Delayed coverage from Wellington NZ


Should I become a vegetable eater of some sort?

After seeing the film Earth I began to think about what I had done to reduce my impact on the environment. The answer disturbed me: I have done sweet FA.

Despite having being aware for at least 10 years that I live in a society that is clearly wasteful and exploits natural resources to the full extent possible, I have not made any serious commitment to alter my lifestyle.

So, for the first time I am thinking of becoming a vegetarian, mostly for environmental reasons, although since I saw cattle stuck in a cattle truck while crossing Cook Straight I have had reservations about where meat comes from and how it is processed and killed. I have not purchased meat at all for two weeks, and we’re slowly using up the meat we have left in the freezer. There are some exceptions to the rule: I will eat fish caught by Tash’s Dad, and meat given to me by hunters (or animals that I’ve hunted if for some unprecedented reason I start hunting).

There is a school of thought that the excessive consumption of meat places great stress on the environment, particularly greenhouse emissions, (for example, this “UN says eat less meat to curb global warming”, “Meat must be rationed to four portions a week, says report on climate change”, “Livestock a major threat to environment”, and so on).


Is becoming a vegetarian actually going to have the desired effect of reducing my impact on the environment, or am I deluding myself?

5 Responses to “Should I become a vegetable eater of some sort?”

  1. jenny McCracken Says:

    Absolutely it will help, in fact it is the best way to start changing your lifestyle in order to help reduce emissions as soon as possible. The 4th and most recent IPCC report pointed out that up until recently methane was credited with being approximately 25 times more potent a green house gas than CO2, and that this was actually incorrect. When measured over a 100 year period, the same period as all the other gasses this is the result, however methane actually breaks down out of the atmosphere in 8 to 12 years, and so it’s actual effect while present is far stronger, but averaged over the longer period this becomes invisible.

    When the methane emissions are assessed over the more accurate period of 20 years they are seen to be 72 times more dangerous than CO2. When that figure is applied to all the percentages of emissions of the various green house gases it shows that methane emissions from ruminant livestock could be responsible for the equivalent up to %50 of the total emissions from somewhere like Australia. see ‘Meat’s Carbon Hoofprint’ by professor Barry Brook

  2. ben Says:

    Thanks for the comment Jenny, although it sounds like if I want to be serious I will have to give up cheese and milk as well!

    I’m amazed how quickly you responded to this! How did you find this post?

  3. ben Says:

    And here’s a link to Meat’s Carbon Hoofprint (PDF, 122 KB). It’s not an easy read, but it is only three pages long. There’s a simplified summary available here.

    The IPCC 4th Assessment report can found here, although I haven’t tackled these yet.

  4. Eliot Says:

    Just saw this thread (from Cuba Carnival site). While you’re thinking about being vege you could also consider going all the way vegan. Drinking milk kills just as many animals as eating meat (where do all the male calves go?) and even environmentally it pays to cut down, not to mention reducing the load on your own system

    It has a bad rap but actually being vegan is becoming super cool and you could do it before everyone else does

  5. ben Says:

    @Eliot – I hadn’t checked the moderation queue for ages, just saw this comment now. I have considered veganism, but one step at a time! I’m struggling with vegetarianism, although my meat intake has been greatly reduced I am still occasionally forgetting and find myself halfway through a burger before it occurs to me!

    Milk I could live without, but life without cheese seems difficult.