UN Report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” eyes a dark future

FAO-emblem_en(EDITED: I received an interesting anonymous communiqué indicating that some of the info in this UN Report is actually underselling the problem in some regards plus actually encouraging action that is contrary to what I would expect to hear after reading the introduction to the Report. I’ve added some notes below based on what I have learned.)

It is probably well worth reading the whole report, but I’ve included a link to the introduction of UN’s 2006 report regarding the incredible and increasingly insurmountable burden that the livestock industry is having on our planet.

ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e01.pdf

The report outlines the many variables involved in the decimation of our environment, ecosystems and the future well-being of our species. The summary of the report gives the impression that one of the only ways we will see an improvement in our current climate change predicament is to stop eating meat:

  • 30% of the entire non-ice-covered landmass of earth is dedicated to livestock production and feeding; (my informant indicates that the landmass used is actually more like 45% according to this report)
  • habitat losses of other species because of climate change has already resulted in species disappearing at a rate of 100 to 1000 times the pace of species found in our fossil records
  • and currently one-third of all amphibians, a fifth of mammals and an eighth of all birds are now threatened by extinction
  • methane emissions from global agriculture is the largest from any other sector and methane causes 20 times the damage to the environment that CO2 does
  • while general global population steadily increases, demand for meat increases even more quickly as income and living standards increase and more people can financially afford to eat meat. The problem is accelerating rather than decreasing.

These are just a few general stats from this informative but possibly misleading report.

At first I was thinking that this landmark report was going to be a catalyst to possible widespread changes in the agriculture industry and people’s rethinking about meat consumption. However, the report later states that it is promoting “intensification” of the meat industry as the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems rather than eating less meat, the latter which I would have thought was more obvious. The trouble with this advice of course is that, if anything, cattle do not need an even more intense lifestyle than they already have and this will undoubtedly lead to even greater cruelty in the containment and treatment of these animals.

Apparently, the authors of the Long Shadow report are livestock specialists, not environmental specialists — and they work not for the UN but for the FAO (Food & Agriculture Org), just one of 19 UN specialised agencies.

Worse yet, it has been estimated that the meat industry is actually responsible for at least 51% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas according to Bill Gates, who cites an analysis done by environmental specialists employed by two other UN specialised agencies — the World Bank and IFC (International Finance Corporation). However, while Bill Gates is absolutely right in pushing for less meat consumption and more clever crop-farming practices, there’s also some suspicion that he is pushing hard for GM crops and is actively investing in it. This will of course be the new danger if and when livestock production is reduced; companies like Monsanto will step in and try to further control and intensify our food production in crops.

Another report also suggests that the determined efforts by governments to invest in renewable energy as the key to reversing climate change will either fail or come at an unrealistic financial cost compared to simply reducing our dependency on meat and the sheer number of resources required to upkeep livestock. The climatic improvements made by renewable energy infrastructure are largely negated by emissions created by the livestock.

Vegan-thinking is starting to rise into a powerful position in the media and into the minds of scientists and environmentalists, but what we need now is for governments to take the bold step forward in enforcing reductions in meat consumption and educating its citizens on why this unsustainable practice must be reversed.

Unless we can turn things around in very short order, we are looking at a near future where our demand for the food we want outstrips every. other. important. thing. about. this. world. The time to act is now (well, it’s probably passed that now, but we should start now anyway to lessen the impact!)

Aussie vegan products reviewed – part 2

**Originally written in 2013, with some updates in late 2018.

Continuing on with my newbie vegan ways, I have gone out at last and visited some proper vego/vegan stores like Goodies and Grains (a groovy shop in Adelaide which sells mostly organic stuff, but also vegan, fair trade and so forth; a lot of the organic grains and such can be purchased in bulk). I might also end up going to one of the good online sellers as well as they fill in a couple of the gaps and are slightly cheaper for some things.

One thing I learned today: organic non-dairy vegan food ain’t cheap!

