Archive for ‘Livestock Carbon Footprint’


The double edged sword: A quick-fix for global warming

Friday, June 8th, 2012

The closer we look at livestock production, the more we discover that it is truly a double-edged sword.  On one hand we have the damaging health, climate and environmental effects, and on the other hand, we are now finding that the short-lived emissions from livestock may give us a quick fix for global warming – the solution many climate scientists have been desperately seeking.

WPF scientists recently published a paper in the International Journal of Climate Change that explains how steep reductions in livestock production will be the most effective way to slow warming in the next decades, by at least 2°C.  Here’s the paper and press release.

Not only is livestock shown to be a quick-fix, the paper also highlights the work of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that looked at long-term climate fix – the cost of mitigating global warming.  It works out that returning the world’s pastures (a quarter of the land surface) to grow trees, woodland and native perennial grasses, will soak up at least 20 years of carbon emissions.

This approach is also the lowest cost option, coming in a just 20% of the cost of the alternatives – a cheap option that will be taken more seriously as the climate chaos continues.

These ideas also won an award with the MIT Climate CoLab project to find climate solutions –

Bill Gates agrees – here is a mobile phone video where he predicts that plant protein foods will be a part of the mainstream dialogue within 5 years, and an enormous business opportunity.

Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop

Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

In this video presentation, Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, World Preservation Foundation Senior Scientist, puts forward the case for how, with the devastating effects of climate change being felt ever-more quickly and with increasing intensity, the importance of embracing fast-acting solutions to mitigate climate change has increased dramatically.

In recent years, greater understanding of climate science has advanced considerably, and scientists and even policy makers now recognise that climate change in the short term is being driven by extremely potent, shorter-lived climate forcers. By reducing these climate forcers — namely black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone — cooling begins rapidly.

Globally, the production of meat and dairy are significant contributors of these fast warming agents with far reaching consequences on planetary warming and environmental devastation. These include the major effects of black carbon due to biomass burning, on West Antarctica as well as the tropical monsoons; deforestation; soil carbon loss; and, food and water security. It’s estimated that 47% to 60% of the black carbon reaching West Antarctica and causing rapid melting is due to biomass burning resulting from livestock pasture management.

CO2 from pasture maintenance fires, reforestation of pastures and soil carbon uptake on relief of grazing pressure may also play a part in a fast-acting solution to the climate crisis.

This video is a synopsis of the paper Gerard wrote that examines the contributions of agriculture, namely livestock farming, to planetary warming through the shorter-lived climate forcers, and the effect of animal agriculture abatement on alleviating global warming and environmental collapse. We also propose four policy measures to immediately reduce the shorter-lived warming agents.

(By: Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop: Senior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation )

The food crisis and too much meat

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Today (1 June) Oxfam has published its hard-hitting report, ‘Growing a better future’. Oxfam’s research forecasts a food price rise of 70-90 percent by 2030 – and when the predicted effects of climate change are included, those price rises could double again.

There are many contributing factors behind this food crisis, which is already a tragic reality in poorer countries and a looming threat for wealthier ones. One of the scandals of our global food system is that nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

Compassion in World Farming believes a significant factor is the massive global growth in meat production and consumption. As Oxfam’s report points out, “higher incomes and increasing urbanization leads people to eat less grains and more meat, dairy, fish, fruit, and vegetables. Such a ‘Western’ diet uses far more scarce resources: land, water, atmospheric space.”

We use 67 billion animals a year for meat, milk and eggs, and of these, three quarters have to endure miserable lives in barren factory farms. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to dangerous climate change – and as we see above, climate change is predicted to double the price of some foodstuffs. So there is clearly an urgent need to address growth in global meat consumption:

  • Over 30 percent of global grains (including wheat and maize) and 90 percent of soya are used to feed farm animals, of whom the majority are in factory farms.
  • Converting plant protein into animal products is wasteful. It takes 20 kilos of feed to produce one kilo of edible beef, 7.5 kilos of feed for a kilo of edible pork and 4.5 kilos for a kilo of edible chicken.
  • If global demand for animal products continues to escalate, ever-increasing amounts of precious grains, and water to irrigate those crops, would be needed to fatten up ever-increasing numbers of factory farmed animals. Such a system is clearly unsustainable for animals, people and the planet.

Compassion believes that one of the easiest solutions to help remedy the situation is for those in high meat-eating populations to reduce their intake of meat and milk overall, and to choose animal products only from higher welfare systems which have paid more regard to environmental protection and animal welfare.

