Cows in stalls so small they can’t turn around. High CO2 emissions. Deforestation in the Amazon to provide feed for cattle. Is a vegetarian revolution bound to happen?
“Factory farms are a recipe for disaster”, says Danielle Nierenberg, a researcher at the Worldwatch Institute and the author of the report Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry.
“Modern meat and dairy production confines thousands of animals together in crowded, filthy conditions, which creates a perfect environment for the spread of disease between animals and potentially to humans.”
Today 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gasses come from meat production, according to figures from the FAO (the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization). That’s more emissions than the entire transport sector produces.
The problem isn’t the meat, say PETA and environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Club, along with Paul McCartney — factory farms are.
“Pasture-based livestock systems are better for both animals and the environment,” explains Nierenberg. “And while manure from factory farms is considered toxic waste because of the huge quantities which often end up polluting water, soil and air, the manure from smaller farms can be valuable as organic fertilizer.” But today 40 per cent of all meat comes from factory farms, compared to 30 per cent in 1990.
On his farm in southwest England, Christopher Thomas-Everard raises 400 beef cows for a population that he believes doesn’t eat enough meat.
“Most people need more iron and Vitamin B12, which you can get from meat and not much else,” he explains.
“Seventy-five per cent of the land in the world has vegetation that can’t be eaten by people, but animals can eat it. If we don’t use this land, people will starve. ”