Environmental benefits of vegetarianism

Cattle

Cattle

In a new series of posts, readers of thegreenveggie from around the world discuss their reasons for choosing a meat-free lifestyle. In this post Molly Mizusawa, a 17-year-old student from the USA, talks about the environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Molly stopped eating meat at the age of 12. “I had always been a lover of animals and thought the idea of slaughter to be barbaric,” she said, “but I had not seriously contemplated the benefits of vegetarianism.

“I was very young and only thought that if I chose not to eat meat, I would be sparing at least one chicken, cow or pig. But then I realised the advantages of vegetarianism stretch much further than the suffering of a single chick,” she added.

Rainforest

Molly discovered land used for rearing livestock currently takes up 30 per cent of the planet’s surface. This land, which is cleared at a rate of 2,100 feet per minute, often comes from the rainforest and is a primary threat of extinction for many species.

Molly also found that the meat industry contributes significantly towards the problem of  global warming, as breeding livestock produces three major greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

Global warming

She said: “If each American family could substitute one meal of chicken a week for a vegetarian option, the amount of carbon dioxide saved would be the same as taking 500,000 cars off the roads. A small effort can have a large impact.”

Molly also considered the efficiency of a meat-free diet. “The practice of raising animals for slaughter is not only inhumane, but is also wasteful,” she said. “To produce a single pound of beef, a cow needs 16 pounds of grain, which could feed 10 people for a day.”

Animal welfare

Molly said it was environmental factors which finally persuaded her to give up meat. “The animal welfare arguments were enough to sway me towards vegetarianism, but the environmental factors enhance my dedication,” she added.

“When I told my parents I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, I had no idea how much of an impact I would have on the world. Vegetarianism requires dedication, but if each person plays their part, then we can help save the world and the people in it.”

Photo: Brendan Murphy

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Launch of Cardiff food charter

Cardiff food charter

Cardiff food charter

A Cardiff Food Charter was launched at a Sustainable Food City conference event at Cardiff University last week.

The charter aims to promote a diverse and sustainable food culture in the city and get more people buying local Welsh produce. It also hopes to provide a framework for access to healthy, environmentally friendly food, as well as building a strong local economy.

The charter’s development has been inspired by the success of similar food charters in other parts of the UK, such as Plymouth and Bristol. It has also taken inspiration from overseas projects, such as the Cowichan Food Charter in Canada.

The charter asks people in Cardiff to play their part by cooking more meals from scratch, wasting as little as possible and buying food from independent retailers. It also encourages businesses to serve healthy and sustainable food to their employees, to buy more local food and to encourage staff to grow, cook and eat fresh food together.

During the launch event, there were presentations and workshops from a wide variety of people including local food activists, action groups, academics, food businesses and government representatives.

The next stage will be to identify funding to set up a Cardiff Food Policy Council which will encourage more businesses, institutions and individuals to sign up to the Food Charter and to oversee Cardiff’s future development as a Sustainable Food City.

Video: Cowichan Green

News in brief

Bananas

Bananas

Keeping you up to date with this week’s most important vegetarian news stories…

Latest PETA appeel: Go Vegan

Animal-rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), seems to have gone bananas. The organisation yesterday launched its latest campaign, which involved constructing a five-foot high pile of bananas in the Philippine city of Manila. It is estimated that over 8,000 pieces of fruit were used in the stunt. Rochelle Regodon, spokesperson for PETA Asia, said: “We thought it would be a fun way for people to talk about a more serious issue – the suffering of animals in factory farms.” Read full story.

German bank advertisement offends vegetarians

An advertisement for Ing-DiBa Bank, which showed a famous sportsman eating a sausage, outraged vegetarians in Germany. The advert features basketball player Dirk Nowitzki, who is shown devouring a sausage in a delicatessen, claiming it will make him “big and strong.” Vegetarians protested on the bank’s Facebook page. Read full story.

Environmental impact of meat production provides food for thought

Meat consumption around the world has increased by 20 per cent in the last decade, but statistics about the environmetal impact of meat production are alarming. There are almost 1.4 billion cattle and 1.1 billion sheep on the planet, producing 37 per cent of  methane emissions. But can going veggie really help to save the planet? Read full story.

