High meat consumption causes many CO2 emissions:
Why is it urgent to reduce our ecological footprint?
What would it be like if human beings didn’t walk on two legs, but on all fours? And what if the meaning of life for the human being was just to be slaughtered by a two-legged pig and turned into sausages? We would be fattened with a cocktail of Brazilian soya-beans and artificial hormones and kept in a confined space, so that, after a year, we would be fat and overfed. Then we would be sent to an abattoir, where we would be anaesthetised with gas and have our throats slit. As I think about this nightmare, I put myself in the place of this four-legged being, with a short life, fed and watched over by the two-legged beings in such an undignified way.
“Just think of the income that my meat will bring in, when sold in the form of chorizos, ham or black pudding, at the “Feira dos Enchidos” (Monchique Sausage Fair). Just think of the taste of my flesh between two slices of bread, in a bifana with mustard or piri-piri. “
It is said that, at the moment of our death, we see our life passing before us in a flash. I imagine the desperate shrieks of one of my children being slaughtered before being roasted on the spit at one of the restaurants, which announces them as the speciality of the day. If we walked on four legs and not on two legs, our life in this world would have little dignity.
Pork tastes good? Opinions differ. Asking questions, calling something into question, is a very particular technique that is not appreciated in all regions of our country, especially when you know that in certain regions there are seven times more pigs than people. I had to arrive at the age I am now and eat a lot of meat every year before the time came when I started to question my eating habits. And I also did this because I was repeatedly becoming ill. I had long been thinking seriously about the subject of meat. For many years, I’ve lived with the choice of eating meat or eating a vegetarian meal. At times, in restaurants, the only non-meat dish was an omelette made with industrially-produced eggs, approved by the food safety authority, ASAE, subsidised by the EU and consumed by a naive and silent crowd.
This is a culture in which the reality about an animal and its death is kept hidden. The animals are hidden in stalls and their death by bleeding happens secretly in the abattoirs, leaving the whole animal slaughtered and transformed into meat and chorizos and its place immediately taken by another young animal. Every year, in Portugal, 105.3 kilos of meat are consumed per capita. Portugal ranks third among the 27 countries of the European Union with regard to meat consumption. Eighty four percent of Europeans eat meat two to three times a week. Production conditions and animal torture would be a hot topic, especially if broached whilst people are shopping in the supermarket. This is because food is responsible for a quarter of our ecological footprint. And 80 percent lies in the consumption of animal products and their by-products, such as meat, sausages, ham, eggs and dairy products. So, whoever wants to improve the level of their CO2 emissions, will sooner or later be faced with the decision of whether to become a vegetarian, or better still a vegan, and maybe even produce their own food in their garden at home: potatoes, peas, carrots and salad, and even broccoli, cauliflower, beans, chick peas and many other things.
I once read a report by the European Environment Agency, which is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, where it was said that the way we two-legged beings produce and consume food has a significant impact on our climate and our health. This is demonstrated by the following example: the purchase of one kilo of frozen chips in the supermarket is responsible for the emission of 4.9 kilos of CO2, while the production of one kilo of potatoes in your own garden doesn’t even emit 200 grams of CO2. These numbers are very clear. One kilo of butter releases six kilos of CO2 and the consumption of one kilo of intensively produced beef releases 36 kilos of CO2 and uses 15 m3 of water. The example of potatoes, a staple food, can be transferred to all other vegetables and also to fruit. All ready-made foods and processed foods, which need complex production procedures and require refrigeration, are transported over long distances and stored for long periods, requiring a lot of energy consumption, emitting a lot of CO2 and therefore causing harm to the environment. Thus, the fundamental question is whether humanity has the will and the conditions to move away from intensive agricultural monocultures, which involve wasting water and using chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, and return to producing food in line with permaculture practices, with their own naturally occurring and unique diversity. If so, this would mean that each of us would have to have our own garden. How will this be possible if the trend continues to be to flee the countryside and head for the city, with the interior becoming more and more like a desert? 55% of people live in cities.
The EU (still) doesn’t offer a solution to this problem. It seems that it continues to focus on the use of huge areas for the production of feed for so-called “meat production”, although it’s known that the intensive farming of pigs, beef cattle and chickens is responsible not only for epidemics such as swine fever and bird flu, but also for many unresolved problems such as effluents and high CO2 emissions. And it’s these emissions that, in the opinion of the European Commission, must end, because global warming and the pollution of our atmosphere, seas and soils are now subject to a limit set in the Paris Agreement of 2015: the goal of two degrees Celsius for the atmosphere, i.e. no more than two degrees above the average pre-industrial temperatures, in comparison with the year 1850.
If Europe, Portugal, Lisbon and also Monchique do not reduce their emissions by at least 40%, by 2030 we will be sweating more and experiencing more and more heatwaves, which will make our summers increasingly unbearable and also bring fires and torrential rain. Up until now, most of the inhabitants of Europe haven’t understood this and continue to live as if nothing were happening. This is the carefree and indifferent way of life in which they eat, move around and go on holiday, knowing no limits to their consumption. This behaviour will lead us to have what we call an emergency landing in 2030. And some of us will even fall in mid-flight unless, over the next ten years, we have phased in a different way of life, in which we are saving energy and resources.
It is with this end in mind that, over the last four years, ECO123 has been developing the KYOTO® game, now offering its subscribers the chance to participate for a year in testing their ecological footprint. While in Portugal, at the moment, the average emission per person is 5.3 tons of CO2, the KYOTO® test game aims at three tons of emissions per person per year. Join us in reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40% a year. See www.kyoto.eco123.info on how to do this …
At the same time, the EU is initiating projects for local authorities. Because it’s here that it will be decided whether the 2 degrees goal will be achieved or not. ECO123 attended a series of seminars which took place recently in Setúbal and in which the leaders of the country’s municipalities participated.
We will be talking exclusively about the BEACON project: five Portuguese cities, five Greek cities and five German cities, as well as other European municipalities are seeking to reduce their CO2 emissions by 40% even before 2030. How will they do this? We will be talking about these multiple possibilities in the next 100 pages of this very special edition of ECO123.