When did people begin consuming meat? Anthropologists have been investigating this issue for a long time. Experts believe that humans’ ancestors started eating meat around 2.6 million years ago based on their examination of the teeth of hominins and the cut marks on the bones of huge herbivores but, are there environmental impacts of eating meat?
Meat is believed to have played a crucial role in our evolution, even though our prehistoric ancestors were probably scavenging for it rather than hunting it. Modern brains need a lot of energy, and some researchers contend that meat consumption may have increased as human brains grew more extensive and sophisticated.
Additionally, eating meat caused alterations in the digestive system. Over hundreds of thousands of years, the stomach of early humans decreased, which left more energy for the brain. Meat was made more palatable through cooking, a method that has been around for at least 800,000 years.
Hunting and gathering were widespread by the time Homo sapiens appeared some 300,000 years ago. Up until the advent of agriculture, around 10,000 years ago, our ancestors continued to consume animals, vegetables, nuts, pulses, and fruits.
We then changed to a more restricted diet consisting of rice, corn, cultivated wheat, barley, oats, or other grains, depending on where we lived.
In many societies, eating meat evolved into a luxury that was reserved for unique occasions. Today, however, it is widely available all around the world. In 2019 alone, an anticipated 325 million metric tons of meat was produced.
The environment is negatively impacted by meat, notably “industrial meat.”
The vast bulk of meat purchases come from highly automated factory farms. These farms are a component of the disastrous global industrial meat and dairy production system.
Fast food franchises like KFC, Burger King, and McDonald’s as well as supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda are the driving forces behind this system.
Many of these well-known brands purchase goods from businesses that are controlled by JBS, the biggest meat processing corporation in the world. JBS contributes to Amazon deforestation by producing around half the amount of carbon emissions of fossil fuel goliaths like Shell or BP.
To function, the industrial meat industry needs a sizable area of land. Every year, forests, especially in South America, are purposefully felled and burned to make room for cattle grazing and to produce enough grains to feed billions of farm animals.
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Environmental Impacts of Eating Meat
A lot of experts encourage us to try and reduce our meat consumption as concerns about sustainability and climate change become more relevant. What effect does eating beef have on the ecosystem, then?
In actuality, several aspects of the production of meat harm the environment globally. Here are some reasons why industrial meat is detrimental to both people and the environment:
1. Deforestation and Forest Fires
Globally, industrial meat production is the leading factor in deforestation. Brazilian ranchers intentionally start forest fires resembling those in the Amazon rainforest to make room for cattle ranching and to cultivate soy for farm animals as industrial animal feed.
Huge areas of the Amazon are being deforested to make room for the raising of cattle and the production of soybeans for animal feed. Deforested areas are frequently cleaned by fire. This burning eliminates a CO2 sink while simultaneously releasing significant volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment.
2. Climate Change
Meat has a significant environmental impact, about equal to all the driving and flying of all the cars, trucks, and airplanes in the globe.
billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the sky when forests are cut down to create industrial meat, exacerbating global warming. The downed trees are frequently burned or allowed to decompose on the forest floor, which results in additional emissions.
To remove carbon from the atmosphere, healthy trees are crucial. They can no longer assist us in the fight against climate change if we cut them down.
There are various ways that livestock production contributes to these greenhouse gases:
- The ecological devastation of forests. As was already indicated, this process emits a significant amount of CO2 into the environment.
- Caring for animals. As they digest food, animals like cows and sheep produce a lot of methane.
- Rotten manure. Methane is also released by the feces that ruminant animals produce.
- Using fertilizers. Many of the fertilizers used to grow soybeans are nitrogen-based and emit nitrous oxide.
3. Breaking Point of the Amazon Rainforest
Rainfall is generated by trees in the Amazon rainforest, which sustains the well-being of the entire forest. The Amazon could reach a “tipping point” when it can no longer maintain itself as a rainforest if deforestation (for things like industrial meat) continues at the current rate.
The effects on the humans and animals who directly rely on or live in the forest would be catastrophic. Additionally, it might result in less rainfall, which would have an impact on South America’s water supply and irrigation systems, as well as alter global climate patterns.
