The consumption of meat involves all types of violence: violence against animals, people and the planet. The media has reported that animals in Belgian slaughterhouses are being stunned and hit with sticks. Indian newspapers such as the Mumbai Mirror and The Times of India are reporting ‘beef lynchings,’ in which beef-eating Muslims are being attacked by Hindus.
India, a veritable vegetarian paradise, is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, arguably the world’s most influential vegetarian. His vegetarianism is proving to be quite fruitful, too. Naypadmasagarji Maharaj, a Jainistic monk, has recently urged his followers to vote for Modi’s BJP. The monk’s language is clear: “If earth has to survive, mass killing of animals has to stop.”
We have our own Dutch mini-Modi in Marianne Thieme, co-founder of the Party for the Animals. Regardless of the topic at hand, she likes to conclude her speeches by stating: “Furthermore, we are of the opinion that factory farming has to be ended,” following Roman senator Cato the Elder, who wished for Carthage’s destruction. Lo and behold: Cato sadly ended up getting his way. A tragic shame, since I feel more sympathetic towards Carthaginian general Hannibal. Thieme’s thesis, on the other hand, does resonate with me.
The production of meat accounts for as much as 14 to 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, rivalling the emissions produced by exhaust pipes. The United States consumes 90 kilograms (198 pounds) of meat per head per year, while the European Union consumes 65 (143 pounds) and China consumes 50 (110 pounds). Good thing, then, that India, coming in at 1.3 billion inhabitants, only consumes 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) per person. The current trend, an increase of up to 76 percent by 2050, is a truly terrifying scenario. It is nigh on impossible to reach the targets as formulated in the Paris Agreement without drastically changing the way we eat. And don’t lose sight of the other climate goals: the production of meat uses exorbitant amounts of fresh water.
Researchers looked into the hypothetical case of all American citizens replacing meat with beans: it would land them very close to the CO2 reduction targets promised by Barack Obama in 2009.
Before we get the rest of the world on board, let’s start with our own country. My plea is threefold. Firstly, let’s make meat into something special, serving it at most twice a week; let’s just have an egg on the other days. Moreover, I suggest serving a vegetarian meal as a default at business events, asking carnivores to specifically inform the organization of their dietary wish. Now that the word on the street is that our new cabinet will have ministers of Agriculture and Climate, I suggest combining both jobs and including ‘vegetarian’ in the job description. Since GroenLinks left the formation process prematurely, perhaps Marianne is interested?
This article originally appeared on Studio Zeitgeist.