What is a vegetarian?
A vegetarian is an individual that will not eat any animal meat. Although they do not eat animal meat they will still consume eggs, dairy and honey (unlike vegans). You might have often heard to decrease your meat intake through taking part in 'veganuary', 'meatless Mondays' or a general cut down of eating meat for just one meal a day. I am here to answer the question of: does this even do anything to benefit the world?
If you want a quick answer that stops you from having to read a whole fact and figure based article: yes, vegetarianism does create a positive impact on the Earth's scarce resources. If you want to have some back knowledge as to why that is the case, do keep reading.
This will also allow you to spit out some facts next time someone says "but the meat you aren't eating is killed anyways and someone else will buy it instead."
Why commit to the switch?
Although I am now a vegetarian myself, I was eating meat up until I was 13 this means I did have the ability to live a carnivore lifestyle which allows me to empathise with those who find that meat is extremely tasty and a staple part of a healthy diet (I used to love a good steak-frites or sweet and sour chicken). Why did I decide to change this?
Firstly, my mum and sister changed their diet to a vegan diet which made it easily accessible to have vegetarian-vegan meals at home. Cutting down meat in my diet meant that I would be using 2.5x less carbon emission than a meat-eating diet. This is through the whole process of raising cattle and livestock: providing the land, food and water used to raise the livestock to then butcher them later on.
A fun fact: it takes approximately 1,847 gallons of water to get 1 pound of beef (39 bathtubs). This is again due to the food and water used to sustain the cattle. In contrast, vegetables only require 39 gallons of water per pound. A single chicken breast can take up to about 162 gallons of water which is equivalent to about 4.6 bathtubs.
To put into practice how much carbon emissions you would be saving if you were to go vegetarian for a year it would save the same amount of emissions required to drive a family car around for 6 months non-stop. If you didn't get what that means: that is A LOT of emissions!
Ethics behind the kill
I have always loved animals and another reason as to why I went vegetarian is because of the very common videos you see of the inhumane way the live stock is killed. Of course, there are humane ways that an animal can be killed but more often than not in butchers supplying to big corporations the physical and emotional intelligence of the animal is neglected. As a meat eater it is important to acknowledge that in a slaughterhouse, animals will feel pain and fear. However, the most shocking fact I have found is that involving the act of "stunning" the animal which means the act of immobilising the animal through stunning it whether that is "electrical stunning, captive-bolt stunning or the use of carbon dioxide gas". This is done to make sure the animal is unconscious before they are bled for slaughter. The horrendous fact I found that turned my stomach upside down is that most animals that are meant to be stunned before death result in a failed stunning and they are fully conscious when they are skinned or cut into multiple pieces. A very interesting website to have a read through if you are interested in knowing more in details about how the stunning process can fail and the horrors that can take place in slaughterhouses is linked here. An extract from the website is seen below.
"In one study, approximately 44% of the chickens submerged in electrified water suffered the breaking of bones and 35% of them had haemorrhages. Also, half of the animals stunned through this system showed ventricular fibrillation. Similar results were obtained in studies carried out in the European Union comparing this method with the gassing method. The effectiveness of this method has been doubted as there were reports of animals arriving conscious to the scalding tank."
But there is still supply?
If you think about it, if the whole population cut their intake of meat there would be less demand and therefore there would be less supply needed. Although there would be a sudden lack of job opportunities for farmers as the demand decreases for livestock the demand for crops and vegetables will increase allowing farmers to change their market and start growing crops rather than cattle.
In the last decade, there has been a recorded 17% drop in meat consumption and demand in the UK. Although this isn't the fastest it should be in order to drastically change the environmental impact of meat consumption on the carbon footprint it does show that individuals are making a change to decrease their meat consumption whether that is for their health or environmental impact.
So should I go vegetarian?
In my personal opinion, I believe that it benefits both the individual going vegetarian and also the environment at the same time. There are many health benefits that come hand in hand with reducing your meat consumption such as a decreasing the risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more.
You don't have to go fully vegetarian to start off with in order to help better your carbon footprint: start off slow and cut down meat throughout the week.
Little steps make the biggest journeys.