This would help farm animals, as reduced demand would enable a much-needed rise in animal welfare standards across the board. It would benefit human health; the World Cancer Research Funds advises a mainly plant-based diet with an upper limit of 70g of meat per person per day. It would benefit the environment too, as factory farms are highly polluting of air, land and water. And it should benefit the hungry, allowing a more equitable food supply for everyone on the planet.

Read more

Eating the Planet: Feeding and fuelling the world sustainably, fairly and humanely
This research, specially commissioned by Compassion in World Farming and Friends of the Earth, shows that we can indeed feed the world using humane and sustainable agriculture without further deforestation, without massive land use change – and without factory farming. But our options for doing so are greatly increased if high meat-eating populations reduce their consumption.

Beyond Factory Farming
This report examines the impacts of the massive global scale of livestock production. Each year we use 67 billion farm globally for meat, milk and eggs, the majority in industrial-scale farms. At the same time, the livestock population is set to double in the face of growing demand for meat and dairy products, particularly from developing countries such as China and India. The report presents solutions for a humane and sustainable farming system and provides policy recommendations for achieving this change.

The Meat Crisis: Developing more sustainable production and consumption edited by Joyce D’Silva (Director of Public Affairs, Compassion in World Farming) and John Webster (Professor Emeritus, Bristol University Vet School), Earthscan, 2010

The Meat Crisis brings together chapters from global experts to address the major issues around industrial animal farming. In brief, these are:

  • industrial animal farming’s contribution to anthropogenic climate change and the pollution of land and of rivers, lakes and seas
  • industrial animal farming’s demands on precious global resources of water, grains and soya, risking increased food insecurity for the hungry
  • the suffering imposed on the animals themselves
  • the impacts on human health of a diet high in animal products
  • the predicted doubling of demand for meat and dairy by 2050, which could mean roughly a doubling of the number of farm animals used for meat, milk and eggs per year to 120 billion, the majority of whom would be reared in confinement systems.

Interviews with some of the authors at also help bring these issues to life.

Source: The food crisis and too much meat – Compassion in World Farming UK

Date: 01 June 2011

Eat less meat to save the planet – UN

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

The world needs to change to a more vegetarian diet to stand a chance of tackling climate change, according to a major new United Nations report.

The group of international scientists said the greatest cause of greenhouse gas emissions is food production and the use of fossil fuels.

But while the use of coal and oil could be gradually replaced by renewable energy sources like wind and solar, the world will always need to eat.

As the world population increases it is feared that the production of food will become the main cause of climate change and environmental degradation.

The International Panel of Sustainable Resource Management pointed out that agricultural production accounts for 70 per cent of global freshwater production, 38 per cent of land use and 19 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, that will be presented to world governments, said the only way to feed the world while reducing climate change is to switch to more a more vegetarian diet.

“A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change,” it read.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, said ordinary consumers can help fight climate change by eating less meat.

“The Panel have reviewed all the available science and conclude that two broad areas are currently having a disproportionately high impact on people and the planet’s life support systems—these are energy in the form of fossil fuels and agriculture, especially the raising of livestock for meat and dairy products,” he said.

Mr Steiner said governments could encourage people to eat less meat by reforming the system of taxes and subsidies so vegetarian food is cheaper.

“Smart market mechanisms, more intelligent fiscal policies and creative policy-making are among the options for internalising the costs of unsustainable patterns. Some tough choices are signalled in this report, but it may prove even more challenging for everyone if the current paths continue into the coming decades,” he added.

Lord Stern of Brentford, the author of the influential Stern Review that first argued for economic measures to fight climate change, also believes the world needs to eat less meat.

He has already warned that the price of meat and other “carbon intensive” goods will need to go up to fight climate change.

Source: Eat less meat to save the planet – UN – The Telegraph UK

Date: 02 June 2010

UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Lesser consumption of animal products is necessary to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change, UN report says

A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today.

As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.

It says: “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”

The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.

The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.

Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: “Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products – livestock now consumes much of the world’s crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides.”

Both energy and agriculture need to be “decoupled” from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found.

Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: “Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation.”

The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter.

Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.

Last year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said that food production would have to increase globally by 70% by 2050 to feed the world’s surging population. The panel says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth.

Prof Hertwich, who is also the director of the industrial ecology programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that developing countries – where much of this population growth will take place – must not follow the western world’s pattern of increasing consumption: “Developing countries should not follow our model. But it’s up to us to develop the technologies in, say, renewable energy or irrigation methods.”

Source: UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet – The Guardian UK

Date: 02 June 2010

Factory Farms, Deforestation, Subsidies and Soy: UK Campaign Connects the Dots

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

From Meatless Mondays to Weekday Vegetarianism to going raw food vegan to adopting the 100-Mile Diet, there are plenty of individual actions we can take to reduce the impact of our meals. But personal action is not enough, and with the complex, interrelated clusterf**k that our food system has become, individuals can feel powerless to make positive change on a systemic level. Luckily, a new campaign from Friends of the Earth UK is connecting the dots for you.

Having already brought us singing cows and politicians, the Fix the Food Chain campaign is stepping up its efforts for a fundamental shift in how the UK Government treats the food system. Among the campaign’s demands are:

1. Stop spending taxpayers’ money on subsidizing intensive livestock farming and invest in research on alternatives.

2. Introduce new legislation to ensure public money is not spent on environmentally damaging, unhealthy food for schools, hospitals, care homes, the armed
forces and prisons.

3. Address the climate change impacts of livestock production, including the worldwide impacts of the global food chain.

4. Change global investment policy and stop spending taxpayers’ money on finance for damaging intensive livestock schemes via the World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other forms of bilateral finance.

5. Fund research and development into sustainable farming, including suitable breeds, crop varieties and cropping systems.

6. Make UK companies, including supermarkets, accountable for the impact on people and the environment abroad.

7. Revise the Sustainable Consumption and Production Strategy so that it addresses
the full impacts of livestock production.

8. Review European Trade Policy and ensure greater priority is given to the environmental and social impacts of global trade.

Check out the summary of FOE’s report on the environmental impact of livestock (PDF download), and check out the organization’s campaign guidelines if you want to do more.

Source: Factory Farms, Deforestation, Subsidies and Soy: UK Campaign Connects the Dots – Tree Hugger

Date: 08 November 2009

Study claims meat creates half of all greenhouse gases

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Climate change emissions from meat production are far higher than currently estimated, according to a controversial new study that will fuel the debate on whether people should eat fewer animal products to help the environment.

In a paper published by a respected US thinktank, the Worldwatch Institute, two World Bank environmental advisers claim that instead of 18 per cent of global emissions being caused by meat, the true figure is 51 per cent.

They claim that United Nation’s figures have severely underestimated the greenhouse gases caused by tens of billions of cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and other animals in three main areas: methane, land use and respiration.

Their findings – which are likely to prompt fierce debate among academics – come amid increasing from climate change experts calls for people to eat less meat.

In the 19-page report, Robert Goodland, a former lead environmental adviser to the World Bank, and Jeff Anhang, a current adviser, suggest that domesticated animals cause 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), more than the combined impact of industry and energy. The accepted figure is 18 per cent, taken from a landmark UN report in 2006, Livestock’s Long Shadow.

“If this argument is right,” write Goodland and Anhang, “it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change.”

“In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on greenhouse gas emissions and their atmospheric concentrations than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.”

Their call to move to meat substitutes accords with the views of the chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who has described eating less meat as “the most attractive opportunity” for making immediate changes to climate change.

Lord Stern of Brentford, author of the 2006 review into the economic consequences of global warming, added his name to the call last week, telling a newspaper interviewer: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources.”

Scientists are concerned about livestock’s exhalation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Cows and other ruminants emit 37 per cent of the world’s methane. A study by Nasa scientists published in Science on Friday found that methane has significantly more effect on climate change than previously thought: 33 times more than carbon dioxide, compared with a previous factor of 25.

According to Goodland and Anhang’s paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, scientists have significantly underestimated emissions of methane expelled by livestock. They argue that the gas’s impact should be calculated over 20 years, in line with its rapid effect – and the latest recommendation from the UN – rather than the 100 years favoured by Livestock’s Long Shadow. This, they say, would add a further 5bn tons of CO2e to livestock emissions – 7.9 per cent of global emissions from all sources.

Similarly, they claim that official figures are wrong to ignore CO2 emitted by breathing animals on the basis that it is offset by carbon photosynthesised by their food, arguing the existence of this unnecessary animal-based CO2 amounts to 8.7bn tons of CO2e, 3.7 per cent of total emissions.

On land use, they calculate that returning the land currently used for livestock to natural vegetation and forests would remove 2.6bn tons of CO2e from the atmosphere, 4.2 per cent of greenhouse gas. They also complain that the UN underestimated the amount of livestock, putting it at 21.7bn against NGO estimates of 50bn, adding that numbers have since risen by 12 per cent.

Eating meat rather than plants also requires extra refrigeration and cooking and “expensive” treatment of human diseases arising from livestock such as swine flu, they say.

While looking into the paper’s findings, Friends of the Earth said the report strengthened calls for the Government to act on emissions from meat production. “We already know that the meat and dairy industry causes more climate-changing emissions than all the world’s transport,” said Clare Oxborrow, senior food campaigner.

“These new figures need further scrutiny but, if they stack up, they provide yet more evidence of the urgent need to fix the food chain. The more damaging elements of the meat and dairy industry are effectively government-sponsored: millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is spent propping up factory farms and subsidising the import of animal feed that’s been grown at the expense of forests.”

Justin Kerswell, campaign manager for the vegetarian group Viva!, said: “The case for reducing consumption of meat and dairy products was already imperative based on previous UN findings. Now it appears to have been proven that the environmental devastation from livestock production is in fact staggeringly more significant – and dwarfs the contribution from the transport sector by an even greater margin.”

“It is essential that attention is fully focused on the impact of livestock production by all global organisations with the power to affect policy.”

Source: Study claims meat creates half of all greenhouse gases – The Independent UK

Date: 01 November 2009

Critics round on Lord Stern over vegetarian call

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Farmers and meat companies across Britain reacted with a mixture of anger and exasperation yesterday after one of the world’s leading climate change campaigners urged people to become vegetarian to help to fight global warming.

The offensive by Lord Stern of Brentford in The Times was especially timely as about 100 leading meat and farm industry figures sat down to breakfast in the elegant Cholmondeley Room in the House of Lords to celebrate champions in the pig industry.

The occasion was also an opportunity to show the vegetarian Farming Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, the efforts being made to reduce the carbon footprint of livestock farms.

Serving the right bacon and sausage was therefore important, and industry leaders chose Bedfordia Farms, which is pioneering technology in farming. The group pumps slurry from pig units to an anaerobic digestion plant, where it is combined with other waste from the food chain to produce renewable energy and bio-fertiliser. These type of plants are increasingly being seen as one of the ways to help British farming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It was the lack of acknowledgement about what the industry is doing to help to fight climate change that made senior farming leaders so outraged by the comment by Lord Stern. The reaction in Whitehall, however, was muted. The remarks were a personal view from Lord Stern, who is an economist, one senior insider said.

It was left to Professor Robert Watson, chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to set the record straight and make clear that stopping people eating meat was not on the government agenda. The professor, who eats meat, fish and cheese but admits that he consumes more fruit and vegetables these days, made clear that eating a balanced diet that was good for health and the environment was the key. However, he did not flinch from Lord Stern’s view that the nation had to reduce its carbon emissions.

“There’s no question we need to reduce greeenhouse gas emissions, not only the way we produce energy and use energy, but also from avoiding deforestation and our agricultural sector. Livestock globally could account for as much as 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.”

“When you look at the livestock industry, it’s not just the cows burping methane, it’s transporting the meat, it’s cooking the meat, it’s storing the meat. It’s not stopping eating meat. It’s how do we get a balanced diet that reduces the environmental footprint.”

The Soil Association; Compassion in World Farming; the food and farming campaign group, Sustain; and VIVA, vegetarian campaigners, were united that everyone should have one or two meat-free days a week.

The word on meat

“Eating a vegetarian diet is a lot cheaper than a meat one. Let’s face it — the most expensive foods on the average families shopping lists are meat and dairy” — Jonte Jay

“Thanks for the good and scientific article. More people should be vegan. I hope all people take \ up soon, before it’s too late” — Sean Lee

“Those who refuse to give up meat are contributing significantly to the destruction of the planet” — Peter Radcliffe

“If we quit breeding large herds of animals for meat, population goes down, less animals producing less methane gas. Unfortunately, there will still be Lords and politicians producing more than their fair share of gas . . .” — Dbrent Willis

“Tell me I’m having a bad dream and not living in such a ridiculous country” — Nicholas Fox

Source: Critics round on Lord Stern over vegetarian call – The Times UK

Date: 28 October 2009

How the Maccas want to save the planet

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

THERE is a charming, seemingly random, video on YouTube of Paul McCartney demonstrating how to make mashed potatoes. It’s a recipe from Linda McCartney’s On Tour book (he is following the instructions from his own well-thumbed copy), and there is something endearing about the way he shows you Linda’s tip on how to chop an onion, as he hacks away with the knife in a way no professional chef would.

He is no Jamie Oliver. Obviously, Sir Paul has other talents, and his guide to making mash the Macca way, a video he made as the president of the UK’s Vegetarian Society, is just a bit of fun — the perfect accompaniment to a couple of Linda’s vegetarian sausages.

Food was a key part of Paul and Linda’s relationship, and when they went vegetarian in the Seventies, it was a spontaneous and joint decision, he says. “We were on the farm and we saw lambs gambolling and we were eating leg of lamb. So it was a compassionate thing. That seems to be the least important thing to people these days. It seems to have gone right out of the window, unfortunately.”

Linda’s food still brings the family together. They are actively involved in Linda McCartney Foods, which recently had a bit of a dust-off and a rebranding. They all taste and approve new recipes, and I imagine their freezers are well stocked with Linda’s burgers and sausages. It is important to them; it is their way of keeping her legacy alive. So when Sir Paul decided to launch the campaign Meat Free Monday — the aim of which is to persuade people to go veggie once a week to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock — it was the perfect opportunity to get together for a rare public group hug.

As he muses over a suitable recipe for another cookery video to promote the campaign, he remembers one of his father’s favourite recipes: “Pea sandwiches. I remember my dad making one for John once.” His daughters — Mary, the photographer, and Stella, the fashion designer — groan. “It has to be Mum’s lasagne,” Mary says. We are in a leafy private garden in Notting Hill, at the back of the Portobello Hotel where, legend has it, Kate Moss took a champagne bath with Johnny Depp. Grand west London villas overlook the garden.

A small girl in a school boater is peeping out of her window, watching one of the most famous men in the world being photographed. Sir Paul waves at her cheerily, and she disappears. While Mary prepares to take the photographs, Sir Paul takes a tiny mouth organ from his pocket and plays as Stella, wearing a vintage powder-blue dress, her high heels making her long legs look even longer, sings along.

“This is why Bob Dylan wants to write songs with you,” she laughs. It’s a family joke. Despite news reports that the two musicians are about to record together, Sir Paul tells me later that the rumour is unfounded. “No, that’s a newspaper thing. He just said some very complimentary things about me in some interviews, and I love him. I think he’s a great poet and writer, so I’ve always admired him. I don’t rule it out and I admire him. But we’re not the kind of people who would ring each other up.”

Mary, dressed in a kimono-style top, has her mother’s angular elegance. She takes her place in the picture, arranges her father’s hair, which is blowing in the wind, and presses the shutter. The McCartneys are famously vegetarian, but Stella says that for the sake of this particular debate she wishes they weren’t — this is not an evangelical mission to make the world veggie but an attempt to slow climate change.

“It’s an environmental conversation, not a vegetarian one,” Stella says. “It’s OK to just give up meat for one day, it doesn’t make you a vegetarian, it doesn’t make you a cranky, hemp-wearing pot-smoker, it doesn’t make you the kind of person you don’t want to be.”

Sir Paul read about the campaign in America and decided he needed to get involved. Meatout Mondays have been promoted by the American charity Farm (Farm Animal Rights Movement) since 1985, and the Meat Free Mondays campaign was set up in Australia by a health food company, Sanitarium, in 2005.

Cynics might say that Paul McCartney’s campaign is a marketing strategy to sell more of Linda’s frozen foods — veggie bangers and mash is a great quick and healthy Monday supper — but despite the battering that the McCartney investment portfolio is reported to have taken of late, he is hardly short of money. As he says, he doesn’t need to be here promoting this cause. And Stella, who is in multi-tasking overdrive, editing a photo shoot in between having her picture taken, certainly doesn’t. But he is here, and part of Paul McCartney’s charm is the fact that he is 100 percent believable.

Over the past year, he has been writing letters to celebrities and chefs, talking to schools and galvanising support from as many people as he can, including Woody Harrelson , Doris Day and Ricky Gervais. A few weeks ago, he held a press conference to launch the campaign at Oliver Peyton’s London restaurant Inn the Park. Peyton, a fully fledged bone marrow-sucking carnivore, has agreed to promote meat-free dishes every Monday at the restaurant.

The musician Moby, a vegan for 22 years, was there. Yoko Ono turned up, looking suitably eccentric in a jaunty naval outfit, her Meat Free Monday badge pinned alongside another that said simply, Imagine Peace. She chatted to Sir Paul’s son, James, also a musician, as they tucked into Linda McCartney burgers and hotdogs. The campaign has some weighty research behind it, not least from the United Nations. “Dad got the report,” says Mary, who is softly spoken but has a cool air of authority about her. “You were sent the report weren’t you?” She looks at her father, who is quietly whistling to himself.

