Colombo Telegraph

Ecological Reasons For Moving Away From Meat & Livestock

By Chandre Dharmawardana

Dr. Chandre Dharmawardana

The reasons for the production and consumption of more vegetables, cereals and fruits are  not just  those based on religious considerations, but they are  also over-whelmingly scientific and ecological. Livestock farming requires a huge amount of water and land as pasture. The amount of  agrochemicals  and veterinary chemicals needed also are high, especially with factory farming. The amounts of water etc., needed depend on the climate and other factors. The consumption of insects as protein sources may not face the same ecological objections are for the consumption of meat. 

Hence the push to expand diary farming and meat production in countries like Sri Lanka and 

BanglaDesh in the face of global warming etc., is not very sensible. The production of buffalo milk takes up much less water as the water is put to double use (paddy growing and preventing weeds in paddy plots). The effect of global warming on a tropical island like Sri Lanka, and what it may take to save it from the dire consequences of sea-level rise are discussed in Colombo Telegraph.

 It is also very sobering to note that more than 1/3 of the food produced by  conventional agriculture gets wasted in distribution and production. Meanwhile, 40% of the world lives under famine conditions. large amounts of grain are lost to weevils, bugs and fungus in storage, while this can be safely and very inexpensively eliminated by low level irradiation. This is weaker in intensity than even the cosmic radiation falling daily on our planet, but effective because the right frequency can be chosen to eliminate the fungus and bugs. But “green” zealots who have the support of some politicians  have prevented such simple measures from being adopted. Their propaganda have fanned fear into the mind of the public.

In organic food production (where no preservatives are used in storing grain, fruits, vegetables  etc) the wastage is much more and estimated to be over 60-70 %. However, less than 2% of the world’s food needs are currently produced by organic methods. Hence they make no impact on world hunger, except for their negative impact in their capacity to muster extremely high levels of propaganda and political influence against scientific  agriculture.  There by they  create havoc in the conventional agricultural sector by banning essential agricultural practices, having been misled by misinformation and fake news put out by “internet gurus” like Dr. Mercola who wish to sell books, videos, and alternative food supplements and cures through their websites.

“Organic food” is popular among wealthy elite circles who are also the type of people who eat chocolate and want their steak to be organic!  There are extreme ecological difficulties in pushing organic food  to feed even half the world population. See here

Here are some sobering facts regarding how much water is used in various types food production.

Chocolate                 1 kg 16,000-18,000  litres of water
Beef                          1 kg     15000-20000
lamb Meat                1 kg   10,000-15,000
Pork                          1 kg 5000-8000
Milk                          1 kg       800-1200
Wheat                       1 kg   500-3000
Rice-traditional seeds       1 kg      3000-5000
Rice-new hybrids              1 kg     1000-2000
Sugar                          1 kg      1000-2000
Potatoes                     1 kg     200-400
Tomatoes                    1 kg 200-300
Cabbage                     1 kg      200-300

Rice needs more water than potatoes, but 1/4 the input of agrochemicals. See my research publication:

Environ Geochem Health, published June 23, 2018.

The greenhouse gas emissions from meat and diary production are also correspondingly high, adding extensively to global warming. Organizations like the IME claims that water requirements to meet food demand in 2050 could reach triple the current amount used annually by humans. The only way to handle this is to remove meat from our diet, and create new varieties of grain and crops that need 1/3 less water, using biotechnology.

Meat production requires a much higher amount of water than vegetables. IME state that to produce 1kg of meat requires between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water whereas to produce 1kg of wheat requires between 500 and 4,000 litres of water.

So eat meat only very sparingly if at all.  

There are also many reasons from a human health point of view to reduce the intake of red meat which has been declared to be a class-I carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC). The IARC classification indicated a health hazard but not a health risk unless significant amounts are eaten. It is interesting to note that Red meat is  considered to be a factor of at least a hundred more dangerous than glyphosate (herbicide) which has been classified as a class-II carcinogen (i.e., it is not established to be a carcinogen, but there is a probability that it may prove to be a carcinogen on further research). 

Similarly noxious fumes form burning fossil fuels like coal, petroleum etc are also proven carcinogens, but no one is fighting to ban them. The very minsters who talk of a toxin-free world also push to open coal-fired power plants. They also produce particulate dust which provide free a ride to many toxins. Dense vehicular traffic does the same thing.

Cigarette smoking is  proven to be carcinogenic, but the CEOs of the cigarette companies, be it Philip Morris or Ceylon Tobacco, have not been jailed but are they feted, feasted  and honoured; they brush shoulders with the highest in the land!

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