When I got home, I had to engage in some “sport-forking”. If you’re not familiar with this, it is the tearing open of all the new stuff you bought and doing the rounds taste-testing each item. Very fulfilling! 😀

Anyway, on with some reviews.

NOTE: I am coming from the perspective of a recent/former meat-eater who is not trying to show how much different vegan products are from their original counterparts, but rather if they can stand alone as decent things to eat, while still trying to somewhat satisfy my cravings for the originals. So I’m not going to come down too hard on them unless they are just truly nasty-tasting, but they will get top marks if they are both delicious and provide a great replacement for the original meat or dairy product.

I finally managed to find some non-dairy yogurt, non-dairy vegan cheese that was promoted as being very good, and dairy-free chocolate:


PRODUCT: VEGUSTO NO-MOO PIQUANT
Type: Non-dairy cheese
Country of origin: Switzerland
Vegusto UK

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Vegusto is an multi-award-winning company that has been around for a few years and produces vegan meats and cheeses that are 100% natural ingredients and have an impressively substantial list of things that their products are free of like palm oil, GMOs, gluten, casein, cholesterol, trans-fats, and many more. I have only seen their cheese products here in Australia but some of their meat products looks amazing and I hope they come here soon too.

With this “No-Moo Piquant”, the first smell that hits you is smelly cheese…a good sign! Flavour-wise…wow! Very impressed. Easily could be some unique variant of hard cheddar or even a blue-veined style. Not too sharp but just right. No funny aftertaste or suspicious flavours within.

Texture-wise, it has good cheesy character; it crumbles like aged dairy cheese though is slightly waxy. When brought to a wine and cheese party, diary-cheese eaters were enjoying the flavour though it still doesn’t quite rival what people would see as the nuanced best of dairy cheeses. It’s not a melty type of cheese, more of something you’d put on crackers or eat in a ploughman’s lunch or on a cheese board.

At around $11 for a 200g block, it outpaces most fancy dairy cheeses and so I would consider it in the “occasional purchase” category. If it were down to about $7, I would consider it good value. It sells in the UK for about £5 which is AUS$9 so we’re not getting ripped off much considering it’s come from Europe but it still seems a bit high for what it is.


PRODUCT: COYO COCONUT YOGHURT W/PINEAPPLE
Type: Non-dairy yoghurt
Country of origin: Australia
Como.com

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aust_-natural_300g_organic-banner-2000x1000.jpgCoyo tells the story of founder Henry Gosling who has the claim-to-fame of being the originator of yoghurt made from coconut. (If this is true, his fantastic innovation has become the industry standard in non-dairy yoghurts, now, updated in 2018).

The first of their products I tried is the pineapple version (dairy, soya, gluten & palm-oil free). Their mandate is: “no empty calories, fillers, preservatives, additives, refined sugars, or artificial anything!” They use high-quality vegan cultures and are certified organic.

This is a beautiful confection. It’s like eating a piña colada with that lovely pineapple flavor (comes in other flavors too). Smooth and coconutty…yum! A very luxurious product (UPDATE: pineapple seems to have been removed from their 2018 line-up, replaced with chocolate, mango &passionfruit, plum & guava, and vanilla bean)

Texture-wise, I am not sure I would call this yogurt as the consistency is more like sorbet or mousse-like dessert. These aren’t bad things at all but I am not sure I’d put it with my oats in the morning. It’s a bit too thick and decadent!

At $5 for 300g or $9 for a 500g tub (Adelaide, 2018), it’s fairly pricey…probably the most expensive coconut yoghurt I tend to see on the shelves. It is luxurious and delicious, organic and clearly made with love by a small company, so that brings up the value a bit. Once coconut yoghurt can compete head-to-head on price with dairy yoghurt, we’ll see a real conversion from dairy I believe.