He is a great advertisement for a vegetarian diet, looking far more youthful than his 67 years. “Yeah, Livestock’s Long Shadow, it was called. The UN, who are our appointed global watchdog, said, ‘Hey, cattle rearing is more harmful than all transport’. That is the statistic I thought was shocking, because until then I thought it was aeroplanes, cars and trucks…” According to the 2006 report, livestock is responsible for 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is indeed a bigger share than that of transport, which accounts for 13 per cent.

“We’re not talking about just a few cows, we’re talking billions,” Sir Paul says. “I took a drive from Santa Fe down to El Paso, and you go past about 15-20 miles of cattle and it’s the same cow — it’s a brown and white cow. There are billions of them! And that’s where it hits home. That’s where the methane’s coming from, not just a couple of cows on a farm. It’s not just Daisy and Buttercup any more.”

It seems that environmentalists and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation have come to the same conclusion as the McCartneys: that rearing billions of cows to make beef burgers is not a good idea. It’s the first time not eating meat is being promoted by scientists — “traditional eaters”, as Sir Paul calls them, not vegetarians with a vested interest. For Stella and Mary, following their father’s lead is perfectly natural. Linda would certainly have been there, waving her placard. She was talking about the relationship between food and the environment long before the UN decided to act.

“Ideally, yes, be vegetarian,” Mary says. “But if not, just reduce your meat intake.”

Listening to them running through the arguments and the statistics, you feel this is a typical discussion that would happen over a family nut roast. Occasionally, they talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences.

“It can be so overwhelming,” Stella admits. “You can feel so, ‘Oh God, but I’ve got to get that plane to there and I’ve got to drive my car with my three kids to here’. You are led to believe that transport is the main problem, but actually it’s diet. To be honest, we could sit and bang on about it…”

Sir Paul: “… but we don’t want to bang on, we don’t want to say to you, ‘Look, you have to go veggie.’ The idea is that it’s for the environment, for your children’s future: would you consider just one day a week changing your habits? And then if you decide to do two days, three, four, then so much the better, it would have a huge impact.”

Stella: “If everyone gave it up on a Monday, it would be more effective than everyone stopping driving their car on a Monday. We are not perfect. It’s so important to get that across because it’s like, ‘Oh, those bloody Maccas, talking again about not killing cows!’ But the reality is, I like to think I am trying to do my little bit. I will turn off a light when I leave a room; I will turn off a socket if I don’t want to be using the socket. And those are tiny little things.”

Paul: “Even President Obama tells you to do that.”

On average we are eating twice the amount of meat we ate in 1961, the year the Beatles first performed at the Cavern club in Liverpool.

“The idea of having one type of meat for your breakfast and another type of meat for your lunch, and then another type for your dinner, and in between having your sandwiches with another kind of meat, we really do eat too much of it,” says Paul.

To produce a single kilogram of beef, farmers have to feed a cow 15kg of grain and 30kg of forage. It is a highly intensive business that is ultimately not sustainable. Livestock production is responsible for 70 per cent of the deforestation of the Amazon jungle and, by 2050, the world’s livestock population is expected to rise from 60 billion farm animals to 120 billion. It is a scary fact when you consider that a single cow can produce 500 litres of methane per day, which has around 25 times the global warming impact of CO2.

“I think we forget more and more that we are animals,” says Stella, “and we are part of a planetary system where all of the animals are on this planet together and you are made to feel like a hippy-dippy jerk that should go and live in a tipi for even making a point of remembering.”

Stella is the most vocal of the three, passionately backing up her father, shaking her head, saying “it’s all money, money, money!” about the projected growth of the meat industry (world demand for meat is estimated to double by 2050) and butting in with the odd comment like: “Greed is not a good look. I was brought up to think this was not a good look. Everything in moderation.” And she knows her stuff.

She urges me (and you) to watch a film called Home that was made by the aerial photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and launched recently on World Environment Day. You can link to it from her website

As she says, she tries to do her bit. Although she already incorporates sustainable and organic fabrics in her mainline collection, she also designs a capsule Green Collection which is as purely ethical and sustainable as she can make it and is sold at Barneys in New York and Harvey Nichols in London. On her website, in between pictures of models looking supremely cool and confident in her clothes, if you click on the “Green me” button, you can read Stella’s eco tips — small things we can all do to help slow down global warming. Her London shop is powered by Ecotricity. Her skincare range, Care, is made using 100 per cent organic active ingredients and is Eco-certified. And of course, she tells her celebrity friends off for wearing fur and she doesn’t use leather.

