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Ingrid Newkirk: You can't be a meat-eating environmentalist

Posted by Eagle Eye
  • Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 01:55 pm

Lord Stern has just given environmental leaders food for thought and an important topic to discuss at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. A leading authority on climate change, Lord Stern recently told The Times, “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better”. He indicated that he favours significantly higher prices for meat and other foods that contribute to climate change.

A 2006 United Nations (UN) report revealed that the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships in the world combined. The report attributed 18 per cent of annual worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions to cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and other farmed animals, but new research from the Worldwatch Institute indicates that the figure actually could be much higher. According to Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, co-authors of “Livestock and Climate Change”, raising animals for food produces 51 per cent of all greenhouse-gas emissions.


Animal agriculture is one of the largest sources of carbon-dioxide emissions and is the single largest source of both nitrous-oxide and methane emissions. Methane is more than 23 times as powerful as carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere, while nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The meat, egg and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 per cent of worldwide nitrous-oxide emissions.

The meat, egg and dairy industries are also responsible for heavy deforestation, and according to the World Resources Institute, deforestation is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. As the world’s appetite for meat increases, countries around the globe are bulldozing huge swaths of land in order to make more room for animals and the crops that feed them.

If we are ever to halt climate change and conserve land, water and other resources –and reduce animal suffering – we must kick our meat habit. The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook states that “refusing meat” is “the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint”. Researchers at the University of Chicago in the US have determined that switching to a vegan (pure vegetarian) diet is more effective in countering climate change than switching from a gas-guzzling car to a hybrid.

When you factor in water and air pollution; the amount of water that’s squandered on animal agriculture (it takes more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater, whereas a vegan diet requires only 300 gallons of water per day); the energy it takes to operate factory farms, feedlots, slaughterhouses and trucks that transport animals; and all the edible crops that are used to feed animals instead of hungry, malnourished people, it’s easy to understand why going vegan is the best solution to our pressing environmental problems.

As the above-mentioned UN report concluded, the livestock sector is “one of the … most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. The report also recommended that animal agriculture be “a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity”.

Thanks to Lord Stern’s leadership, this issue may finally be addressed at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Ingrid Newkirk is founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)


Ingrid, you are right!
aliciarubia wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 04:41 pm (UTC)
Ingrid, you are absolutely correct. There's no such thing as a meat-eating environmentalist. The meat industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change and pollution. The waste and greenhouse gases from today's factory farms is wreaking havoc on our planet, not to mention that animals on factory farms are routinely mutilated without painkillers, are often confined to cages so small that they can't even turn around or stretch a limb, and are treated as nothing more than unfeeling machines. There is no excuse for eating animal-derived products.
Re: Ingrid, you are right!
tom_vear wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 04:45 pm (UTC)
i disagree
Re: Ingrid, you are right!
lucid1984 wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 05:03 pm (UTC)
What about if you kill a wild animal to eat? Is that alright?

That's not a pointed comment, it's just a question.
Re: Ingrid, you are right!
jomagaard wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 10:15 pm (UTC)
As long as only you do it. Too many people on this earth for hunting..

Better still, eat the meat that is chucked out at supermarkets and wasted as it reaches the end of its shelf-life. Will save the need for more animals being reared to replace this meat.

Some celeb cooks in London cooked up a free feast for the public recently from this wasted food. Was all fine, delicious and free. Also shows how food is priced to compensate for this waste too..

This economic climate should be good for the environment.
Re: Ingrid, you are right!
nightside242 wrote:
Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 01:04 pm (UTC)
There's two great websites I've found in the last few weeks called freegan.info and trashwiki.org that give out some awesome information about stuff like this. Don't read it if you are at work though, because it will take up an entire afternoon!
tom_vear wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 04:43 pm (UTC)
Meat is a very important part of my diet. I will continue to eat meat because it is part of a good diet. Why dont you stop using toilet paper, why dont you stop using tooth paste, why dont you stop using hot water, what dont you stop using make up - why dont you stop buying new mobiles phones every 5 minutes. Meat is part of a healthy diet and is not a luxury. They should look at more enviroementally frienly ways of producing meat not just push prices up.

utter drivel.
tom_vear wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 04:45 pm (UTC)
i suppose none of you go on holidays using planes or anything either, you walk to the shops do you?
vgnwtch wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 05:10 pm (UTC)
I'm interested in what part meat plays in your healthy diet. Even though I have a philosophical difference of opinion, I respect people who make a genuine effort to ensure that their diet actually is healthy, and so cut back to the smaller amounts of fresher meats and less popular cuts that Britons used to consume in the 50s.