 


 

QUICK REVIEWS

Alter Eco Dark Twist Organic Chocolate (organic, fair frade, soy and dairy free) FLAVOUR: This one has an orange flavor built in which is quite nice. It is wholly reminiscent of other dark chocolates I have had (this one is 60% cocoa) which is a good thing! Easy to enjoy. TEXTURE: very difficult to tell that this Swiss-made chocolate is lacking dairy.  PRICE/VALUE: $5.95 for 80g bar so about 25% more than an equivalent Lindt I suspect.

I also bought some Veganpet Vegan Dog Food today ($4.95 for a 400g tin) and my dog ate it, so that’s a good sign! The ingredients have all sorts of yummy veg and so on, so I’m not surprised really. It smelled like a veggie curry.

I’ve got some Wot No Dairy yogurt to try and a couple of other Rice and Almond milk which I’ll get onto to in the coming days.

Lifestyle Report – as of Mar 2013

This is my third Report (since 2011…oops! I’ve been busy) as a way of assessing my successes, targets, improvements and areas I need to be more vigilant with when it comes to simple, ethical, environmentally sustainable and community living.

It might not be an interesting entry to read but it’s a way to keep myself accountable and constantly improving my lifestyle. NEW to this installment is the addition of my recent vegan ways.

I’ve highlighted positive changes in green and backwards steps red. So, as of today:

ETHICAL/SUSTAINABLE LIVING

• grocery shopping (with % of how often I do it)
became a vegan (Feb 2013)
— local green grocer for veg (75%)
— leftover bread free at end of baker business day (10% – eating less bread but not near bakery anymore);
— skip-dipping/dumpster diving (0% – slack but they are hard to find and I’m not really looking)
— major supermarket for all else (80%);
— Fair Trade where possible (tea, chocolate, recent clothing)
— organic where possible/affordable (25% – food, soap & shampoo)
— use Ethical Guide to boycott bad companies, GM food (50% – need more vigilance here);
— boycott food with known cruel processes (100% where known)
— food miles, locally produced (50%)
— meat consumption (0% of meals)
— dairy consumption (5% – just a couple of slips)

• grow own food (5-10% – tomatoes, eggplant, herbs)

• household shopping: I only buy new from store if I can’t get from op shop or build myself;
— purchased new in past year:
—– furniture (0%)
—– clothes (10%)
—–accessories (15%)
—– car (0%)

• home energy:
— electricity:
—– solar/renewable = no
—– aircon/heating (15%)
—– computer (off at night)
—– fridge (2/5 star rating)
—– dryer (0%);
— water:
—– rainwater tank (0% – no longer have one)
—– grey water for garden (15% – washing machine only)
—– shower avg. duration (5 mins)
—– garden (10%)
—– dishwasher (0%)
—– washing machine (top loader 2/5 star rating)

• waste:
— food scraps (100% goes to compost);
— wasted food (5%);
— recyclables like glass, paper, aluminium cans (95% to recycle bin, 5% kept for food/household storage);
— wasted paper (minimal use of printer, kitchen & recycled toilet paper)
— wood (90% saved for building material); haven’t built much now that I have what I need!
— white goods, electronics, equipment (10% – new stereo receiver);

Areas to Improve: fewer food miles; support local; buy organic if it makes sense & affordable; grow more of our own food; continue to consume less energy & town water. As it gets colder, it is tempting to use more heating but I’ll just have to be as resolute as possible and put on more clothes! Press onwards with vegan lifestyle.

.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

.

SIMPLE LIVING
• build most of my own furniture (lounge daybeds, coffee table, office desk, outdoor tables & seats)
• other furnishings have been donated (bed, futon, tv & DVD) or secondhand (kitchen table & chairs, office chair, rug);
• buy nothing that isn’t essential to the household or work
had to move stored furniture from Queensland to South Australia
• work less, spend more time connecting with friends & family; (has been a very busy past 3 years. Trying to find that work-life balance again)
• spend money on essentials, friends, charities;

Areas to Improve: connect more with real (not virtual) people

.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

.

