Now that the mental necrosis-inducing monotony of exam revision has ended, we have cause for celebration. Before we move onto the frightening world of work, postgraduate study or just another year of uni, summer stretches out before us to distract ourselves from impending adulthood. And while some, like me, are kept in a lab or office desperately trying to make ourselves more employable, friends will no doubt be enjoying the longer days to the fullest. They swim, they get dazzlingly drunk on long-suffering resort islands, and they particularly enjoy a good barbeque.
That is until some fun-phobic ‘experts’ skip along to exclaim that we are ruining the environment by slavering over that beef burger, and that we should all become vegan.
Or something like that.
Except that has almost happened. A study done by the University of Oxford has come to the conclusion that if a person cut out all meat and dairy products from their diet, they could potentially reduce their carbon footprint by more than 70%. Someone who doesn’t give them up entirely but severely restricts their intake will reduce their footprint by two thirds of this. This starts to make sense once you consider the costs of animal farming.
This multi-billion pound industry takes up a huge amount of energy, water and resources, including land area; we still have swathes of the Amazon being destroyed to make way for cattle farming. Animal farming also produces a large amount of pollution due to this need for energy; big cities such as London are already facing criticism for not dealing with air pollution, animal pollution is simply another burden. Some of you might have read my last piece on growing antibiotic resistance; well here’s another cheery titbit. Animals are routinely fed low levels of antibiotics to avoid passing on diseases to humans, this reduces the affect of the treatment, contributing to this separate crisis.
The point of my first main piece was that science and the results from it don’t particularly care about your own personal opinions; this is unfortunately one of those cases. And I will come out and admit that I Am A Massive Hypocrite. As I am writing this article I am eating some chicken and pasta, AND I AM ENJOYING IT IMMENSLEY.
But maybe that’s just it. I know most of us don’t want to give up the foods we enjoy greatly, and don’t really like being told what to do. Oddly enough, the people who joke about not wanting to stop eating cheese or bacon are the same who scoff at climate change deniers and agree that recycling is overall a good thing (and yes I am one of those people). But if we don’t want to reach an extreme environmental disaster, and we are serious about wanting to make the world less terrible, we need to do all we can and that includes thinking seriously about who wins; our individual desires or the condition of our home. We don’t want to admit it, but some issues are much bigger than just us.
I’m probably not going to become vegan in the near future. At the most I’ll try to eat less of our fleshy brethren. But y’all, if we’re being genuine about not screwing up our planet, we’re going to have to have this conversation at some point. Preferably before the toxic atmosphere has melted our eyes and soldered our knees to the yoga mats as the mutated hyper-intelligent avocados have started a New World Order.
For anyone interested in the paper: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6392/987