I entirely agree with your point that changes in one area of your life is only a start. I'm not convinced that entirely stopping using hot water is required, though we certainly should use less (I find that I need less than 5 minutes in the shower, and can lather up perfectly well with the water turned off, thereby using about 2 minutes' worth); replacing toilet paper with a bidet would actually save on water (there's an awful lot of water wasted in the production of loo roll), and we definitely need to change our methods of dealing with sewage - there are some impressive living systems available, for example. Your point about the constant upgrade of mobile phones is well taken, too - I have the most basic version and have no problem with that at all. Of course, built-in obsolescence is a problem, but when a phone does conk out, it can at least be recyled and/or refurbished for good causes (such as the provision of mobiles to victims of domestic violence whose partners are expected to try to track them down). Toothpaste is an interesting idea - I use toothpowder, which saves on water, though I do think people generally could just use much less of the stuff. As for walking to the shops, I live car-free and I wouldn't swap walking to the shops with my wheelie bag for driving there: because I have limited space (though more than you'd think), I am more judicious about what I buy, and there's even an up side to slogging up the hill in the dark and pouring rain - I appreciate the weather more now, am more aware of my surroundings, and get my body moving on days when I'd otherwise be inclined to stay indoors. Of course, those who are ill or have impaired mobility don't have that option, but the rise in grocery delivery services - which cut down on the amount of petrol used to transport the same amount of shopping - is a grand thing. As is getting to know your neighbours and doing any shopping they need (and who knows how they might help you at some point?). Flight, of course, is a real bugbear. I have only ever flown intermittently (I visit family across the Atlantic once every 3 years or so, which is the only time I fly), and I can't say I miss the experience.

So good points you raise.

As to finding more environmentally friendly ways of raising livestock, I believe the only way is to a) cut back enormously (we ate at least 50% less meat 60 years ago), b) shift back to small, organic farming in which farmers raised both crops and livestock, with the expectation that livestock would not make up the bulk of the business, and c) start coping with prices that reflect reality rather than expecting everything to be cheap (in the 70s, we spent about 25% of our income on groceries, but now it's about half that, with a huge majority of our income going on luxuries).
corporeal_v001 wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 05:28 pm (UTC)
Agreed we need to cut-back on meat, but not cut-out meat.

Humans have been equipped with canine teeth, this means we have been designed to eat meat (in moderation).
jomagaard wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 08:40 pm (UTC)
Just like the panda has canine teeth you mean? The gorilla and hippopotamus (massive canines) too?

The panda uses those canines for ripping apart bambo and the gorilla certainly doesn't need them for ripping apart the termites and caterpillars that make up 3% of its otherwise vegetarian diet.

Maybe what you are thinking is that our evolutionary ancestors way back used them for biting into meat? But then, maybe they instead developed for ripping much tougher vegetation and were also useful for meat when vegetation became scarce?

Fortunately, as humans, we have the ability to make conscious decisions about our behaviour and diet that can steer a path to avert disaster rather than just die out under environmental pressures like other animals.

We've been equipped with a brain and conciousness - we should use it.

corporeal_v001 wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 08:49 pm (UTC)

Mankind are natural carnivores, so meat is on the menu. But as I said, we need to reduce the excess.

Humanity doesnt have far to go now. We are at the end-of-days. All the prophecies for this event are valid now.

So we just do the best we can. Obviously, we shouldnt be wasteful whilst this unfolds.
jomagaard wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 09:56 pm (UTC)

Omnivores (not meat-only carnivores) - with the gathering part of hunter-gatherer making up the most of it. Take note of how much effort hunting takes up in tribal, indiginous populations and often without much result.

Of course farming changed all that but with animals taking up much precious resource compared to crops, and their usefulness (you'd loose your fertiliser, vegetation-striper, tilling machines and dairy produce) they again weren't eaten often by the majority until the industrialisation of farming in the last 150 years or so. The same 150 years that represent the marked change in CO2 production by the human race.

I don't mean to pick on you corporeal_v001 - you have a good attitude - only the canine comment I hear repeated and repeated until it becomes true in people's minds and then used as an "I am what I am" excuse to dissolve self-responsibility.

Meat is on the menu if you choose it to be. We have the ability to choose.

Once the quasi-religious (or genuinely religious) notion of I am human therefore I eat meat is removed from the equation - I'd argue that this is solely based on culture as differing cultures to me proove - the idea that one shouldn't or can't give up meat is no different to giving up smoking. All the same attitudes and emotions to persist are there yet some manage to do so with ease.
explodingbadger wrote:
Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 03:17 am (UTC)
Humans are NOT natural carnivores. Humans are natural omnivores. If you want to compare us with wolves and lions you can see there is a huge difference in our mouths, teeth and their intestines are much longer in order to digest meat. Our intestines are much shorter due to eating mostly vegetables during our evolution.
Re: No
corporeal_v001 wrote:
Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 04:38 am (UTC)

Yes thanks someone has kindly noted this error in terminology.
Wonderful news!
fox_al wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 05:17 pm (UTC)
I think this is wonderful news. Now we have the ability to make an easy choice every day that will make a significant, positive impact on the environment. Being a vegetarian is easy and delicious. Plus it helps you stay lean and in good health. The environment wins and so do we. Thank you for posting.
Then I'll be a Conservationist
mad4plaidmn wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 05:31 pm (UTC)
I eat no where as much meat as I used to, but I am not willing to give it up. However, I do other things to ensure that my meat-eating is as responsible as it can be. I buy from local butchers who only buy from small local farms, most of which are certified organic. I buy fish that is wild caught and not farm-raised.