“In my industry, there is no alternative in people’s minds to leather shoes. Now I’m not making a leather shoe. I’m doing all right. We can get by. Things change. Humans are the best animals — the best adapters on the the planet. We adapt quicker than a tree does in the rainforest.”

In March, she was given an award by the Natural Resources Defence Council (which works to protect wildlife and wild places) in New York.

“I was lucky enough to present that to her,” says Paul. “I said that when she joined the fashion world, she first of all was employed by Gucci and my first thought, and Linda’s, was ‘Uh-oh, Gucci is leather city.’ When you think of Gucci, you think of leather. We thought how long is it going to be before she caves in on her principles? And we waited, and we waited, and we waited, and she never did. That is a fantastic achievement… and that’s what’s great about new ideas, different ideas, people catch the fire, they get excited.”

While Stella feels she has been pilloried for her principles, her determination seems to have paid off. Just as the fashion world has finally come round to her big idea of wearing jumpsuits and your boyfriend’s jacket, we seem to have arrived at a moment when having principles is not such a bad thing.

It is perhaps no coincidence that she is the only fashion person to be included in Time magazine’s annual 100 most influential people this year.

Just as any father would, Sir Paul admits to having the magazine on his kitchen table, open at the relevant page — a tribute written by Stella’s friend, Gwyneth Paltrow: “Even if you are not vegetarian, somehow Stella gets you to believe. She manages to convince you (never sanctimoniously from a soapbox) that killing animals is needless and cruel and bad for the environment.”

Sir Paul: “She could have caved in and we almost would have forgiven her. The pressures were so huge, but the fact is that she did not…”

Stella cuts in: “I just think I’ve been very lucky. I think I’ve been brought up in a certain way. Mary’s like that, my brother [James] and sisters [Heather from Linda's first marriage, and Beatrice from her father's second] are like that. My husband’s like that. It was very hard in my industry especially to have those kind of principles and I did have the mickey taken out of me until about a year ago. And people will probably read this and chuck it on their barbie and cook beef on it, but the reality is I’m more impressed by people who take a risk, and I think in this day and age…”

Sir Paul: “It’s how the world changes.”

Stella: “I try to keep my head down and get on with it and design pretty frocks. That’s my job. And Dad makes pretty good records when he’s given half an hour in between his potato mashing, and Mary’s a fantastic photographer. We don’t want to come across as forcing people to think a certain way, I think it’s just a very valid issue and life’s too short to not do something you believe in. You’ve only got a short little period on the planet to make something of your life.”

With all of this passion and desire for change, I wonder if Sir Paul will be writing a Dylan-style protest song to promote the cause. “I do have a few sort of animal awareness songs, but they are very difficult to write. I wrote one called Looking for Changes that was applauded by Peta [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], which started off with ‘I saw a cat with a machine in its brain’, you know that picture? A hardcore picture. That made me write that,but it’svery, very hard to do and it’s not my forte. Iwish it was, that would be kind of nice to be driven in that direction.

“We’re going to get a bit of flak for this campaign,” he adds. He can’t resist singing into my Dictaphone before turning it off. “Why do we feel we need to do it? Because Meat Free Monday is a damn good idea. I mean, what are you going to tell your kids? That we can do something about it. This is one of those things that you can do.”

For more details on Meat Free Monday visit

Source: How the Maccas want to save the planet – Independent Woman

Date: 26 July 2009

Georgetown joins campaign to bring a healthier menu to nation’s hospitals

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

At Georgetown University Hospital, the cafe’s lunch specials have generally consisted of two meat dishes and one vegetarian offering. In the refrigerated case, sandwiches made with roast beef or ham and cheese were kept on shelves at eye level, for easy grabbing.

In early March, however, the cafe began offering more vegetarian specials, and the meat sandwiches were moved to the bottom shelf. On prominent display are pasta- and grain-based cold salads, vegetable wraps and fresh fruit.

“It used to be that the meat sandwiches were the first thing people would see,” said Leigh-Anne Wooten, the hospital’s clinical nutrition manager. “We’re experimenting to see if customers will try alternatives.”

Georgetown is the first hospital in Washington to sign on to the Balanced Menus Challenge, an initiative of the advocacy group Health Care Without Harm that calls on health-care institutions to reduce meat purchases by 20 percent over a 12-month period.

