A United Nations alert has underlined the importance of campaigns like Meatless Monday in reducing meat consumption for the health of the planet.
Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions due to Meat Production was compiled by the Global Environmental Alert Service of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which scans scientific sources to create briefings for policymakers.
According to the alert, “agriculture, through meat production, is one of the main contributors to greenhouse gases and thus has a potential impact on climate change.” This is because cattle are the largest source of methane, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.
Americans currently consume the most meat of any country, eating an average of 11 ounces (322g) per person, per day. This is significantly more than both the global average of 4 ounces per person and the USDA’s suggested daily range of 5-6 ½ ounces from the “protein food group”.
The UN alert makes it clear that people and the planet can only benefit from cutting back on meat consumption and production:
“It seems probable that many benefits would accrue from lower consumption rates in many developed and some developing countries. At the same time, reduced meat production would ease both pressures on the remaining natural environment and on atmospheric emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O.”
In addition to the positive environmental impact, “a reduction in the consumption of meat, especially red meat, could have multiple health benefits, as there is clear evidence of a link between high meat diets and bowel cancer and heart disease (FOE 2010).”
Finally, the alert highlights the need for a long-term campaign, like Meatless Monday, to help people make the transition to healthier levels of meat consumption:
“As changing the eating habits of the world’s population will be difficult and slow to achieve, a long campaign must be envisioned, along with incentives to meat producers and consumers to change their production and dietary patterns. ‘Healthy’ eating is not just important for the individual but for the planet as a whole.”