I previously summarized livestock’s detrimental effect on the environment. I will now consider how best to save the environment.
“A problem well stated – is a problem half-solved.” (Charles Kettering)
The livestock sector (the industrial production of animal foods and products) – is an increasing major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, land degradation, climate change and the dissipation of biodiversity on the planet. This is more elaborately summarized in my previous post: How Livestock Effect the Environment. If you have not done so already, please read it to get a clearer understanding of this urgent problem.
To those who do not believe livestock production has an effect on the environment, there is nothing I can say here that will convince you of this. The truth is that only those who search for this knowledge can really know of it. It is not in the forebrain of public consciousness – just like the billions of animals killed each year to satisfy our taste buds.
Given the realities of an increasing world population, rising incomes and urbanization, the demand for animal foods and products will continue to rise, and its effect on the environment will continue to worsen and put future generations in great jeopardy.
What can be done to address this problem?
We have a very important choice to make as a society. We can continue “business as usual” and ignore the effect that livestock production has on the environment, or we can do something about it. If we choose to do something about it, then we must acquire the Will to implement solutions with resolute immediacy.
Public policy and action must consider the environmental impact of all aspects of livestock production.
1. Better management of land and water resources
Consideration of the environment in choosing where to locate a livestock production facility for example. Should it be located in suitable rural areas rather than near-congested urban areas? Is there land nearby to dispose of waste without polluting waterways? Are there ways of gaining efficiencies by reducing the amount of land and water used per animal reared and killed at a livestock facility?
2. Removal of government price supports
All those government subsidies and other agricultural supports that currently exists in most industrialized countries will have to be significantly reduced or removed altogether. Imagine that! These price supports help to prop up local industries.
3. Environmental incentives and taxes
No one likes higher taxes, more rules and more regulations. More red tape or more money spent on the enforcement of new regulations. Increasing taxes and other financial incentives will be in the future of the livestock sector. Governments will have to persuade most companies to do better, most companies will not do it themselves. What about the individual citizens, us, who will demand more animal foods and products? Could demand outstrip supply?
4. Reassessing the price of water and land
This is where everybody will pay a higher price. Currently water and land are relatively cheap given the fact that both are finite resources. Imagine if the price of water and land reflected its scarcity. Imagine paying a water bill that is 10 or 50 times more than what you are paying today.
5. The Unforeseen: Technological Advancement?
Higher prices should lead to innovation and efficiencies in the area of land management and use. This is one measure that could make a huge difference, but it will bring its own “not-yet-encountered” problems. For example, smaller livestock production companies would find it very hard to compete against larger multinational corporations.
Are these solutions enough?
The solutions above are all important and can all help in reducing livestock’s detrimental impact on the environment. They all require tough decisions that will have to be made and implemented at the political level. Some will occur through market forces – as land and water resources become scarce, their monetary value will increase. This will change the landscape.
These measures, at best, will only temporarily reduce livestock’s impact on the environment. The problem will still exist. We just would have delayed the inevitable.
Civil Society seems to have an inadequate understanding of the scope of the problem. (FAO 2006 Report p282).
I believe all the society have an inadequate understanding of the scope of the problem. It is for this reason I felt compelled to write about this. I first learned about this 2006 FAO report about 6 months ago. I was shocked that this was not front page news or in the forefront of our concerns – after all – the planet’s future is perilous!
“Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.” (FAO 2006 Report, p XX)
To engage the public will be no easy task because there is not only lack of concern, but also lack of awareness. It is a shame that our focus is more on other mundane items like celebrity and consumerism.
The elephant in the room
At this point we must discuss the obvious solution that has yet to be highlighted. How about reducing our excessive consumption of animal foods and products? Better yet, how about eliminating animal foods from our diets and animal products from our lifestlye? Surely the best and most effective way of reducing livestock’s detrimental impact on the environment is not utilizing animal food and products in the first place!
Okay I know what some of you are thinking. “Are you saying we should go on a vegan diet?”
No, because I don’t think that is currently realistic. It is significant that those on a 100% plant based diet are on the rise because such a diet is obviously the only way of reversing livestock’s detrimental impact. People moving to a 100% plant based diet should therefore be welcomed and encouraged by all others. Additionally, there is now overwhelming evidence to support the health benefits of a vegan diet. (See my previous post: Why Become Vegan? Benefits of a Vegan Diet)
Unfortunately, capitalistic structures are driven mostly by profit ignoring how their actions affected the environment. We need to value the environment in all decisions we make and actions we take as a society. Land and water are finite resources. They are the life of the planet, as all living creatures require both to survive. How we use (or abuse) these finite resources have both near and far consequences.
Men and women have the responsibility to maintain this delicate balance between life and its finite resources. Yes, in the future, we should move toward a plant based diet and lifestyle, as this is the only way to reverse the livestock problem and save the environment.