Did you know it’s Meat Free Week? This is an initiative to encourage meat-eaters to give up meat for a week and think about how their habits impact on animals and the environment. I’m sure we’re all aware of how much damage meat-eating does, but here are a few pointers in case you have questions this week:
Ethical – make people are aware of how animals are farmed and killed for meat and ask that they aren’t a part of that. Farm animals aren’t allowed to roam free as they would in the wild and are kept indoors for all of their lives. Their food is full of growth hormones to make them grow faster – chickens grow three times faster now than they did 50 years ago. Animals aren’t allowed to care for their young and babies of the wrong sex are put down at birth (eg male chicks are killed –gruesomely – because they don’t lay eggs and are therefore just seen as a financial drain). Animal production (including fish) is cramped and stressful; their lives are barely worth living before they are murdered for their meat.
Environmentally-friendly – basically, animal pooh and farts are responsible for almost 20% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Methane and nitrous oxide are produced by cow and sheep waste – a single cow can produce 500 litres of methane a day! Carbon dioxide is emitted when forests are cleared for grazing or for growing grain to feed animals. Fossil fuels are used to transport animals and to power the production of their feed.
Estimates of the water required to produce a kilo of beef vary, from 13,000 litres up to 100,000 litres. The water required to produce a kilo of wheat is somewhere between 1,000-2,000 litres.
30% of the earth’s land mass is used to rear farm animals and this is responsible for 70% of the removal of the Amazon rainforest.
19% of major commercial marine fish stocks monitored by the FAO (a UN organisation) are overexploited, 8% are depleted and 1% ranked as recovering from depletion. 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises are killed every year as ‘by-catch’ of the fishing industries.
Healthy – as long as you eat a well balanced, nutritious diet, a vegetarian one can be extremely beneficial. Vegetarians are more likely than meat-eaters to eat their recommended five fruit and veg a day. As a result of this, vegetarians are less likely to suffer from all sorts of heart conditions, diabetes and bowel disorders.
Meat takes much longer to digest than a plant-based meal – it can sit in the gut for up to 48 hours under normal circumstances, whereas a meat-free diet will move much faster through the gut. Vegetarians and vegans rarely have digestive issues. There is also increasing evidence that this meat sitting in the gut causes cancers.