Climate change is fuelling vegetarian and vegan diets in youth

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  • Iain Climie says:

    One oversight here is that many animals killed as pests or culled on environmental grounds are edible but not eaten. Locusts may not appeal (although Kenya, Somalia and several countries neaby) suffered massive damage this year and willingness to eat them could have been a lifesaver. In the UK, wasting woodpigeons, which are shot in huge numbers, and condoning rabbit diseases both strike me as immoral. Living near a farm destroys naive illusions but I accept that something needs to be done to reduce the impact of conventional livestock. Cutting the demand for meat and dairy is misguided, though, with the risks shown by the 5000 healthy sheep which were culled and wasted on economic grounds in 2007. The way forward has to involve reducing impact per head m, numbers or both.

    Dramatic reductions in impact per head are possible via feed changes (natural vegetation, spent brewery grain and crop residues not grain and soya), methane-reducing feed additives, silviculture and integrated methods but let’s cut numbers too. That needs major investment up front, appropriate targeting, a commitment to conservation (as the land potentially saved could easily be used for more profitable purposes), alternatives to byproducts (especially manure) while existing stocks of meat and dairy should be eaten anyway. If a cull ever occurred then the meat and offal generated should be eaten too.

    I wouldn’t discount stem cell meat, less conventional livestock snails, mussels, mealworms and capybara), aquaponics, restoring fish stocks and combining conservation with careful use (e.g. deer in woodland) but there is one overreaching point here. “Eat this, not that” is the wrong way round and a cop-out, regardless of the diet proposed, and exemplifies the sloppy, hypocritical and irresponsible thinking which permeates Western attitudes. Supplies need to be the priority, with food security for the world’s poor a particular concern. Gas escapes from previously frozen deposits, fires and dying vegetation could all outweigh even drastic cuts in human emissions and well-off countries will fall over themselves to reject climate refugees even though their greed and stupidity have created this mess. After all many ideas essential if mainstream views are correct make sense if climate change were a damp squib or temperatures fell e.g following a major volcanic eruption like Tambora in 1815. The last few decades have been wasted bickering instead of adopting such win-win options as restoring fish stocks, reducing food waste and overeating, growing fewer cash crops, adopting silviculture & integrated methods (see Gabe Brown’s soil carbon capture results in North Dakota), getting rid of factory farming and not thinking first Myxomatosis then RHD / RVHD were ever acceptable. The problem of course is that such actions need time, money and effort from older & richer people (like myself – I’m 62) more than naive youthful idealism, despite the many valid concerns that today’s youngsters rightly raise.

    I accept this may seem heretical but one recent estimate from Prof Gordon Marshall at the Leverhulme Institute is that 11 fully used planets would be needed for everyone to have well-off US lifestyles and the jobs to afford them; that probably omits rehoming climate refugees. If anyone thinks I’m being over-pessimistic, I work in risk assessment and put an article on food security on the Climate Coalition website. It concludes by asking if those plugging their dietary views would accept responsibility (so not eat) if their ideas were adopted but failed e.g. if food supplies fell short or were globally sufficient but did not reach poorer countries m. If not, why not and who do you think should starve?

    Paul Ehrlich famously wrote “The Population Bomb” in 1968 but qualified it a few years later by noting that a typical US household had the impact of a small Bangladeshi village. Oxfam this year noted the net emissions from the world’s wealthiest 1% were at least as great as the poorer half of the world. Wealthier countries and people need to do more to unravel the mess although the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates are hurling money at various projects.

  • Margaret Hamilton says:

    In this article people are been given the wrong advice on a vegan diet.
    All of us need Vitamin B 12 1000 ugs especially meat eaters who have high levels of Homostyine which causes strokes and heart attacks. We get Calcium in our food, however we need Citrate or Chelated Magnesium for the uptake of Calcium in our bodies.


Katherine Monahan


Katherine Monahan is an environmental researcher at the Smart Prosperity Institute at the University of Ottawa, and a Fellow in Global Journalism at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

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