"Be Veg, Go Green To Save The Planet!" -- True or false?

Was watching a community access channel on cable tv. A show was on from “Supreme Master Television” ( http://suprememastertv.com ), whose mantra is “Be Veg, Go Green To Save The Planet!” The basic message is: the best way to solve the global warming problem is for everyone to become vegan vegetarian. The show gave a compelling argument, which included the following claims (with references):

Livestock and their byproducts are accountable for at least 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane is almost 100 times more potent than CO2 (carbon dioxide) over a 5 year period, but disappears from the atmosphere much more rapidly compared to centuries or millennia for CO2. The number one source of human-caused methane is animal agriculture.

In Australia, 91% of all tree clearing over a 20-year period has been done for livestock grazing.

Other claims were given (have a look at http://suprememastertv.com/animal-production ). What it all means is that if we all stop eating an animal-based diet less trees (and other plants) would be killed, less methane generated, and within a few years this would slow down global warming. Has anyone out there ever heard this argument before? These people seem to have their facts straight, but I’m looking for a second opinion. Thanx.

Yes, I have heard this before, in particular the facts related to the contribution of GHG’s (not to mention erosion and water pollution) from farming and agriculture. That’s not a big secret, people just don’t really pay attention.

Reading through a random sampling of their cites, they seem to reference valid studies and articles. Some of the sources are questionable (I saw one reference to a blog, for instance), but they also list the EPA and the UN.

A lot of marginal land can be used to graze beasts but can’t be used for arable production.

True enough, but in general livestock (in the US, anyways) aren’t grazed but are raised in feedlots on grains grown on land that could otherwise be used to produce crops for human consumption. And it takes a lot more then a calorie of corn to raise a calorie of beef, so meat ends up taking many times as many resources to provide a calorie for human consumption then it would if humans just ate the grain themselves.

I suspect its this multiplier effect which is the main driver of CO[sub]2[/sub] emission by livestock, at least in Western countries.

So, if we all stop eating meat, will all of that livestock suddenly disappear and stop emitting greenhouse gases?

Or will they live longer lives because we’re not killing them anymore, and continue to reproduce?

No ones going to bother feeding billions of cows if no ones buying them to eat, so by and large they’ll disappear, one way or another. (and realistically, everyone in the world isn’t going to stop eating meat all at once anyways, so even if we move to a less meat based diet, I’m sure agriculture will simply slowly shrink their herds by breeding fewer animals to adjust to decreasing demand.)

This isn’t true. Most beef cattle in the US are raised on pasture for the first 9 months, and “finished” on grain in feedlots shortly before slaughter. It’s too expensive to raise a cow on corn.

However, it is true that 98% of the corn grown in the US is “dent” corn (coarse corn not eaten by people). About 50% of that crop is actually used for animal feed - the rest goes into industrial processing for human-consumed products like corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil, and things like biodegradable plastics.

It’s not clear to me that there is any need for greater grain production for human consumption in the US.

They won’t live longer lives if there’s no market. Who would continue feeding them?

So they advocate species extinction then?

Chickens and cows won’t exist if we’re not eating them. Feral pigs would be an even larger problem than they are.

And how many trees in Brazil have been cut down to grow Soy? Hmmm?

Yes, vegans are advocating for a cattle genocide. :rolleyes:

A scholarly source:

Whether or not we, as individuals, should decrease the amount of our diet that is animal protein, or become vegan, is outside GQ appropriateness, but the fact that animal protein production has a much bigger GHG footprint than does producing equal amounts of vegetable proteins is well established. The impact of China’s rising affluence, and consequent much greater per capita consumption of animal protein (in particular pork, fed on soybeans often shipped in) will be dramatic.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that everyone should be vegan. Saying that we would all be better off if we cut our meat consumption to a lower, generally healthier level is fine, but there are populations that depend on meat (say, goats) because there is so little arable land where they live. There are quite a few people who, for various reasons, cannot live healthily without some meat or other animal protein.

Do you have a cite? According to here:

In any case, I think we agree on the basic fact that many more grain calories are diverted to meat production in the US then are generated in the form of meat.

The point isn’t that consuming less meat would allow for greater grain production for humans, the point is that it would allow for less total grain production, thus less of the consumption of resources and creation of pollution associated with such.

No doubt,. Everyones not going to become a Vegan, and for many people its not an option (and even amongst people who could, most probably won’t). But people in industrialized and developing countries consume much more meat then is necessary for either nutritional or calorie needs, and due to the amount of meat they consume and the inefficiency of meat production relative to other food sources, cutting back by people in industrialized countries by even a fraction would probably give large environmental gains (and probably wouldn’t hurt from a public health standpoint either).

I’m not a vegetarian, so obviously I don’t expect the country to abandon meat, but I think the environmental arguments for the population cutting back on it are strong.

Right. There is a GQ answer, that decreasing meat consumption would have significant beneficial positive impacts on greenhouse gas levels relative to keeping them the same or increasing world meat consumption (which is the current state of affairs). It also would make it easier for the planet to produce food to feed all of its growing population of people.

How realistic how much decrease of meat consumption is for different demographics of the world, is different question, and more of a debate.

Let us assume, for the purposes of the OP, that every human being physically can, and also chooses to, stop consuming animal flesh, dairy products produced by non-human mammals, and eggs laid by any animal. Further, that all humans decide to do this overnight.

This does not mean that all animals produced for food would be left unsold. Many species of animals kept as domestic pets are carnivores (e.g., dogs, cats, ferrets), as are many zoo/aquarium animals and animals used in scientific research/experiments.

As for claims of species extinction, domestic species of animals were created by humans through selective breeding practices. The loss of these species would not be a loss to the biosphere.

@chimera: I do not see why humans adopting a vegan diet would result in, “Feral pigs [being] an even larger problem than they are.” Please elaborate.

The number of trees being cut down anywhere in order to plant any type of crop is not a valid argument against the validity of the concept of adopting a vegan diet for the purposes of reducing CO[sub]2[/sub] emissions or GHGs. Playing Devil’s Advocate, one could counter that claim with, if Brazil were not cutting down trees in order to provide cattle with grazing land, the country would have enough land to plant soybeans without resorting to cutting down trees. Although, this suggested counter-argument depends on inferring that the first claim is referring to trees in Brazil’s (virgin) tropical rain forest.

What are you saying here? Most of the soy in Brazil is grown to produce animal feed. Stop eating meat and the soy production will take a nosedive.

(It’s not only the trees, btw, apparently, we’ve started on the grasslandsas well…)

This describes me. And these environmental arguments are so strong that they might push me into a change of behavior. … :pPinto bean burger anyone???:stuck_out_tongue: