New Chinese dietary guidelines where just released, recommending citizens to cut their meat consumption in half. The Chinese government hopes to achieve a dramatic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions as well as obesity and diabetes rates by doing this.
This is problematic for two reasons. First, meat does not cause diabetes or obesity. If the Chinese start cutting this out from their diet, they’ll eat something else for compensation. And that will most likely be carbohydrates, which will only exacerbate problems of diabetes and overweight.
As China already has one of the most catastrophic diabetes epidemics in the world, that’s rapidly getting worse, it’s unfortunately easy to imagine a total disaster coming up.
Global warming and animals
Second, meat consumption is not necessarily bad for the environment long term. Industrial meat production may very well be, but grass-fed, organic cattle graze on large green areas and help preserve these instead of turning them into soy, corn or wheat monocultures that reduce biodiversity. Grazing animals can also result in net storage of carbon in the ground, potentially reducing global warming.
Perhaps even more important, methane from livestock – a potent greenhouse gas – is not very long-lived in the atmosphere. Within a decade most of it has been converted to carbon dioxide that can be reabsorbed by plants that can be eaten by the animals again. It’s all part of a natural cycle.
Compare this to burning lots of fossil fuels that were stored millions of years ago. This carbon will be staying in the atmosphere for the foreseeable future of human civilization. That’s something else entirely.
We need to stop burning fossil fuels to stop global warming. There are technologies coming up to help us do so very soon, solar and battery technologies are improving exponentially and will pretty soon be cheaper than fossil fuels anyway.
But do we have to kill all the animals that graze on grass? No. Not for the environment, and certainly not to prevent obesity or diabetes. The latter idea is mindbogglingly wrong.