About six months ago, I decided to stop eating meat.
My desire for fillet steaks was constant but manageable. I ignored the existence of bacon. It would have been folly to even think about those sizzling, crimson slices of fat-laden pork lying between slabs of butter-heavy bread if I was serious.
After six months of successfully resisting the allure of cooked animal-muscles, I gave up for a week. While on holiday, I ate meat all the time. I worked my way through every creature except chicken, which only escaped my freshly-liberated hunger for blood because I was too busy savouring minted lamb pasties. It was wonderful – I love eating meat.
Now the holiday is over and I’ve stopped eating meat again. So what was the point of giving up meat if I just ended up caving in when it suited me?
Cows require grazing land, usually. Land is also needed on which to grow the feed they require. This need for space puts pressure on the natural environment, resulting in deforestation, for instance. Meat production and distribution use up a lot of fuel and this contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. One of the more powerful greenhouse gases is methane and cows produce a great deal of this too.
With the human population increasing as it is, these pressures on the environment are simply unsustainable, especially if more people start to eat as much meat as we do in the west.
A 2005 study from the University of Chicago estimates that a switch from a ‘mean American diet’ (27 per cent meat by calories) to a vegan diet would save about 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per person per year. Switching from a diet consisting of 50 per cent red meat by calories to veganism would save about 3.6 tonnes of CO2.
Reducing the amount of meat you eat is one of the simplest ways you can significantly lessen your impact on the environment. You don’t have to give up completely, but the less you eat, the better. I’m happy to stuff myself with it for one week each year.
There is no justification for eating as much meat as we do. I know we really like the stuff, but that is not a justification and neither is our supposed status as carnivores. We have a choice about that. The only question is: Can you resist bacon?