Soya monoculture in Argentina
I was thrilled to see the prestigious BBC programme Horizon addressing the issue of meat consumption and feeding the planet in a series of two programmes, ‘Should I Eat Meat? – The Big Health Dilemma’ on 18th August and ‘Should I Eat Meat? – How to Feed the Planet’ on 20th August.
I was interviewed in the second programme, where I emphasised that it’s madness to rear animals in factory farms where they are fed cereals and soya that could instead be feeding people directly.
I was concerned that some of the environmental issues were glossed over too rapidly. The programme presented a rather myopic view on greenhouse gases (GHG), suggesting that intensive animal farming is the most environmentally sound way forward. But whilst the GHG issue is vital, it cannot be seen in isolation.
We needed more coverage on the benefits of pasture-based free range and organic farming, where biodiversity is maintained, the soil is nourished with animal manure, the animals obtain most of their nourishment from their surrounding environment and they have the potential for a great quality of life.
With a hungry planet to feed, it is monstrous that we are currently feeding 4 billion people’s worth of cereals and soya to animals, whilst people go to bed hungry. The space to grow all this grain would cover the entire land surface of the European Union, although much of it is being grown in South America at the expense of the rainforest and savannah.
The visit to a broiler chicken farm was misleading as the chickens shown were only about three weeks old and, although they were obviously already walking in an ungainly way, with frequent rest stops, this was a week or so before the really dire lameness problems can set in over the last week or two of their short lives. That was not shown.
Thankfully the programme did finally conclude that the only long-term solution is for a large reduction in meat consumption. Eating less meat will ease pressure on the earth, is likely to bring health benefits to people and will enable widespread adoption of the very best pasture-based farming systems, which will produce enough meat to meet human demand, whilst enhancing animal wellbeing.