Monday, December 7, 2015

What pollutes more - the cow or the car?

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | | |
So, what do you think? Is it emissions from the livestock or cars that cause more damage to the climate? :-)

Today's headline in the Norwegian newspaper was "The cow pollutes equivalent to two cars". 1
Livestock. Copyright: gozzoli / 123RF Stock Photo
Livestock. Copyright: gozzoli / 123RF Stock Photo

According to the Norwegian article, emissions from one cow is almost equivalent to emissions from two cars (New cars? Old cars?) It's no coincidence that the newspaper would write about the subject now, in the ongoing negotiations at the Climate Change Conference in Paris.

The headline is a reference to the animal agriculture, and how our meat consumption contributes to the global climate changes.

According to a report from FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), livestock are responsible for 18% of the green house gases that cause global warming.2

One reason is all the methane that the cow produces in its natural digestive process, and released into the atmosphere. Methane is about 22 times more potent than CO2.

Watch this 2 minute clip from the recently released movie Racing Extinction:

Another reason is that vegetation is cleared for grazing. This alone produces 9% of all CO2.

Thirdly; to build ranches large amounts of trees and plants have to be removed (trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).

Sadly, it is said that deforestation is caused by cattle ranching. We're also talking about fertile soil that could have been used to plant vegetables for humans, but are instead used to accommodate our growing meat consumption. These are just some of the many problems in unsustainable cattle ranching.
Meatless Monday. Shopping basket filled with ingredients to make a vegetarian dinner.
Meatless Monday. Shopping basket filled with ingredients to make a vegetarian dinner.

Where is this going? And what can we do?

It seems logic that the meat industry is trying to quench the meat thirst of the consumers. To make consumers give up meat entirely would be very difficult. No one is in the right position to force someone to stop eating meat. This must be a personal choice. I personally know people who say that they would rather eat dirt than stop eating meat entirely (not my words. LOL).

But what if we reduced the consumption of meat? Is that too much to ask for? What do you feel about meatless Mondays (or Thursdays for that matter)? There has been a lot of campaigns in the past few years about meatless days and reducing the meat consumption.

According to Earth Day Network, if you ate one less burger a week, "it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the roads for 320 miles". And if the entire US became vegetarians, it would be equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.3 It doesn't say where the numbers come from and how they've calculated these. But the numbers are pretty striking.

What about organic meat? Organic meat might be a viable option, from an animal-ethical perspective. But according to this article by the animal-rescue organization Free from Harm, grass-fed organic cattle generate four times the methane, than grain-fed inorganic cattle do.4

If you want to know more about how livestock is affecting the climate, I strongly recommend to watch the documentary called "Cowspiracy" (2014) - available on Netflix.

Continue to read:
6 things you probably didn't know about the Climate Change Summit.

The road to becoming vegetarian - guide and tips.


Have your say about what you just read :)

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