Why we all – and men especially – must eat less meat to save the Amazon

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Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has reached its highest rate since 2006. This increase and its devastating impact on climate change and nature completely contradict the recent statement by President Jair Bolsonaro pledge end the felling and burning of trees by 2030.

The destruction of the Amazon is nothing new. Forty years ago, rainforests were cleared to create pasture land for livestock destined to become “hamburgers in cheap eateries,” writes British biologist Dave Goulson in his latest book. Silent Earth “When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I was horrified by photographs of vast areas of ancient fortified rainforests in the Amazon that were simply overturned and the timber burned. in placesmoke billows over blackened skeletal branches, the most diverse ecosystem on Earth, reduced to ash. ”

Today, trees are still being destroyed to make way for cattle, as well as to create a huge space for monoculture crops such as soybeans, which are then exported to other countries around the world to feed cattle and other livestock. Indeed, our meat-eating habits are contributing to deforestation faster than ever before. Around the world, such a loss has now reached bid about 200 km2 per day or 75,000 km2 per year – more territory than the Republic of Ireland.

Result? An estimated 135 rainforest species are dying out every day, and about 4.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide are emitted annually, equivalent to 8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are committing an ecocide of biblical proportions,” writes Goulson.

In Brazil, deforestation has fallen sharply after the rate of felling and burning of trees slowed between 2009 and 2014. took off since Bolsonaro came to power in 2019. From August 2020 to July 2021, 22% more trees were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon, compared with the previous 12 months.

However, while the number of trees is decreasing, the number of cows continues to grow. Brazil currently has about 190 million cows – compared to 212 million – and exports beef around the world. “Globally, beef provides only 2 percent of our calories, but 60 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef,” says Goulson.

The country is also the largest soybean producer in the world… Most, 70-75 percent, is exported to China, and 15-20 percent goes to Europe, mainly for animal feed. This soybean caused more deforestation than any other commodity imported into the EU and the UK from 2005 to 2017, the human rights organization said. Mighty Earth

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“The entire system contributes little to feeding the world, with huge negative impacts on both the global climate and biodiversity,” says Goulson.

The first step to changing this state of affairs is Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on forests and land use. One hundred and forty-one countries, covering 90 percent of the world’s forests, have now signed up to “strengthen collaborative efforts” to “conserve forests” and “accelerate their restoration”. However, it is unlikely that Brazil will follow these promises in the near future. As elections approach, tightening restrictions on deforestation will lead to risk to Bolsonar loss of support among key constituencies.

Step two, if agreed by the EU member states, is bill published last week by the European Commission demanding that companies prove that agricultural commodities such as beef and soybeans sold to the block’s 450 million consumers are not related to deforestation. UK proposes similar legislationbut only for products related to “illegal deforestation”, which exporting countries can bypass simply by expanding legal forms of deforestation.

The third recent step is pledge leading UK and European retailers not to buy meat or dairy products from soybean feed sold by deforestation companies. Aldi, The Co-op, Asda, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Lidl are among those who signed up.

Campaigners hope such agreements will force companies such as commodity giant Cargill and rival Bunge, Brazil’s largest soybean grower, to end all interactions with deforestation traders, says Mighty Earth’s Nico Muzy. He also hopes they will bring about global changes, including what is sold in China. “My guess is that it will be really difficult to clear 20 percent of the supply chain for shipping to Europe, and not the other 80 percent,” says Muzy. “The EU market is the largest in terms of striking power. He has huge leverage. “

While beef is of dubious fame main driver Due to global deforestation, all types of meat have a greater impact on the climate than plant foods. lamb it was found that 25 times more pollutants and pork five times more than tofu. In recognition of this, supermarkets working to reduce their impact on deforestation have also agreed to place more plant-based foods on their shelves to encourage consumers to change their diet and consume less meat. For many dietary shift this is a real dramatic change that is needed.

Joanna Smallwood, a professor at the University of Sussex, welcomes all these efforts to reduce deforestation with reservations. But she insists that if we do not reduce the demand for meat, the Amazon will continue to collapse with devastating consequences for all.

None of these laws “are really aimed at reducing meat consumption and making us all eat more rational diets,” she said. “Producing countries have a responsibility, but we, as consumers, also need to change our diets and encourage companies to produce more plant-based foods to protect biodiversity and mitigate climate change.” Research under the auspices of the UN concludes that a global dietary meat cut will reduce deforestation by 20 percent between 2030 and 2050.

And men need to change more than women, says a study published this week. After examining the diets of 212 Britons, scientists discovered animal products account for nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions of the average diet, non-vegetarian diets generate 59 percent more emissions than vegetarian diets, and that men’s diets have 41 percent more emissions, mainly due to the consumption of more meat.

Research published scientists in Sweden in July came to a similar conclusion. While there are many women more affected A Swedish study found that as a result of the impact of climate change on the environment, men on average emit 16 percent more greenhouse gases than women because they tend to spend more money on fuel and eat more meat.

In addition, there is less meat. better for our health, and helps protects indigenous peoples, an increasing number of which in countries such as Brazil are dying trying to protect the land from the interests of big business.

I will exchange your steak fries for Moules-frites (I live in Brussels) or your Big Mac for McPlant might seem like a small price to pay for such huge benefits.

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