4. Human Rights Abuses and Land Grabs.
Indigenous People and traditional groups, such as the geraizeira villages in Brazil, are at the forefront of the fight to safeguard forests. It is responsible for land grabs and violations of human rights.
According to a Greenpeace Brazil investigation, residents of the traditional geraizeira communities were harassed, detained, kidnapped, and shot by security personnel working for soy producer Agronegócio Estrondo.
Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro and his administration implicitly support illicit miners and loggers and By reversing historical restrictions and attempting to legalize land grabbing, farmers are attempting to seize Indigenous territories.
Loggers have slain Indigenous People in these conflicts, which frequently turn violent due to invasions. JBS, a large-scale meat manufacturer, has a history of working with vendors that trespass into Indigenous territories.
Cattle ranches and soya growers in Brazil have a history of benefitting from modern-day slavery. That also applies to JBS’s vendors (the meat processing giant). Abattoirs owned by JBS have been connected to horrendous labor conditions, widespread Covid-19 outbreaks, and salmonella-tainted chicken exports.
5. Biodiversity Loss
The industrial meat business is causing the extinction of thousands of species, many of which have not even been found, by destroying habitats, removing forests, and using harmful pesticides to create animal food.
A healthy environment is essential to our survival. The enormous variety and abundance of the natural world also referred to as biodiversity, is crucial for the production of food, potable water, and pharmaceuticals.
According to estimates, 77% of the planet’s livable land is utilized for agriculture, with cattle, sheep, goats, and other animals using the remaining 23% for grazing. With our free online course, you may learn more about ecology and wildlife protection.
It’s possible that the rapid loss of biodiversity—which is mostly caused by industrial farming—will endanger human life more than climate change.
6. Increased Possibility of Pandemics like COVID-19
New infectious diseases are largely brought on by the destruction of forests and other wild habitats for animal agriculture. Animals are the source of 75% of new diseases that afflict people.
By clearing and burning forests, humans and wildlife come into closer contact, increasing the risk of lethal virus transmission. The likelihood of a new pandemic increases as more forests are cleared for development.
However, industrial beef also poses a risk for other diseases. Additionally, factory farming can accelerate the spread of disease among animals as well as from animals to people.
Due to the density of the animals in industrial meat farms and the vulnerability of the animals’ immune systems, the risk is higher. This implies that viruses have a higher potential for development and transmission to people.
7. Eating in this manner is inefficient
Businesses occasionally claim that producing meat industrially is an efficient way to generate food, but this ignores the real costs. Farm animals graze on or grow food that could have been consumed by humans instead on more than a quarter of the world’s total land area. To produce just 1 kg of chicken flesh, 3.2 kg of crops are needed.
We would require 75% less farmland if everyone followed a plant-based diet than we do now. That’s an area larger than the combined areas of the US, China, Europe, and Australia. That’s because growing food specifically for humans consumes less land than feeding animals that are later consumed by humans.
8. Water Usage
It requires a lot of water to create meat, and beef is the most water-intensive food. When compared to pork and other types of protein like lentils, beef requires two and four times the amount of water.
The problem is made worse by the fact that soybean growing (for animal feed) uses comparatively little water. Because manure contaminates watercourses, livestock agriculture also adds to global water pollution.
With the help of this online course, you may discover more about the relationship between life and the planet’s many systems and obtain fresh perspectives on the natural world.
9. Soil Degradation
A lot of grazing pasture is frequently needed for animal husbandry. The intensive nature of this grazing, however, can leave the soil bare, which is frequently lost to wind or rain. Fertile lands become desolate as a result, and there is a higher chance of flooding and choked streams.
Carbon is also stored in vast quantities in soil, where it is absorbed as plants and trees perish. That carbon is released into the environment as CO2 as the soil is lost. The second-largest sources of CO2 emissions worldwide have been animal agriculture, deforestation, and other land-use changes that deplete the soil.
Action for the climate is an action for good health. Eating meat comes with a lot of controversy about human health. In our article, we have shown you that eating meat isn’t bad for your health but also bad for there environment.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.