• 15 billion cattle – what and where the livestock industry brings us?

15 billion cattle – what and where the livestock industry brings us?

For those who love and cherish our planet, June 2017 may be a bleak month. The US president Donald Trump declared the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a landmark agreement to address global climate change with the endorsement of unprecedented number of countries. The president’s decision is disappointing; yet, instead of merely blaming Mr. Trump for shedding his responsibility as the leader of one of the strongest power sin the global village, are we prevented from engaging more in the cause, when the super power steps back? Definitely not. On the contrary, our minor change will make a big difference. One easy but effective adjustment is reducing meat intake, especially beef.

To fulfil our greedy appetite, our livestock industry is raising 1.5 billion cattle. The climate change appears not to relate with our adorable cattle, though. The devil detail is methane, a destructive greenhouse gas. According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, methane has a Global Warming Potential 28-36 times stronger than that of carbon dioxide. On the other hand, cattle is ruminant that emits tremendous amount of methane. This is why the carbon footprint of beef overwhelmingly outweighs that of any other meat. Just a conversion: given the annual methane emission of a cattle is 200 pounds, which is equivalent to the power of 7200 pounds of carbon dioxide, how much carbon emissions do 1.5 billion cattle engender? It is 5.5 billion tons.

Carbon footprint of cattle industry-09_small


What does this astronomical figure represent? It is the amount of carbon emission which competes on equal terms with the the annual carbon footprint of USA, or the sum (5.4 billion tons) of ten industrial countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and the United Kingdom. In other words, a simple change in your diet – eliminating beef on your plate can offset the greenhouse gas emission of ten countries, or the world’s second largest emitter (USA).

Apart from carbon emissions, concerns on excessive contamination and public health are in the wake of the surge of the livestock industry. In the past decades, when it came to catching up the demand of food with the increasing population, the expedient first springing out might be to industrialise animal production with intensive feeding. However, is this production model really sustainable? Just consider: how is it possible to rear 21 billion chickens and billions of animals and ensure their body to grow so fast for human consumption, even with very limited land and resources?

The most convenient way is to cram all these animals into a suffocatingly crowded prison, and then inject numerous and various antibiotics, growth hormones into them to hasten their muscle growth. According to a report of Food and Drug Administration in 2014, in America, 80% of antibiotics use goes to chicken, pigs, cattle and other meat animals. In China, 52% of the antibiotics are used to promote the unnatural growth of meat, and even more than 5000 tons of them are disposed to water and land every year. Polluting the ecosystem and environment, ultimately, these chemicals are ingested by us and lurk inside our bodies.

Without any amendment, how much longer do you think our “over-active” immune system can stand the chronic battle with the chemical-poisoned meat? In fact, it may be much shorter than your imagination: antibiotic tolerance caused more than two million illnesses in the US in 2013, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an estimated 25000 deaths in Europe annually.

Beyond doubt, facing the global climate change and health problems, the meat-obsessive regime is, and has to be, collapsing. If we do not make any change, soon we and our planet will face the music. Fortunately, unlike Mr. Trump, more and more global villagers has awakened to the consequence. One of them is the French President Emmanuel Macron. “Make our planet great again,” he tweeted, soon after the US president had informed the world he was withdrawing from the global agreement, to invite US scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs (disappointed by their President’s move) to “come to France and work with us together” on climate solutions.

“Make our planet great again” may be a banter about Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign slogan “make America great again”. However, it is NOT just a banter. It is a possible future; a future led, not by any political leader, but you – depending on a small change on your dining table!



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