BBC documentary should make us all think about our meat consumption
Kate Wolstenholme was moved by a BBC documentary that showed the damage being done by excessive meat production
'Mama, mama, the land is hurt' - these were the words of a two-year-old-son of a Greenpeace worker, as he saw the Amazon rainforest in its current state. I join Liz Bonnin in tearing up as she flies over the rainforest and compares it to the British countryside, as part of her documentary Meat: A Threat to Our Planet?' which aired on BBC One on Monday night.
Bonnin starts her investigation as a meat eater and ends, not as a vegetarian, but as someone who has cut a lot of meat out of her diet, including all red meat. This is possible for everyone, and in order for meat to be sustainable, we should only be eating a few hundred grams a week.
We are stealing from the next generation, and Bonnin's documentary perfectly puts across the scientific facts, allowing us to come to our own conclusions on how we should live our lives.
Have you ever been in a crowd at a gig, waiting for your favourite band to come on, shoulder to shoulder with strangers and being pushed left, right and centre, about to lose your tether? In the last 50 years, pig numbers have doubled and chicken numbers have increased five fold. Many of these animals live permanently in that crowd, but their band never takes the stage.
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It is no longer just a case of animal cruelty as Bonnin discovers that the meat industry now produces more greenhouse gases than the running of all our transport, cars, planes, freight and ships - combined.
There is not one single reason as to why the meat industry is currently the most harmful to our planet; it is a combination of different farming methods and chain reactions.
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As a main section of the documentary, Bonnin visits colossal intensive pig farms in America, where the excretion of the animals is pumped out into large open-air lagoons. When the lagoon is getting too full, the farmers spray the water onto the land, with antibiotics, E.coli, enterococcus, nitrogen, bacteria and phosphorus eventually reaching the waterways. The result is a massacre of marine animals, referred to as 'dead zones', due to the growth of algal blooms thriving in this bacteria, and taking all oxygen from the water.
A lot of the Amazon rainforest land is not owned, so when farmers come and burn vast amounts in order to graze cattle, to export around their country and the world, it is incredibly hard to police.
On top of this, cattle belch vast amounts of the toxic greenhouse gas, methane.
In a year, one cow will create the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases as burning 600 litres of petrol, due to the way in which they digest their food.
Scientists are researching the effects that the consumption of seaweed can have on reducing this methane. However they are unsure of the effects this will have on the ocean; thus proving that everything in this industry appears to have a knock on effect. From where I'm standing, we cannot just sit back and rely on scientific discoveries to fix our problems, there isn't time, and we have to step up.
Another major issue is the growing of animal feed. A total of 40% of crops are fed to animals, which feed fewer people than the crops themselves would have. This has effects of deforestation and monoculture fields which do not allow such biodiversity.
One third of our planet's biodiversity has been lost through farming animals, which will affect the food chain and ecosystem, directly affecting us.
Now, don't get me wrong, I will still be tucking in to my turkey dinner on Christmas Day, but it will be local and free range. Meat for me is now a treat, this has struck a chord and it's time for change. We do not have to stop eating meat completely, but we need to change what sort of meat we eat (grass-fed, local etc.), and how much.
"This is as serious as it can possibly get…nothing short of catastrophic," says Bonnin. If you take anything from this, remember that the rainforest is the carbon stores of our planet, and without it we will suffocate… 20% is already gone.
You can watch Meat: A Threat to Our Planet? on BBC iPlayer.