Philip Lymbery | Eating the Planet
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Eating the Planet

“How come that a species capable of creating a rocket that goes to the moon is destroying its only home?” Jane Goodall PhD, DBE, UN Ambassador for Peace.

“I just eat less meat, hardly any meat at all” Sir David Attenborough, who thinks it is helpful for the environment for us all to consume less meat.

“The greatest cause of the decline of the natural world is the meat industry”, Chris Darwin, conservationist and descendant of Charles Darwin.

For those of us who care about animals and nature, it’s been very clear for some time that our food systems are at the root of many problems facing the planet. This month has seen a great deal of media coverage about the issue. The IPCC announced that we have just 12 years to act to prevent dangerous climate change. In Nature, scientists warned us in new research that by 2050 the impacts of food consumption and production will exceed planetary boundaries to such an extent that key ecosystem processes may be destabilised. One of the most effective solutions highlighted by scientific research recently is a move to less resource-intensive foods, that is to say, towards plant-based diets.

It’s no surprise then that environmental and conservation leaders are eating less or no meat. Recently, Sir David Attenborough advised that eating meat puts a strain on the planet, saying: “I just eat less meat, hardly any meat at all” adding “factory farming is just a dreadful thought”

My friend Chris Darwin, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, has travelled the world to raise awareness of the need for people to eat less meat. He spoke at the ground-breaking international Extinction and Livestock conference that Compassion organised together with WWF just over a year ago. His excellent app, The Darwin Challenge rewards those having meat-free days by revealing the benefits to health and the natural world.

Another renowned conservationist and activist Jane Goodall PhD, DBE, UN Ambassador for Peace, told me about her decision to stop eating meat in a recent conversation for my podcast, which you can download here. Jane commented on the “huge areas of natural habitat destroyed to grow meat, masses of fossil fuel used to get the grain to the animals, the animals to the abattoir, the meat to the table” adding “it’s just appalling to me that people don’t understand the harm we are doing to the environment with this”.

Jane’s decision to stop eating meat came about after reading philosopher Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. “I didn’t know about factory farms because when I was growing up they didn’t exist. It just hit me reading that book and the next time I saw meat on my plate, I thought this is symbolic of fear, pain, death. I don’t want to eat it. So from that moment on, I didn’t eat any.”

Today, World Food Day, is a good opportunity to make friends, colleagues and family aware of the benefits of eating less and better meat, not only for the planet but also for animals and for our own health. Jane’s view is that asking people to eat less will resonate more than suggesting that they go vegan, commenting, “I think if you become too strict nobody’s going to listen to you, but certainly people who eat meat could eat less meat. I think it started with Meatless Monday or something like that. Well if you can go without meat for one day you could perhaps go without meat for two or maybe three. I, as I’ve said, just stopped like that, but it made me feel so much lighter. It just made me feel so good. So I always say to people, you know you will feel better.

If people choose to eat meat, Jane suggests that they purchase free range, pasture fed or organic. “They might cost a bit more, but if they cost a bit more we will value them more and we will be less wasteful”.

I asked Jane how she has managed to keep travelling around the world for so very many years and she listed her reasons for hope. Amongst them is the resilience of nature. “Give nature a chance. These places we’ve devastated for commercial farming can regenerate. Maybe a bit of a helping hand, but sometimes on their own.

We can all help to save wildlife, the environment and our planet by eating more plants, less and better meat, by not wasting food and by supporting an end to factory farming.