Photo: Fernando Stankuns

Healthy eating

Change 4 Life

Change 4 Life

The UK government today announced new measures to encourage families to eat more healthily.

The measures are part of the government’s Change 4 Life public health campaign and are designed to prove that it is possible to eat healthily on a budget.

Fruit and vegetables

Four million recipe leaflets will be posted to families across the country and discounts on products including fruit, vegetables and fish will be available at major supermarkets.

Celebrity Chef Ainsley Harriott has also helped to put together a cookbook, promoting healthy recipes that can be made for under £5. Some of these recipes are vegetarian, but I think the government could do much more to promote a vegetarian diet.

Let’s get one thing straight. I am certainly not saying that I think people should be pushed into becoming vegetarian. I completely believe it is a matter of personal choice. However, I do believe a vegetarian diet can be cheaper, healthier and better for the environment.

Cheaper

Firstly, a vegetarian diet is much cheaper. Some friends at university used to claim they couldn’t afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Yet when you compare the price of fruit and veg to the price of meat, frozen foods and ready meals, it is much cheaper to cook with fresh ingredients.

One of these friends used to eat pizza several times a week, but, bearing in mind a pizza costs at least £3.50, it works out much cheaper to throw together something simple, like veggie pasta, chilli or curry – all of which can be cooked in 10 to 15 minutes.

Healthier

Secondly, a vegetarian diet can be much healthier. Many people argue that vegetarians do not get enough protein, but in fact, I think many vegetarians eat more healthily, simply because they need to be more conscious of how to maintain a balanced diet.

For example, pulses are great value for money and are often overlooked by meat eaters. A tin of chickpeas / lentils / mixed beans costs about 40 pence and can be used in many different dishes. These are high in protein, low in fat and very versatile.

This also makes vegetarians more imaginative and experimental in the kitchen. Many vegetarians like to try out recipes from countries around the world, such as India, Morocco and Japan, whereas their meat-eating counterparts are more likely to stick to the traditional British meat and two veg.

Sustainability

What is more, it is not natural to eat meat everyday. This has become a luxury since meat became easily available. Even in the recent past, people only ate meat two or three times a week, due to cost and availability.

Encouraging people to eat more vegetarian food would also help to reduce carbon emissions. This was tried in Belgium in 2009, when people were encouraged to go veggie for one day a week in response to a UN announcement that livestock breeding is responsible for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

All in all, a vegetarian diet is cheaper, healthier and more sustainable. So maybe the government should be encouraging more people to Change 4 Life by reducing their meat consumption.

Welsh honey

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

It was during a rather hung over secret santa that I found out about local beekeeping collective, Nature’s Little Helpers. Among the polite smiles and baffled looks, I was genuinely pleased with my present.

And what had the triumphant secret santa produced, you may be wondering. Well, santa had taken himself off to the farmers’ market and found a honey lip balm, made from local beeswax. (And within the £5 price limit, I might add!)

Honey bees

Nature’s Little Helpers was started by three friends, Tim Wright, Pete Shaw and Nigel Harris, on an allotment site in Cardiff, five years ago. The website says: “The company was set up as a result of many cups of tea and conversations around a picnic bench on our allotment.”

Mr Harris said: “We love growing our own veg and have ventured out into other things, such as keeping honey bees, producing honey, handmade candles and also skin care products from our own beeswax and honey.”

He added: “Bees have been having a hard time of things over the past few years, so we intend to give them as much help as possible, by increasing their numbers and providing people with products from these wonderful insects.”

Endangered species

In fact, according to the Bee Part Of It Campaign, honey bees are worth around £200m a year to British agriculture. However, poor summers have caused enormous damage to bees and a third of all colonies were lost in 2008.

Figures show that there are 250 species of bee in the UK, and most of these are in decline. According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, two species have become extinct in the last 70 years, and more are seriously threatened.

Mr Harris said: “The idea of helping Mother Nature appealed to us. We have gone from two hives to 80 and our plans are to expand to eventually have around 400 hives in the South Wales area.”

Natural

I can certainly recommend the lip balm. It smells sweet and natural, and doesn’t suffer from that overpowering chemical smell that so many skin care products have today. The wax is quite hard, but can easily be applied to the lips and has made my skin wonderfully soft.

To find out more, take a look at the Nature’s Little Helpers website.

Photo: John Sargent