Meat Is a Number One Climate Killer
An Environmental Article from


Four Paws
November 2012

Eating less meat is the most effective way to help saving the climate!

We consume significantly more meat and sausages than acceptable from a nutritional point of view. This harms not only our health and countless animals; livestock production is also responsible for the largest impact on the climate caused by man.

Despite much public discussion about climate change and measures against it, matters like the consumption of animal products such as meat, milk and eggs usually remain completely disregarded. Few people suspect that meat is a number one climate killer. A spontaneous survey among pedestrians on the Viennese Mariahilfer-street at the beginning of November 2009 also confirmed this fact.

The International Dilemma

At the climate summit in Copenhagen starting December 7th, 2009, the elected representatives of numerous nations will deliberate upon which strategy to adopt in order to counteract climate change. So far, public debate is dominated mainly by concerns about the traffic situation and people’s need of thermal energy and electricity. However, these factors influence climate change definitely much less than our diet does.

In order to be able to take sufficient climate-effective action additionally to the concentration on traffic and the energy industry, big investments in new technologies and structures are needed. Experts already sound the alarm because single nations mercilessly haggle about the division of the adjustment costs. No nation wants to spend more than others for adjustment measures due to climate change, because these investments would then not be available for the support of economic growth. Developing countries argue that in comparison to rich countries they would lack the necessary money for adjustment measures. Rich countries counter that the greatest damage to the environment would be inflicted by developing countries and it would be therefore necessary that precisely these countries ensure the largest adjustment measures. Based on the positions of the national conference speakers it appears thus that the originally planned agreement to an internationally binding contract rests unachievable.

It is of course sensible to reflect upon the effects of our practice in all aspects of our lifestyle. It is however extremely unreasonable to ignore exactly the most effective measure against climate change: Our flesh consumption is on the one hand responsible for a large part of man-caused greenhouse gas emissions, but on the other it can, by being reduced, counteract climate change without any investment into expensive new technologies.

Marking Quality and Saving Imprudent Subsidies

Politically extremely effective climate protection would even be a source for gigantic savings: At the moment the price of animal products such as meat and milk is massively supported by tax money. Cattle farmers get paid for their products a minimum price which cannot be realized on the free market. Hence every produced liter of milk costs us tax money - even if we do not buy it.

Because of the lack of systematical as well as unambiguous markings and controls of quality standards, cheap products of low quality stand in matter of price war in direct competition to high-quality products. If a comprehensible, compulsory marking of high-class standards was introduced and no more tax money were invested in the advertising of products like meat and milk, the money from the national budget used up to now for that could in future support more sensible measures. In our part of the world, the consumption of meat, milk and eggs is unsoundly high. The government aid for even more increase of the consumption of animal products is therefore not only pointless, but even damaging for our health and our economy, because in this manner economy is made dependent of governmental subsidies.

Animal friendlier keeping conditions have to be explicitly marked, so that consumers may recognize reliably the different quality standards when they purchase the products. Otherwise there is very little chance to detect the higher quality. Consequently, farmers will finally be able to realize – even without governmental subsidies - a fairer price for high-quality, animal friendly products. Since better animal keeping conditions also involve a higher amount of work, additional jobs would be created in the agriculture.

The animal products, which are anyway consumed in much too big amounts, would thus become more expensive, yet also better. If the competition-distorting governmental subsidies for animal products disappear, fruit, vegetables and grain would again gain attractiveness in matter of price, making it easier for us to eat healthier. Healthier people also relieve our health insurance companies. Less sick people can be supplied with substantially better services for the same amount of money.

Thus it would be possible for us not only to brake the climate change, spare our budget and create additional jobs, but also to save countless animals from being processed by machines without any consideration for their needs and feelings.

The Facts

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has published in November 2006 a study regarding the most important factors of Greenhouse gas emissions caused by man. This study is the accredited reference for all other famous studies since. This study already classifies animal production with 18 percent on top of traffic as the highest factor responsible for gas emissions.

The FAO includes here emissions of Greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous gas caused by animal keeping and feed cultivation, but also to a large extent emissions caused by fire clearings for pastureland and feed cultivation. FAO ignores however the potential of woods lost through meat production to bind the CO2 and to stabilize the climate. However, 70 percent of the cleared rain forest surfaces are used for pastures and the production of farm animal feed. 30 to 50 percent of the worldwide grain harvest and 80 percent of the worldwide soy harvest is fed to animals.

As a reaction to the FAO study, the World Watch Institute has also published a study in November 2009 in order to integrate the factors which had been ignored by the FAO 2006. According to the World Watch Institute Study, animal production is actually responsible for 51 percent of the climate change caused by man.

A study of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) published in February 2009, which analyses the problem not only from the point of view of the Greenhouse gas emissions, concludes that the climate change will cost us forty billion ( dollars by 2050. Up to 80 percent of these costs (32 billions dollar) would not exist at all, if we reduced our consumption of meat, milk and eggs. An example to illustrate what this astronomic sum means: With this money more than 200 million one-family houses amounting each to 150,000 US $ could be built - a new house for all people in Europe, Russia, Australia and Canada together!

Eating less meat is the most effective way to help saving the climate!

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