30. 07. 2007

NFU and vegans

I’m in trouble with the NFU. Not my fault, it has to be said, but a no doubt wonderful organisation called the Redditch Vegetarians and Vegans has issued an ‘eco-poster’ directly attributing these words me: “You make a bigger contribution to stopping global warming by becoming vegan than by switching to an eco-friendly car”.

Tut-tut, you Redditch Veggies! As you well know, what I actually said, back in January 2006, was as follows:

"Researchers at the University of Chicago have calculated the relative carbon intensity of a standard vegan diet in comparison to a US-style carnivorous diet, all the way through from production to processing to distribution to cooking and consumption. An average burger man (that is, not the outsize variety) emits the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes more CO2 every year than the standard vegan. By comparison, were you to trade in your conventional gas-guzzler for a state of the art Prius hybrid, your CO2 savings would amount to little more than one tonne per year."

I think everyone would probably agree:

(a) I am not a researcher at the University of Chicago;
(b) It’s very bad form sticking words into a person’s mouth from which they never emerged;
(c) That this is a very important issue which should indeed be discussed -intelligently and tolerantly – as I’m sure the NFU would agree.

So here’s a warning to the Redditch Veggies: do not, on pain of a torrent of incandescently angry emails ever mis-quote me again, let alone mis-quote what I am about to say now:

“Researchers at the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan have carried out a life-cycle analysis of beef production which shows that 'a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent of 36.4 kilograms of CO2' (New Scientist, 21.7.07). To help you get your head around this, that’s equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted by the average car over a distance of 250 kilometres."

As the (very) occasional consumer of (organic) beef, and preferably reared by people I know personally, I still feel a bad headache coming on at the concept of ‘beef offsets’ looming in my mind. No aspirin being to hand, a large malt whisky is clearly needed, were it not for the fact ……..

“Researchers at Strathclyde University have just carried out a life-cycle analysis of a ten-year old Macallan single malt whisky, which shows … “

They haven’t, actually! And even if they had, and shown that the production of a bottle of the same caused the emission of CO2 equivalent to flying from Birmingham to Speyside (which of course I wouldn’t dream of doing anyway - so relax Caroline), I wouldn’t give a damn.

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Comments

31. 07. 2007
Steve Connor

It's high time we got into this debate.

I'm not a huge fan of carbon calculators online (I figure they're the preserve of carbon geeks with a penchant for complex spreadsheets and of little relevance to your average Jo) but one thing that really does wind me up is the total lack of any reference to diet, even though as part of our gaseous rucksack of naughtiness, what we pop on our plates is of pivotal importance.

But first a word of caution.

We (Creative Concern) recently helped the marvellous Futuresonic Festival of Music and Ideas work with the Tyndall Centre to profile the carbon load of individual artists, a drum kit, even a pint of beer. It was engaging stuff but in the end was dwarfed by the travel emissions of people coming to and from the event.

So here's that word of caution: absolutely, let's get stuck into issues such as diet and make sure that as a nation we're not propping up, particularly through subsidy payments, a diet that is contributing to climate change, but can we keep some perspective (choose an in-flight veggie meal, anyone?) and avoid being too condemnatory and proselytising about the individual choices that should make up ourt future low-carbon lifestyles.

31. 07. 2007
Caroline

Thanks for the plug Jonathon.

We should all move to a vegetarian diet. How is our already over-plundered planet going to support 9billion people by 2050, let alone their meat eating habits?! We are already consuming 130% of the earth's capacity to meet our needs each year ... and that was with just over 6billion of us being here.

The rearing of animals for human feed is insane. The amount of natural resources consumed in creating pasture land, the intensive agricultural processes, the transportation of meat, packaging etc etc. The whole thing is crazy. And then there's the emissions from cows themselves.

Here's two films well worth watching back to back:

Apologies for the Chevy ad before this one. It's worth the wait - http://entimg.msn.com/i/ExperienceData/p1-7/us/x.htm?sh=LiveEarth&g=33238f2d-bde9-43c7-80b5-72a85f345322

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2beMH3Th-XM

Make a note, 'Must become vegetarian'.

05. 08. 2007
mark Brinkley

Does anybody remember a book called Diet for a Small Planet? It was a hot seller back in the 1970s. It's still around

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diet-Small-Planet-Moore-Lappe/dp/0345321200/ref=sr_1_1/202-6205205-7032652?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186345885&sr=1-1

You see all this "new debate" was around long ago. Me? i didn't become a vegetarian. I decided the whole thing was a guilt-ridden, puritanical recipe for boredom and misery. But maybe I was wrong?

07. 09. 2007
alvinwriter

Whether we eat beef or not, cows and other creatures like moose, will continue to belch out methane and carbon dioxide. Humans too, will continue to exhale carbon dioxide and release methane at the "other" end, even if they don't eat meat.

It's good that the plant life around us makes use of our exhalations and convert them into cellulose and other plant matter (which may be edible or not). But eating plants actually allows animals and people to release gas, like methane, after being chewed up and digested. Tubers rank high in this effect. Of course, the process of eating (whether plants or meat) will always result in exhaled carbon dioxide byproduct.

Don't get me wrong. Eating vegetables are good, and it's always a choice to not eat meat. But what we should really be trying to do is reduce carbon dioxide emissions of industries, not the natureal things that are really part of nature's processes and cycles.

The following is something from TheNewsRoom which might interest readers here.

New diet shrinks calories, carbon footprint: http://www.thenewsroom.com/details/360435?c_id=wom-bc-ar

You can find more news on global warming in TheNewsRoom. Email jtowns@voxant.com if you'd like to know how TheNewsRoom can be your partner in licensed news content on the Web. We'll be glad to hear from you!

- Alvin from TheScienceDesk at TheNewsRoom.com

14. 10. 2009
Daizy-Mae

I went vegan a year ago and it was pretty damn easy :)

I am a lot healthier too :D

Hurrah!

xXx

16. 11. 2007
Les

This is nonsense. The reason meat is so environmentally bad is the way it is farmed. Industrial farming of animals is bad. This does not mean we should all become Vegan (vegetarian is no good since we still need livestock). We need to return to more natural production methods. This will mean less meat for most of us, but not as much less as implied above.

The reality of locally produced solutions without food miles implies we produce food which best utilizes our natural resources. I live in Wales there is little arable land, being mountainous and the weather is poor for grains. However, sheep or goats can live on the hills with few inputs from farmers. It just doesn’t make sense to eat imported lentils or grains when livestock can be locally produced.

Perhaps those who undertook this research should get out more. Study other parts of the World than the USA. Then they can tell the people who live in the high Himalaya of Pakistan who produce nothing but, maize, potatoes, goats and chickens that they too should become vegan and die.

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