Every time we talk about the Climate Change & Global Warming our focus is how to control the car fumes, industrial smoke emission or manufacturing industries but does it even occur to us that our eating habits have a huge impact on Global warming! Yes, we are talking about meat industries and live-stock farming to serve meat industries and other needs.
Food and Agriculture Organisation of UN reports that live stock sector is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases emission. Rising meat consumption hugely contributes to the climate change infect meat industry and animal agriculture produces more emission than transport & communication industries, It is responsible for 18 per cent of total greenhouse gas emission
Meat consumption will increase by 76% by 2050 not only because world’s population will be 9.6 billion by then but also the increasing per capita meat consumption and we will be growing more crops to feed animals than for ourselves.
How does it affect the Climate change & how much it does
Before we discuss that how meat industry effects the Climate change we need to understand the Greenhouse Gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone) & its effect.
“The earth’s atmosphere acts like the glass of a greenhouse which absorbs much of sun rays energy and converts it into heat which about 31 % of the incoming radiation from the sun is reflected back to space by the earth’s atmosphere and surface (particularly by snow and ice), and another 20 % is absorbed by the atmosphere. The rest of the incoming radiation is absorbed by the earth’s oceans, soil/surface, and plants where it is converted into heat, warming the earth and the air above it. These greenhouse gasses absorb heat causing surface temperatures to be higher than they would otherwise be. The most important naturally created greenhouse gas is water vapour and also the largest contributor to the natural greenhouse effect. Without this effect, the earth would be much colder than it is now about 33 °C colder making the average temperature on the planet a freezing -18 °C rather the 15 °C it is now.”
Problem arises when men made greenhouse gasses affect occurs, human activities such as burning the fossil fuel, industrial revolution which induces men made greenhouse gasses emission into climate causing the heat more than needed, it’s also called Global Warming.
So how does meat industry contribute to global warming or Climate change? According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation Cattle Raised for meat (beef) and dairy makeup to 65% of all livestock emissions, Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gasses, including two third of the world’s emission of ammonia which causes the acid rain.
“To understand how cattle produce greenhouse gasses Cow, buffalos, goat, sheep or several other ruminant class animals digest their food in stomach (Ruminants have 4 different chambers in their stomach) instead of in their intestine, as humans do. Ruminant animals eat their food regurgitate it as cud and chew it again. The stomach is filled with digestive bacteria, this whole process emits enormous amount of methane”.
About 44 per cent of livestock emission is methane gas and the remaining part is Nitrous Dioxide and Carbon Dioxide 29 and 27 percent respectively.
Beef products, as commodity is the highest contributor to Greenhouse emissions 41% followed by the pig meat 9%, buffalo milk and meat 8%, chicken and eggs 8%, cattle milk process 20% and remaining emission are sourced to other non-edible products.
Emissions per unit of product: They are highest for beef (almost 300 kg CO2-eq per kilogram of protein produced), followed by meat and milk from small ruminants (165 and 112kg CO2-eq.kg respectively) though Cow milk, chicken products and pork have lower global average emission intensities (below 100 kg CO2-eq/kg.)
South America and the Caribbean have the highest level of sector GHG emissions, mainly due to production of specialized beef. Due to the expansion of both pasture and cropland for feed production contributes to high CO2 emissions in the region with the highest livestock production and relatively high emission intensities for its beef and pork.East Asia has the second highest level of emissions Greenhouse
East Asia has the second highest level of emissions Greenhouse gases. By 2020, China alone is expected to be eating 20million tonnes more of meat and dairy a year. North America and Western Europe have similar GHG emission totals. In North America, almost two-thirds of emissions originate from beef production which has
North America and Western Europe have similar GHG emission totals. In North America, almost two-thirds of emissions originate from beef production which has high emission.
