinking water, and waste from feed production that places nutrients into the water that promotes weeds taking over all forms of vegetation.
In 2012-13, 340,163,891 hectares were used mainly for grazing in Australia. This is 91% of all land used for Agriculture and 44% of the total Australian landmass3.
Carbon Emissions from livestock4:
In 2010 Australia produced:
50.62 Mt of CO2eq from Beef meat
1.35 Mt of CO2eq from Pig meat
0.16 Mt of CO2eq from Chicken meat
The increase in meat production over time would not have been possible without the development of commercial methods of farming, which have ignored the rights of animals who are deprived of exercise, fresh air and social interaction.
In Australia livestock numbers have been growing and in order to meet demand, the animals we eat are raised in factory farms.
The Australian livestock statistics5 are telling facts that reflect this, here are the numbers for 2013:
Dairy Cattle – 2.8 million
Beef Cattle – 26.5 million
Sheep and lamb – 75.5 million
Pigs – 2.1 million
Broiler chickens – 84.0 million
Egg-laying chickens – 14.6 million
The campaign hopes to perpetuate a healthy message by raising awareness of the importance of limiting saturated fat in our diet, which nutritionists say contributes significantly to several diseases which have reached epidemic proportions.
Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (eg. meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (eg. vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%6. Research suggests that a higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes7. People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices8. A recent study from Imperial College London also found that reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain4. Red and processed meat consumption is associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality9.
Remember also that climate change is a threat to our future health. As the world warms up it is likely that levels of air pollution, and thus allergies and respiratory diseases, will rise, as will the rate of infectious diseases
It has been recognized that adding a time factor to a message helps people to change their behavior. In addition to memorable alliteration, Mondays are traditionally the “start healthy eating” day of the week.