One of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world explores the effects of meat on the environment and one’s health in a new op-ed.
The Lancet editorial “We Need to Talk About Meat” brings the sustainability and healthfulness of red meat into question, asking people to start talking about the real cost.
The article states:
It is only comparatively recently that the climate impact of livestock rearing, and the nutritional and health issues caused by meat have become a pressing concern.
Citing a PLOS One paper discussing the health effects of red meat, The Lancet states that “health-related costs directly attributable to the consumption of red and processed meat will be $285 billion in 2020.” But this high health cost should come as no surprise.
In 2015, the World Health Organization placed processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as asbestos and smoking cigarettes. The WHO estimates that diets high in processed meats cause 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide and has found that even unprocessed red meats like beef, veal, lamb, and pork are “probably carcinogenic.”
Health risks associated with eating red meat—both processed and unprocessed—are significant and include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, liver disease, infections, lung disease, and cancer.
But health risks are not the only hidden cost of meat.
The Lancet also looked into how meat affects the environment, reviewing studies of animal agriculture’s impact on global freshwater use, land use, and ocean acidification. Citing a paper published in Science, the editorial board writes:
Even the lowest-impact meat causes “much more” environmental impact than the least sustainable forms of plant and vegetable production. Population pressures, with global population predicted to increase by a third between 2010 and 2050, will push us past these breaking points.
A study published in The Lancet earlier this year assessed six categories of environmental impact: land use, water depletion, climate change, respiratory inorganics, marine water eutrophication, and freshwater eutrophication. Nearly all of the categories were affected by up to 84 percent less by a plant-based diet when compared to one that included animal products.
The fact is, raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas than all the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, carbon dioxide emissions from raising farmed animals make up about 15 percent of global human-induced emissions.
There is no such thing as “sustainable” meat. And all the facts prove that plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs take a mere fraction of the resources to produce as their animal-based counterparts.
But choosing a plant-based lifestyle is not only great for your health and the environment; it also spares countless animals a lifetime of suffering at factory farms. Pigs, cows, chickens, fish, and other farmed animals suffer horribly. From birth to death, these poor animals are caught in a nightmare: cruelly confined, brutally mutilated, and violently killed.
So take a stand for the environment, animals, and yourself. Download our FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide and check out our Pinterest page for thousands of plant-based recipe ideas!