James Hogan, a British animal rights campaigner with over 40 years' experience working for animal rights in countries as far afield as Afghanistan and Russia, and who has been a vegetarian for over 30 years joins the program.
To a question about how certain can the Lancet, a very respected British medical journal be about a connection between diet and climate change, James answers: "I think that there can be no doubt anymore that there is a link. Every stage of meat production to a greater or lesser extent makes some contribution to climate change. Most animals produced for meat are confined in intensive units, so called factory farms. They have to be fed, and they cannot be fed as they once were by chucking a bale of hay into a manger or letting them out to graze for a few hours. An intensive farming system needs a particular kind of concentrated food, and one of the main constituents of the animal feed used for animals in intensive systems is soya beans. Soya is grown in particularly large quantities in the Amazon region and in parts of Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Amazon is the area that is the best known. The way that it is produced is to first of all destroy swathes of ancient rain forest. By doing that two things happen. Firstly, the forest acts as a kind of sponge for the already existing greenhouse gasses that have been emitted into the atmosphere. Once the trees have been felled, they release the carbon dioxide that they have absorbed back into the atmosphere….Another link is that cows and cattle, to put it politely, also emit gasses in the form of methane, and methane is recognized as being one of the worst forms of greenhouse gasses, mainly because it is longer lasting. When the carbon dioxide has been deleted, in many years hence, methane will continue to exist. These are two very obvious examples….the figures I heard recently put the rate of destruction of the rain forests in the Amazon at a rate of three large football pitches per hour."
The Lancet is pushing for a 50% reduction in meat consumption, which sounds rather radical. James comments: "It sounds like a lot, but another magazine, Nature, is aiming for 90%. I do not subscribe to sensationalism and I think that such dramatic statements frighten people, but the principle remains the same — we need to make a reduction. This latest report from the Lancet comes on the back of many other reports. In recent years there has been a report from the World Resources Institute, this in a very reputable study, and said pretty much the same thing. Oxford University's Future of Food program commented that we need to reduce red meat consumption and back in 21012 or 14, Chatham House, that well-respected think tank here in the UK, came to the same conclusion."
A new word has entered common use, and that is: flexitarianism. This means that the individual takes a flexible approach to his or her diet, and tries to reduce the amount of meat he or she eats. In the UK, there are about 3 million registered vegetarians, and many more who have not declared that they do not eat meat; however the number of vegetarians is dwarfed by the number of flexitarians. These are people who from time to time stop eating meat, be it only for I or 2 days a week, or month. James comments. "There are a lot of people who are doing this, and what's giving it real impetus is the commercial interest by the food producers and supermarkets. You cannot go into a supermarket in London now without becoming aware that there is food available for you that doesn't contain meat. Marks & Spencer's, the high-end food company is the latest company that has gone into this in a very big way, producing their own vegetarian and vegan meals.
Although the western world is moving towards reducing meat consumption quite rapidly, the opposite is happening in `some countries, such as China. James comments: "This is a challenge, no doubt about it. We can only do what we can do what we can do where we live. There are encouraging signs though, in that the Chinese government last year did give some indication that they going to try and encourage meat consumption, whether or not that was just for publicity purposes or not I don't know."
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