Livestock, especially meat from larger animals like Cattle and Pigs has long been blamed for a high carbon footprint. The tough call to cut consumption of their meat is finally being made in the UK at least, but will it get the popular vote yet?
At Iamrenew, we have long argued that any evaluation of our food choices would be far better served when looked at from the prism of environmental impact. Be it the resources, or the carbon footprint of various agricultural and animal harvesting. Yes, the word harvesting used in the context of animals might seem a bit too much, but when you consider the reality of the way ‘staple’ animals like cattle, Pigs and Chickens are produced for the market today, its a very accurate description.
Goldsmiths University in the UK has just grabbed headlines with its move to alter its canteen menu to remove beef altogether. The move, expected to be effective from September 2019, follows the appointment of a Professor Frances Corner, the new warden who is set to be labelled a climate activist from hereon.
According to a report by the Committee on Climate Change in UK, lamb, beef and dairy products are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases emitted by farms in Britain. In fact, in 2016, sheep and cattle alone were directly responsible for around 58 per cent of agricultural emissions in the UK.
Beef has been slapped with the blame for 41 per cent of livestock greenhouse gas emissions globally, with total livestock itself accounting for 14.5 per cent of all global GHH emissions. Some experts have even called for a cutback on meat consumption as the quickest way to manage emissions.
For Francis Corner, “the growing global call for organisations to take seriously their responsibilities for halting climate change is impossible to ignore,” adding, “Though I have only just arrived at Goldsmiths, it is immediately obvious that our staff and students care passionately about the future of our environment and that they are determined to help deliver the step change we need to cut our carbon footprint drastically and as quickly as possible.”
Other universities in the region, like Ulster University, the University of East Anglia and a number of colleges at Oxford and Cambridge have introduced “meat-free Mondays”. Whether the moves by multiple universities has the broad support of their students, and an open dialogue with those who disagree, time will tell.
But there is absolutely no doubt that with city after city in Europe declaring a ‘climate emergency’, including the British parliament in May this year, calls for real action on the ground were increasingly getting louder.
There is no doubt a powerful lobby of opponents against any cutback in meat consumption. In fact, in developing countries like India and China, meat consumption remain on an upward curve, with higher affluence. To reverse this trend will take a lot more than a few UK based universities banning beef. The world needs to open up for an honest, scientific dialogue on meat consumption.