My Meatless Day

It's my meatless day,
My meatless day
I'm not going to eat,
any sort of meat, meat, meat, meat
I'm thin and I’m pale, ‘cos all I've had today, is:-
Four quarts of mussels, five loaves of bread,
Seven tins of salmon and a big cod's head,
Nine pairs of kippers and I feel half dead,
'Cos it's my meatless day.

Part of a Cockney Music Hall song from the First World War when there were campaigns in the UK and USA to eat less meat to aid the war effort. But is the idea of a ‘Meatless Day’ something we should harness today in our fight against Climate Change?

It’s probably never been as easy as it is now for individuals or families to adopt a healthy meat-free or even vegan diet. Vegan restaurants are on the rise and there are vegan or vegetarian options on the menus of most food outlets. Supermarket chains have responded by developing vegan alternatives to a wide range of items such as crisps, wine, sausages and ready meals to name but a few.

There have been several arguments used for persuading people to adopt a plant-based diet. The most obvious ones are concerns for animal welfare and animal rights but there are also claims that a plant-based diet is healthier. Another major argument however and one which is increasingly adopted is the claim that a vegan diet is hugely beneficial to the climate. If this claim is supportable then it presents, of itself, an important and urgent reason why we should all consider eating less, meat in our diet.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations have produced a report entitled ‘Tackling Climate Change through Livestock’ (ref 1) and in it they state that the total emissions from Global Livestock are currently the equivalent of 7.1 Gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide per year. This represents 14.5% of all anthropogenic Greenhouse gas emissions. 39% of this global amount is the result of enteric fermentation in ruminants.

The 7.1 Gigatonne global production of Greenhouse Gas can be divided as follows;

Cattle (raised for both meat and milk) account for about 65% of this amount.

Of this 65%;

                  beef                                                                            41%

                  dairy                                                                           20%   

                  others (including use for draught power etc)             4%

Pig meat                                                                                      9%

Chicken meat and eggs                                                               8%

Small ruminants                                                                           6%

Other poultry etc                                                                          

These figures would suggest that beef and dairy products are significant contributors towards excessive production of Greenhouse Gasses, a suggestion which is further supported by this visual from Poore and Nameck (2018) reported by the BBC (ref 2.).

 

graphic 1

 

Fig. 1. Kilograms of GHG emissions per serving of a range of foods.

(after Poore and Namecek 2018 – ref. 2.)

This graphic shows an average value and a range of values for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for each food stuff.

Of course we should also be prepared to take into account current diet and dietary trends in the UK before deciding whether a ‘Meatless Day’ in this country would make a significant contribution to the goal of reducing Global Greenhouse Emissions.

In her article for Global Horizons, Kara Wright points out that meat consumption in the UK peaked in 1979 and has been steadily decreasing since then (ref 3). There has also been a steady trend away from beef, pork and lamb in favour of chicken with the major part of that change happening from about 1980 onwards. If this trend were to continue then consumption of red meat would cease altogether by 2050!

 

Graphic 2

Fig. 2. Proportion of meat consumed by average person in UK in 1974 and 2014

after ‘The Carbon Footprint of the UK’s Meat Consumption: A Review of Past Trends and a Projection to 2050’ (ref. 3)

A Guardian article reporting on the Waitrose Food and Drink report 2018/19 (ref 4) found that at that time more than 10% of Britons claimed to be vegetarian or vegan, whilst just over 20% claimed to be ‘flexitarian’ meaning they ate a largely plant-based diet supplemented with relatively small amounts of meat. Whilst this means that approximately 30% of the British population have made deliberate attempts to reduce meat consumption, the trend towards an exclusively plant-based diet in particular is much more prevalent in the younger age groups.

In this case, increasing the number of people in older age ranges who choose to deliberately reduce meat consumption could be seen as having a positive effect on the reduction of Greenhouse Gas production, and the adoption of a new ‘Meatless Day’ campaign by U3A members could be a laudable endeavour.

It's my meatless day,
My meatless day
I'm not going to eat,
any sort of meat, meat, meat, meat
I'm thin and I’m pale, ‘cos all I've had today, is:-
Five pounds of 'taters, that I had to thieve,
A vegetable marrow, as long as my sleeve,
A jar of pickled onions (you can tell it when I breathe)
'Cos it's my meatless day.

1.    The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations ‘Tackling Climate Change through Livestock’ 21st October 2014; updated 2020.

2.    Climate Change Food Calculator: What’s your diet’s carbon footprint? Stylianou, Guibourg and Briggs BBC News 9th August 2019

3.    GLOBAL HORIZONS  The Carbon Footprint of the UK’s Meat Consumption: A Review of Past Trends and a Projection to 2050 Kara Wright

4.    Third of Britons have stopped or reduced eating meat. Report by Rebecca Smithers, Consumer Affairs Correspondent. Guardian on-line. 1st November 2018.

TPP Introductory document

EClogo

 

The Wyre Forest U3A 'Environmental Concern Group' was set up in September 2019 to consider ways in which Scientific and Technological solutions could be used to mediate the impact of human activity on the Environment.

'Think global, act local'

The group began as an off-shoot of a 'Science and Technology in Society' group who spent several sessions in the Summer of 2019 studying damage to the environment caused by human activity. This led to a decision to instigate a new group who would aim to use their collective Scientific knowledge, plus the wider U3A membership and other contacts to find ways of mitigating environmental damage.

The ECG currently has several projects in hand, these include:

  • Finding ways of reducing use of single use, non-recyclable plastics with particular focus on Garden Centres.
  • Growing and coppicing fast-growing willow as a means of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Small scale production of biochar as a means of carbon capture and disposal.
  • The Thousand Ponds Project; aiming to encourage a high density of small to medium size ponds and wet areas within a specified geographical area.

The 'Thousand Ponds Project' is due for its full launch on September 20th, and details about this will be circulated in the next Wyre Forest U3A journal.

The group is currently meeting 'on-line' using Zoom technology from 10.00 to 12.00am on the third Monday of each month. If you feel you would like to be involved, or even just have a little more information, please contact the group convener, Barry Walmsley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Environmental Concern Group Articles
 Date Title                                                                                                            
23/09/2020  The Thousand Ponds Project
23/09/2020 My Meatless Day