In contrast, beef in Western Europe mainly comes from dairy herds with much lower GHG Emission. South Asia’s total Livestock emissions are almost equal to North America and Western Europe combined but its protein (beef, pork) production is half what is produced in North America & Western Europe. It is mainly
South Asia’s total Livestock emissions are almost equal to North America and Western Europe combined but its protein (beef, pork) production is half what is produced in North America & Western Europe. It is mainly because of existence of ruminant animal in the region, not because of beef or meat production. India alone houses the world’s largest cattle population. The total livestock population in India consisting of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, pig, horses & ponies, mules, donkeys, camels, Mithun and Yak in the country is 512.05 million numbers in 2012. Though it has recently decreased by 3.33 percent
Feed production & Manure
Feed production contributes to 48 percent of emissions. About 27 percent of emissions are related to the production of fertilizers, the use of machinery and transport for feed production. About 17 percent of emissions are caused by fertilization (emitting N2O) with both synthetic fertilizers and manure. Manure storage and processing are the second largest source of emissions, representing 27.4 percent of emissions. Most manure emissions are in the form of CH4 (19.2 percent,); the rest is in the form of N2O (8.2 percent).
Manure storage and processing are the second largest source of emissions, representing 27.4 percent of emissions. Most manure emissions are in the form of CH4 (19.2 percent,); the rest is in the form of N2O (8.2 percent).
Post farm emissions from processing and transport contribute moderately to total GHG output (5.7 percent). On-farm energy consumption represents only 3.5 percent of emissions; however, when other energy uses in post farm activities and feed production are added, emissions from overall energy use amount to about one-third.
There are other factors which are adding to the problem such Deforestation for feed production and Grazing. As mentioned earlier that by 2050 world will be producing more crops to feed animal than the humans. Because of the Deforestation there aren’t enough trees left to absorb the Carbon dioxide & release Oxygen. That unabsorbed CO2 is left in earth’s atmosphere causing even more heat. In the Amazon rainforest, 70 per cent of deforestation is specifically carried out to create grazing land & feed production.
Due to constant water withdrawal for crop irrigation our waterbeds are all time low about 70 per cent of all the world’s freshwater withdrawals go towards irrigation uses and because of deforestation rainfall patterns is changing so our water sources aren’t recharged. When the weather gets warmer, evaporation from both land and sea increases. This can cause drought in areas of the world where the increased evaporation is not compensated.
In some regions of the world this will result in crop failure and drought especially in areas where temperatures are already high. The extra water vapour in the atmosphere will fall again as extra rain, which can cause flooding in other places in the world.
Waste from slaughter houses
Waste generated in the slaughter houses includes both solid (carcass, bones, intestine contents, dung etc.) and liquid waste (blood, urine, internal fluids including water used for washing). According to a rough estimate a buffalo weighs about 2 quintals and almost 25 percent of the total body weight becomes waste. It generates 10 litres of waste blood. Specially developing countries in south Asia (India, Bangladesh, China etc. where slaughter houses seriously suffer from very low hygiene standard posing a major environmental hazards due to discrete disposal of waste and highly polluted effluent discharge. There are no special waste disposal system or treatment plants. The solid waste is either simply thrown and dumped in the open fields or burnt or sold off to private parties. This has led to land degradation, air and water pollution. In Indian context unauthorized and illicit slaughtering has also increased manifold and thus the related problems.
Biggest change we can make is by changing our food choices, going vegetarian is the way forward. The best way to fight this system and reduce or eliminate its waste is to avoid meat altogether. Choosing the plant based food can drastically cut the GHG emission.
If we lower the demand for meat and other animal products, it will discourage intense livestock farming which is done to satisfy our meat needs & we can lower the amount of pollution as well. Addition to this we also have to tackle the manure storage problems, Crop diversification, more efficient water use, and improved soil management practices, together with the development of drought-resistant crops can help reduce some of the negative impacts.
Improvement of manure management may help lower the methane Emission and increase the biogas production as a substitute for fossil fuel.
By adapting energy efficient technologies and low carbon energy this will reduce energy emissions related to feed production, farm management and post farm activities.
The Logical Indian urges to all Global stakeholders to come up with corrective plan of actions & policies to design and implement effective mitigation strategies, and to set up the necessary supporting policies and institutional frameworks.