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The Ecological Price Of Meat, World Vegetarian Day

Media Release
Date September 28th

October 1st is World Vegetarian Day.

THE ECOLOGICAL PRICE OF MEAT

A recent report compiled at Harvard Medical School (http://www.med.harvard.edu/chge/course/papers/sapp.pdf) paints a grim picture of the adverse impact of livestock farming on biodiversity, the environment and world hunger.

The report states that in 1999 the world produced 230 million tonnes of meat, equivalent to 210 calories per person per day, for human consumption. This included 90 million tonnes of pork, 63 million tonnes of chicken, and 59 million tonnes of beef. It says that these vast amounts of meat result in huge amounts of wasted plant matter, land, water and energy each year.

Livestock production currently requires 3.4 billion hectares of land, over two thirds of the total productive agricultural land available worldwide. Land space is becoming an increasingly important issue. It has been estimated that habitat loss accounts for 90% of the plant and animal species that are approaching extinction. Many large mammals such as the tiger, puma, cheetah, Asian elephant, rhino, and many primate and bird species remain on the critically endangered list. Livestock raised for human consumption are now the world’s largest land users.

According to Dr John Livesey, a scientific officer at Christchurch Hospital, “If the world human population became vegetarian, there would be huge international environmental benefits. We would probably significantly reduce global warming as ruminant animals produce 73 million tonnes of methane gas annually which is 22% of global methane emissions from human related sources. We could significantly cut world hunger, whilst allowing nearly 3 billion hectares to be potentially reforested in order to sustain the world’s precious biodiversity”.

“Whilst GE technology may increase food productivity in some areas and may become increasingly necessary to boost food production, by itself the overall impact of GE in reducing the pressure on endangered species will be minimal,” he says.

Dr Livesey also points out that “a vegetarian diet would result in a reduction in many western diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, food poisoning and some forms of cancer.”

"Vegetarianism would also greatly reduce the future risk of SARS-like epidemics as Chinese scientists have recently shown that SARS almost certainly originated in wild animals hunted for food.”

25 September 2003

Dear Sir/Madam,

World Vegetarian Day – 1st October – Media Release

We attach a media release by the New Zealand Vegetarian Society.

The comments made are accurate and the statistics quoted have been carefully researched, being based on Food and Agricultural Organisation figures.

We believe that given the world population is predicted to reach 9 billion by the year 2050, that issues pertaining to environmental sustainability should be continually raised and discussed in the public forum.

Whilst some may dispute the importance of other species approaching extinction, an inescapable reality remains that if the world consumed meat and dairy produce at the rate New Zealanders do, we would require two planet earths (source: Ministry for the Environment, http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/ser/ser1997/chapter3.pdf).

If you have any queries or concerns regarding the issues raised in this Press release, please do not hesitate to contact us as per the attached media release.

Kind Regards


Margaret Johns
National President
NZ Vegetarian Society


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