ENVIRONMENTAL
• approx. annual carbon footprint (avg. based on lifestyle as of today): 7 tonnes of CO2 (Aus avg. 16 tonnes; world avg. 4 tonnes). This is not including my poor flight behavior below 😦
• car usage per month – approx 400kms ; mileage (approx 10kms/L)
• bus instead of drive (15%)
• ride/walk/skate instead of motor transport (10% – 15min walk to shops)
• return flights in past year – domestic (6), international (1); Unfortunately, the past couple of years have been baaad. Last year was mostly the flights during our tour around the country for our documentary film.

Areas to Improve: take fewer flights; walk/skate/bus more rather than car; use less electricity; aim for 7-8 tonnes/yr CO2

.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

.

COMMUNITY
• I now live with my wife so no more commuting to see one another; most friends are the same distance or closer now though
• intentional community living (share house or close living) = no
• share property or resources with community (some household items, driving, food with my wife’s best friend; borrow from other friends occasionally)
• collect hard rubbish from neighbourhood
• engage in conversation or help with mentally/physically challenged people in neighbourhood (0%)
• give to charities (monthly to: 1 x global aid, 1 x animal, 1 x activism organisation, 1 x community fund )
• volunteer with some friends’ and charitable projects
community gatherings for shared weekly meals and social activities

Areas to Improve: aim to achieve closer and more intentional community; share more resources; be more accepting of minority/disadvantaged; give more to charities; get more involved with meaningful & helpful projects

MARCH 2013 SUMMARY: overall, doing the right things still but still not socialising much due to workload. Some areas I can still be a bit more green. Would love to get more friends to jump onboard different aspects of sustainable, ethical or green living but am still trying to take the approach of “be the change you want to see in the world” however it is not always easy not to promote/preach, be judgmental or not be hypocritical…

Justin Timberlake wants you to go to Veganville

Ah, Saturday Night Live…I can’t watch you anymore from Australia but there are still some classics being made. JT was always good at making memorable ones:

The thing I like about this as well is that there is a message in the script but it is carefully written as to not be preachy. I think that is powerful and very effective! (I think it’s at a funny angle cuz it probably has NBC unhappy it’s being shared. Still fun to watch…

(Sorry that the link keeps going dead. NBC and their tyrannical ways keep making people take down copies of this skit from YouTube. Idiots)

A born-again vegan speaks: Don’t Eat Meat!

Time really does fly, doesn’t it? The last couple of years have been busy and fruitful though with my conviction growing continuously to find ways to make this world a more just place to live, and make me less of a hypocrite.

One step I took this week (and the reason I felt compelled to get back on the blog-writing saddle) in becoming less of a hypocrite was to drop meat and animal products altogether from my life. I have loved animals for as long as I remember yet for some reason I was eating meat. Granted, for health and finance reasons I’ve been eating less meat the last couple of years plus donate monthly to the Humane Society, but I still saw livestock as some lesser creatures not deserving of much consideration as to their welfare. In my mind (and the minds of many millions of people in this world) their purpose in this world is to be our food.

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When the lightbulb finally came on this week, I truly couldn’t believe how truly STUPID and SELFISH and CRUEL I have been for most of my life, directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of beings on this planet through my life. Creatures who have done no crime other than being born the wrong species around humans. I have been so distraught at this thought the past couple of days that it literally makes me weep at every thought of these poor animals being sent to a premature death for my culinary pleasure.

That’s nowhere near the worst of it though. If an early death was the worst these animals had to endure one could say they got off easy compared to the reality. The ABUSE, TORTURE, VIOLENCE, DISRESPECT and complete lack of humane treatment is troubling to say the least. This level of cruel behaviour concerns me to such a degree as to wonder if any humans can be trusted. We have become such a violent species, that one has to wonder how far off the fabled End Of The World really is. That we are capable to perform these cruel acts (farmers), knowingly push products that not only harm animals but cause great distress to this planet (food manufacturers), purchase these products despite the avalanche of research and information telling us what really goes on behind the scenes with both the animals and the damage to the planet (everyone) is shocking and abhorrent. Meanwhile, we are happy to claim humans to be the most intelligent species on the planet supposedly capable of the greatest empathy, love and caring which is, frankly, the biggest load of flaming hypocrisy ever perpetrated in history I believe.

