Meat Free Monday One day a week can make a world of difference

Animal agriculture depletes precious resources

Modern livestock production is wasteful in many ways and, in a world where the resources that we all need to live are becoming scarce, this is simply unsustainable. The Worldwatch Institute estimates that a staggering 70% of the world’s freshwater supplies goes towards agriculture – a third of this to grow animal feed crops. Forests, the ‘lungs of the world’, are essential in the fight against climate change. But right now they are being destroyed at an alarming rate in order to clear land to raise cattle and grow crops such as soy for animal feed.

Animal agriculture contributes towards climate change

Climate change is driven by emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which pour into the atmosphere trapping in heat. The sheer number of animals being farmed for consumption is the reason why livestock has such a profound effect on climate. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organisations have estimated it could be as much as 51%.

Animal agriculture is inefficient

Animals convert plant protein and energy into meat protein and energy inefficiently; in fact it can take up to 12 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of beef. This means that anyone who consumes large amounts of meat may be consuming a disproportionate amount of the world’s available nutrients. Currently some 800 million people on the planet suffer from hunger or malnutrition, yet an amount of cereal which could feed three times this number of people is fed to cattle, pigs and chickens.

Animal agriculture destroys biodiversity

Agricultural intensification and expansion, and overfishing, are major factors in loss of species and biodiversity – if present trends continue, over the next 100 years or so there will be a global mass extinction of species.

An Oxford University study found that, even if harmful greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels were stopped immediately, it would be impossible to keep global heating to the lowest safe limit without a shift to a more plant-based diet.

Meat reducers a third more planet-friendly than meat eaters

People with low-meat diets have substantially lower environmental impact those with high-meat diets, according to a study by Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.
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Jeff Beck

Why are they cutting down the rainforest?

In 1994, Jeff Beck got together with Paul McCartney in the studio to record an environmental message. It opened with the words, “Why are they cutting down the rainforest?”.
Environmental messages

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Here you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that the campaign receives.

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What’s your beef with … beef?

When it comes to converting nutrients into energy, animals are very inefficient. Only 5 to 25 per cent of the nutrients (depending on the animal) are converted into edible meat. The rest is spent on the animal’s metabolism and on building inedible nerve and bone tissue. The inefficiency is especially high for beef – in fact it can take up to 12 kg of grain to make 1 kg of beef. Around 60% of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef production, yet beef produces less than 5% of the world’s protein and less than 2% of its calories. As highlighted in Greenpeace’s film ‘Monster’, beef production is also directly responsible for Amazon deforestation. Paul McCartney said: “The world’s forests are truly irreplaceable. They’re home to Indigenous Peoples, amazing wildlife and are vital in our fight against the climate crisis. But these forests are being cleared at a shocking rate to farm more industrial meat and dairy. This is why reducing our meat is so important.”

Watch Greenpeace’s ‘Monster’ film

Is it OK to eat fish?

Despite the campaign name, Meat Free Monday encourages supporters to go fish free too. Industrialised fishing vessels with their football-pitch sized nets, or lines of hooks a mile long, trash coral reefs and ocean beds, kill and injure marine wildlife including dolphins, turtles and sea birds, and are pushing the oceans to the brink of environmental collapse.

What about dairy?

Dairy products have a significant environmental impact. According to Milking the Planet, a 2020 report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in the US, the 13 biggest dairy companies in the world have the same combined greenhouse gas emissions as the whole of the UK! With supermarket shelves full of plant milks – soya, oat, almond, coconut, hemp, rice and tiger nut– plus more and more non-dairy alternatives to cheese, yoghurt, cream and ice-cream coming onto the market, it’s now easier than ever to enjoy plant-based Meat Free Mondays.

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Shouldn’t we stop eating soya?

With so many soya-based products available, plant-based eaters are sometimes blamed for rainforests being destroyed in order to grow soya – but only a fraction of this crop actually ends up on our plates! Over 80% of the world’s soybeans are turned into feed for farmed animals. Many eco-conscious people therefore consume some soya as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Based on its nutritional profile alone, it is safe to say that soya fits within current healthy eating guidelines and scientists generally agree that soya protein can help promote good health.

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