I also hunt. I admit it. In the US, the land conservation movement in the late 19th and early 20th century was actually started by hunters who realized the importance of preserving land. Today, the wetlands in the US are being restored because of the initial work of hunting/fishing societies such as Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited. While I work hard to lessen my impact on the planet as much as I can, if you cannot be a meat-eater and be an Environmentalist, I'll stick with the old hunters and become a Conservationist.

Yes, there are serious problems with the way livestock(mainly from cattle) are raised that impact our environment. But what solution do you advocate? No one is allowed to eat meat so we slaughter all the livestock? Whether an intended reaction, that is what the result would be, as farmers/ranchers could not sell product they wouldn't be able to feed the animals; thus slaughter.
Good for Lord Stern!
elaines22 wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 05:33 pm (UTC)
I agree with Ingrid. Recycling, using a cloth bag, and conserving at home are all well and good, but to really save the planet, we need to give up meat. It's cruel and unhealthy too. Good vegan food is so easy to find--there's just no reason not to go vegan!
Re: Good for Lord Stern!
lucid1984 wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 05:39 pm (UTC)
Give up meat that is reared irresponsibly, or all meat?

I don't think it's cruel to eat meat- we've evolved to do so, from what I was taught at school (a whopping twenty years ago). I think that perhaps the way that animals are reared now is cruel, but certainly not the continuation of the food chain.

Re: Good for Lord Stern!
explodingbadger wrote:
Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 03:21 am (UTC)
No we are NOT evolved specifically to eat meat. If they told you that at school you had pretty stupid teachers. Humans evolved as omnivores mostly eating vegetables. Our mouths teeth and intestines are nothing like dogs.

"I think that perhaps the way that animals are reared now is cruel"

I totally agree with you on that one. Are you going to do anything about it ?
Re: Good for Lord Stern!
lucid1984 wrote:
Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 12:04 pm (UTC)
Well, I thought being overly aggressive might be a good start. How's it worked out for you?
jimbo3012 wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 07:54 pm (UTC)
Can i please see some citations?! Half of these numbers have no citations and the other half are from biased sources! I'm not giving up meat unless you come straight with the numbers!
peet_b wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 08:06 pm (UTC)
The case for going vegan just keeps getting stronger and stronger. It's the humane and ethical thing to do for animals, it's healthful for us, and now we know that it's healthy for the environment too!
syeramiktayee wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 08:31 pm (UTC)
I find this article particularly funny in light of the fact that PETA suggests people buy products with palm oil.

Stop playing the environmentalist card already, Ingrid. It's pretty obvious that you don't actually give a rat's butt about the environment. If you did, you wouldn't be having your organization telling people to buy "vegan" products that are environmental nightmares.
Re: Lawlz.
jomagaard wrote:
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 at 09:09 pm (UTC)
PETA promote palm oil free products! On their home page currently is a competition promoting palm oil free soap and a brief search shows that the discussion boards are full of disgust at vegan food manufacturers that use Palm Oil in their products.

So what are you on about? Palm Oil production for Biodiesel is the problem. Bio-Diesel isn't for eating.

Please research stuff just a little bit please everybody!

Citations are needed on both sides (though I admit I can't be bothered either).

Re: Lawlz.
explodingbadger wrote:
Thursday, 29 October 2009 at 03:24 am (UTC)
Save Money and Help the Environment
jeff9 wrote:
Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 09:58 am (UTC)
This covers all the bases = saves you money, helps the environment, helps your health, makes you feel better, it's so easy to do and it costs less than $50.00; Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time! Add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off” Available at www.bathroomsprayers.com with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don’t worry, you can still leave some out for guests and can even make it the soft stuff without feeling guilty. It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. As for water use a drought is always a concern and must be dealt with prudently but remember the water use of industrial users far exceeds the water use of household users and in the case of toilet paper manufacture it is huge. The pollution and significant power use from that manufacturing process also contributes to global warming so switching to a hand bidet sprayer and lowering your toilet paper use is very green in multiple ways.

People, People, People..
cpfreeatlast wrote:
Saturday, 7 November 2009 at 11:40 am (UTC)
Life is too short for these petty, pointless, pulling teeth debates.

Humanity is an organism that evolves through nature and our evolution is a natural thing. Liberals, conservatives, fascists, socialists and the ignorant masses accept that people are of differing opinion and get on with the life you have chosen to lead.

Meat is a natural part of a humandoings diet, with the previous few thousand years we have seen it on the menu, yes there are the vegetarians and vegans who have a point but facing the facts; British society is based on meat eating carnivores; where muscle, strength and competition play an important role in the productive cycle of society.

British Beef..
(nothing to do with BNP politics but an important part of our culture, whether you want a nut roast alternative or not!)

Scientifically speaking Glucose Fructose Syrup should be banned, as well as many others. More for its physical rather than environmental damage, but think of all the pennies saved from curing obesity we could invest in the welfare of Animals led to the slaughter.

Smoking is paying for a major part of our health service, so letting others die; human, animal or the environment for the benefit of society is a necessary part of the society we are living in. Naturally you all look for reform but being kept blind, seeing things in real terms is outside of the media mindset.

Time fillers were once board games, the wireless and spending time with your family, but now you are reading this..