Twenty-nine other health-care institutions in the United States have made that commitment, including eight in Maryland. The effort is part of the group’s Healthy Food in Health Care campaign, in which close to 300 hospitals have agreed to incorporate sustainable foods into their menus.

Reducing meat consumption in hospitals, according to Health Care Without Harm — a Reston-based coalition of about 500 organizations, including the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility — not only encourages better nutrition but also reduces exposure to the growth hormones and antibiotics routinely used in industrial meat production. In addition, hospitals “can substantially reduce their carbon footprints” by cutting back on meat and buying foods from local producers, said Anna Gilmore Hall, the group’s executive director.

“It’s about changing market dynamics through purchasing and procurement patterns,” said Lena Brook, coordinator of the balanced-menu challenge.

Hospitals are major players in the food service industry: Nationwide, they spend about $10 billion each year, with about 45 percent sold in cafeterias and 40 percent served on patient trays, according to the research firm Technomic. (Hospital catering and room service account for the balance.) Nearly half of hospitals contract with such companies as Aramark, Sodexo and Morrison Foods, which design menus and recipes at the corporate level.

Hospitals with independent food programs have more autonomy and make changes more quickly, noted Louise Mitchell of Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment, a program of University of Maryland School of Nursing. “For those that contract out their food services, change can be much more challenging.”

Chris DeRocco, a Morrison employee who manages food service at Baltimore’s Good Samaritan Hospital, said Balanced Menus offerings at the 325-bed hospital “have gone over pretty well.”

Patients, he said, are easier to convert than cafeteria customers, who still congregate around the burger grill.

“But there are definitely those who say they like the idea of eating something that was dug up three days ago not far from here,” he said. “More people these days are in tune with the local-food movement.”

Along with the “flexitarian” — semi-vegetarian — menus that the company drew up last year, Morrison has begun “Ag in the Middle,” a program to identify local farms large enough to supply the volumes that hospitals require.

“At the peak of the season in D.C., we don’t want our hospitals to be getting corn from California,” said Marc Zammit, vice president of sustainability for Morrison’s parent company, the Compass Group. “Our first choice would be to buy from local markets, but the infrastructure wasn’t there.”

Sodexo has contracts with 600 farmers across the country, mostly for produce, said Nita Gupta, a vice president for the company’s health-care group. Menus are designed with seasonal produce in mind, she said, and food service managers can use the company’s intranet to match recipes to what’s available locally.

Some hospitals signing up for these programs are essentially affirming or expanding changes they were already making.

“We’ve created a framework,” said Jamie Harvie, a coordinator for Health Care Without Harm. “Hospitals were already working on improving the food, but mostly from a nutrition standpoint. Four or five years ago, hospitals weren’t really demanding local produce.”

Some criticism of the menu changes has come from meat producers. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association issued a statement warning that “the unintended consequences of eliminating high-quality animal protein, such as lean beef, from the diet can have a serious impact on public health.” The National Pork Board reiterates that warning and challenges claims about the risks of antibiotic use in industrial meats. Its statement cites studies showing that “95 percent of antibiotic resistance concerns in human medicine are unrelated to animal uses of antibiotics.”

Brook said the Balanced Menus Challenge is not an anti-meat campaign. “Nowhere does it say, ‘Don’t serve meat,’ ” she said. She says the challenge is intended “to bring healthier food into health-care institutions.” In fact, the program grew from environmental concerns and efforts to support sustainable and grass-fed meat production in the San Francisco area, where Brook is on the staff of the local chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Brook has been tracking four Bay Area hospitals that reduced their meat purchases more than a year ago. Initial results show that the hospitals’ combined contributions to greenhouse gas emissions dropped by nearly 85 tons per month, she said. Moreover, the hospitals saved an average of nearly $9,000 per month in food costs by buying less meat. Brook said that some of that money might be reinvested in sustainably produced meat, which is generally more expensive.

For Hall, an important result is the impact an in-hospital program can have on behavior outside the hospital. A former nurse, she recalls embracing the so-called “teachable moments,” when she was able to talk with a patient or family about diet and nutrition. “As health-care workers, we don’t always take advantage of the influence we have.”

Source: Georgetown joins campaign to bring a healthier menu to nation’s hospitals – The Washington Post

Date: 23 March 2009

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Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change


Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers


Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis


Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010


Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report


Livestock's Climate Impact


Livestock & Sustainable Food


Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change


The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)


Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)



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