Green house gases are created by all living things, but as we farm livestock to meet our meat eating demands we also have increased the amount of gases that are making climate change worse.
WHAT: All living things produce waste products in some manner; cows, sheep, chickens and fish do so in much the same ways we do (waste liquid, solids and gases). Although a completely natural process humanity has domesticated and mass produced animals for our consumption since our early history. As we have put aside large areas of land for animal farming those waste products has naturally also increase.
HOW: However as with most things we do, farming creates green house gases (GHG)that contribute to global warming. These emissions come from various sources, such as the the food and water needed for these animals. The feed itself needs to be farmed and the machinery used to do this will create CO2 and the land used will release CO2 previously locked in the soils. Growing plants to feed animals also require significant amounts of fertilizer which if used irresponsibly can leak into the surround environment causing real trouble for local plants and animals often leading to biodiversity loss. Animals require a lot of water which requires machinery to store, pump and distribute it, and all that machinery will use electricity that is generated from fossil fuels.
The animals themselves produce mountains of waste products, the most concerning of which is methane. Methane is a GHG which traps 100 times more heat over 5 years than CO2 does. In countries like Australia’s with a large cattle industry GHG emissions from agriculture contributes to 18% of their emissions (2013) compared to the UK’s 9% (2011).
So it stands to reason that reducing our meat consumption will help combat climate change in a big way. A study from Oxford University showed that a vegan diet is 2.5 times less CO2 intensive than a high meat diet; but I think it is unreasonable to ask everyone to turn to veganism. What we can all do is go meat free at least once a week, not only is eating more vegetable better for your health you will be making a real different in your carbon emission. Or you could even trying going for a Mediterranean diet which is high in vegetables and light on meat: