There are varying beliefs on the impact of meat production on the environment. It is very clear however that the scale of production in factory farms causes the degradation of the environment. Due to the drive for corporations to make massive profits, billions of animals are slaughtered every year worldwide to meet our increasing demand.
Just how big is the meat industry?
In Australia alone over 500 million animals are confined and killed every year for food. In a population of about 25million that is 20 animals per person per year. Worldwide the numbers are staggering with an estimated 70 billion land animals killed for food every year. The demand for meat and animal products appears to be increasing. The average amount of meat consumed per person globally has nearly doubled in the past 50 years, from around 23kg in 1961 to 43kg in 2014. The increase in average individual meat consumption means total meat production has been growing at a much faster than the rate of population growth, increasing four or fivefold since 1961. Although consumption appears to have leveled out in some countries such as the UK, other countries such as China and some East Asian countries are continuing to see a rise in consumption.
With a global population of about 7.7 billion people that is projected to reach about 8.5 billion by 2030, this scale of production and the associated land use is unsustainable.
Health implications of meat eating
There are impacts of industrial meat production on our own health, beyond the environmental issues. Bacterial infections such as salmonella and campylobacter, can spread through large farms and can be transmitted to humans. (The outbreak of mad cow disease in the UK in the 1980s is a case of the devastating effect this can have.)
The increasing use of antibiotics on farms to deal with the infections due to the large numbers of animals in confined spaces, is likely a factor in the increasing rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans. In the USA it is estimated that about 80% of all antibiotic use is for farm animals.
The Cancer Council of Australia advised that “The World Health Organization has classified processed meats including ham, bacon, salami and frankfurts as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer) which means that there’s strong evidence that processed meats cause cancer. Eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel and stomach cancer. Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork, has been classified as a Group 2A carcinogen which means it probably causes cancer.”
There is also mounting evidenced from studies around the world that the long-term consumption of increasing amounts of red meat and particularly of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes, in both men and women.
What’s the alternative?
Certainly, you can improve your health by cutting out processed meats and reducing or stopping consumption of red meat. Reducing your overall consumption is better for health and the environment. Perhaps start with replacing one meal a week with a plant-based alternative.
Finding out where your food comes from will also be beneficial to enable you to make choices to improve your health, promote better animal welfare and help the environment
Want to find out more?
Check out our articles, reading list and plant based recipes for more information.
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