If for some reason you feel strongly against what I am saying then you are the growing minority. Thankfully (and I’m trying not to be judgmental here being that I am a recently born-again vegan) people are coming around and starting to recognise the err of our ways. There are countless websites, blogs, government stats, scientific journals and media reports telling us that meat is bad and that our world and its citizens are suffering for it. Here is an excellent overview of the problem for example. In this blog, Sara Deegan has done research from various sources and provided us with testimonials and general info about the problem. Quoting a few bits of info from her page (she is American so some info reflects that perspective):

  • Agricultural runoff is the number one source of water pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The methane resulting from the burps and farts of 10 billion domestic cows a year is a direct cause of global warming (methane is at least 40 times more potent as CO2 gases, eg. from your car)
  • If everyone in America were to adopt a plant-based diet we would reduce global greenhouse gases by six percent—a significant proportion considering that we contribute to 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.
  • According to a statistic by PETA, “If every meat-eating American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off the U.S. roads.”
  • Factory farms create more greenhouse gases in our environment than all of the cars, motorbikes, airplanes, boats, and trains on earth combined.
  • More than 50 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is used for animal livestock. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. land is used for factory farms. Fifty percent of our food supply goes to feeding domestic animals. So while people across the globe starve to death, our cattle remain well fed.
  • Cattle grazing is the number one cause of destruction of the rainforest and we are destroying the rainforest at an alarming rate of 75 million acres a year. That is 144 acres per minute. And 2.4 acres a second. Every burger we consume destroys a small plot of land in the rainforest.
  • It’s estimated that 2,500 gallons (or 16,000 litres) of water is used per every one pound (or kilo) of meat. Comparitively, it takes 33 gallons of water to grow a pound of carrots. To grow one pound of wheat requires 25 gallons of water. One sixteen ounce steak uses the same amount of water you need for six months of showers.
  • The average American eats 97 pounds of beef a year. You’d save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you would by not showering for an entire year.

I watched an excellently produced and powerful documentary recently – Peaceable Kingdom – that zeroes-in on animal welfare and cruelty in farms as told by farmers themselves, all of which in this particular film are reformed killers of creatures who are speaking from a very familiar place that other farmers should be able to relate. Of course, groups like PETA do amazing work and find ways to educate people without attacking them, which is really the only way we’re going to make people come around to their senses. Here’s PETA’s Casey Affleck talking about the agonising de-horning process that cows go through clearly showing animals struggling in immense pain by sadistic “farmers”. There are countless others I’ll link to over time, but those are a few I’ve recently discovered.

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The main problem now with meat-eating is that people who wish to continue with this lifestyle are actually imposing their interests on the rest of the world as there are countless stats to show that the vast quantities of animals bred for consumption are the NUMBER ONE CONTRIBUTOR TO GLOBAL WARMING including depletion of fresh water reserves as well as fish stocks in our oceans (experts have noted that we are now within 40 years of completely fishing the seas empty of sea-life. That is – pardon my french – fucked).

I feel ashamed to have been a part of these destructive meat needs for so long, even going so far as defending my practices and quantifying it because of our (supposed) intelligence or placement in the food chain. But there is no part of me, in good conscience as a citizen of this planet, that can continue to eat meat knowing now what I know. So my hope is that if you have read this far and checked out some of the links here plus researched it yourself, you cannot continue eating meat either. To eat meat is to directly contribute to a barbaric practice, to destroy our planet and to reduce us to crude life forms who condone violence and abuse to satisfy our culinary desires. Believe it or not, that is not overstating it at all; we will perish in our souls, as a species and a planet if we don’t reverse this trend now.