Thursday, 9 September 2010

CASE 030 - The meat industry

One sixth of humanity is undernourished, more than one billion people are hungry, more than 25,000 people – mostly children, who generally live in ‘developing countries’ – die each day from malnutrition. The countries in the Global South are the ones most severely affected by climate change, which is mostly caused by the greenhouse gas emissions of the rich industrialized countries. Every year 56 billion land animals (in addition to many billions of sea animals) are raised and slaughtered for food worldwide, and the number is expected to double by 2050. If the worldwide agricultural production were shifted from livestock feed to food grains, there would be enough food for all the world’s hungry people. Double the size of the UK is used per year to rear cattle, sheep, chickens and others, triple the size of the UK is used per year to grow the poor grains used to feed the animals. Animal agriculture is the main source of methane, which accounts for almost 50 % of human-induced global warming and is a 72 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide when a 20-year period is considered. Methane only stays in the atmosphere for 9 – 15 years, while CO2 stays in the atmosphere for 100 to 10,000 years. If everyone went vegan, or at least sharply reduced their consumption of animal products, global warming would be stopped from spiralling out of control very quickly. Animal agriculture also contributes significantly to the destruction of habitats, species extinction, an enormous waste of water (taking up 70 % of the overall freshwater supply), pollution and deforestation (mostly to create pastures for livestock and fields for growing feed), the latter causing nearly 20 % of CO2 emissions. According to recent reports, global warming is occurring much faster than expected, and scientists agree that rapid mitigation is required to avoid an unprecedented climate catastrophe. Greenhouse gas emissions have already reached 387 ppm, while 350 ppm is considered to be the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, world leaders have only a few years to act before a major tipping point may be reached, with catastrophic consequences for the global climate and species survival. Sea levels are now estimated to be rising 50 per cent faster than projected by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If a global temperature increase of about 4C is reached, sea levels could rise around seven meters, which would result in utter devastation. A one-meter sea level rise would lead to the submergence of numerous low-lying islands like the Maldives, the loss of coastal cities and farmland all around the world and the contamination of fresh water supplies. Climate change could create 200 million refugees by 2050

Britain's Really Disgusting Foods

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