"Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago," wrote Mark Bittman yesterday, in a major piece in The New York Times' Week in Review section. He continued, "We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources."
The excessive consumption of meat, dairy, and egg products has consequences, and one of the biggest yet least-discussed consequences is the extraordinary output of greenhouse gasses—not just carbon dioxide, but also nitrous oxide and methane. In 2006, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization released a report called Livestock's Long Shadow, which pointed out that the animal agriculture sector contributes 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent—a larger share than all transportation combined.
Yet, many environmental organizations expressing alarm about climate change have no policy recommendations on mitigating the impact of animal agriculture, nor any exhortations to modify personal behavior to reduce our own greenhouse gas footprint. One can only conclude that it's a moral blind spot for these groups and their leaders. Perhaps it hits too close to home. Maybe they don't want to think about modifying their own behavior, or perhaps they do not want to ask their own members to make changes that would be uncomfortable, or there's a chance they simply don't want to look foolish.
We don't take that view at The HSUS. Our food choices have enormous implications for the planet's health, our personal health, and for animals, and we urge every HSUS supporter to start examining these questions, if they have not already.
A good start to your research is to carefully read Bittman's well-researched and important piece. For a deeper dive, we've detailed the meat, dairy, and egg industry's impact on climate change in a comprehensive report at humanesociety.org/climatechange. Keep clicking through the pages of our website and you’ll find an abundance of information on almost every facet of the animal agriculture industry.