Why we must stop eating animals to fight climate change

The story is well known. When the great Polish writer was asked Isaac Bashevis Singer Why had he become a vegetarian, if he had done it for his health, the Nobel Prize for Literature, with his usual irony, replied that he had not done it for that, but for the health of the chickens. The accurate words of the Jewish author continue to resonate decades later, although it is likely that if he had been asked today he would have had to clarify.

Scientists and ethologists such as Frans de Waal or Jane Goodall have spent years dismantling the anthropocentric view that existed in the 20th century towards animalsheiress of Cartesianism. Animals are sentient beings and they would deserve to have another consideration between the humans. at the beginning of the year a pig’s heart was successfully transplanted into a man. If there is so much similarity between us, why kill them to eat? Not doing unnecessary harm to other living beings, as Singer requested, is more than enough reason to stop eating animals. But today there is another powerful ethical argument for doing so: helping to curb climate change and, therefore, prevent the death of millions of animals (human and non-human) and the extinction of thousands of species.

According to the FAO, meat consumption It is responsible for 15% of the carbon dioxide emissions that are emitted into the atmosphere. (Other studies even point to 20%). That is if we talk about this greenhouse gas because livestock is one of the main emitters of methane. As we know, in the short term, methane warms the planet even more than carbon dioxide. The environmental impact of this sector does not stop there. Much of the agricultural area is used for livestock, either for pasture or to produce grain for animals. It is also one of the great causes of deforestation. What happens in the Amazon is an example.

In a world where water scarcity will cause serious political and social conflicts, we allow ourselves the luxury of allocating 15,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of beef fillet, while 1,300 liters are needed to produce a kilo of wheat and 131 liters for a kilo of carrot. Not to mention the contamination of groundwater caused by discharges from “farms”, especially industrial onesthe eutrophication of rivers or the resistance to antibiotics warned by the WHO due, in large part, to their use in livestock and subsequent human consumption.

Substituting meat for fish is not an alternative. sustainable fishing, like green capitalism, is an oxymoron. An example. Scientists recently gathered in Valencia at an international oceanography congress warn that the current annual catch of 100 million sharks endangers the marine ecosystem. The solution does not lie in fish farming either, among other reasons because to a large extent this industry needs fishing to survive, as Marta Tafalla sharply points out in her latest book, Philosophy in the face of the ecological crisis. About five kilograms of wild fish are required to produce a single kilogram of farmed fish.

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Therefore, if we want the planet to remain habitable in this century, we will not only have to overcome capitalism, decrease and drastically reduce our levels of production and consumption of materials, but we should stop eating animals. In this sense, I find it striking that environmental organizations do not have this proposal among their central lines of action. It is true that some of them ask that meat consumption be reduced and have promoted campaigns to end the mega-farms. Closing them would be a great achievement, no doubt, but it is not enough. The reduction goals of these organizations, those that have them, are very poor given the current climate emergency.

There is a very obvious reality that one does not want to look at directly: the limits of the biosphere make the consumption of meat and fish unfeasible for the 8,000 million people who inhabit the planet. If we want to comply with one of the basic principles of political ecology, that of contraction and convergence, so that less affluent societies can eat animals, others will have to stop doing so. And Spain is among the last. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2020 more than 900 million farm animals were killed for human consumption in our country. Spain also has one of the highest rates of meat consumption per capita in the European Union. We have long since forgotten the traditional Mediterranean diet.

In the same way that the classical left is having a hard time accepting that climate change is a manifestation of class struggle, environmentalism does not fully understand that the fight for the rights of farm animals is part of the proposals that we need to make peace with the planet. If we stop eating them, as Isaac Bashevis Singer requested, it will be good for the health of the chickens, but also for the rest of living beings, including humans.

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Why we must stop eating animals to fight climate change