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'An old letter I came across.'
We are sending this letter because both of us share a concern for our planet's welfare and hope you will find the following information of interest.
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that 'changes in lifestyle and behaviour patterns can contribute to climate change mitigation across all sectors'. Among examples that were quoted in this context mention was made of 'changes in consumption patterns'. With growing awareness of the impacts of climate change and the need to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases, citizens across the world often ask what it is that they can do to mitigate emissions. Many options are available to individuals, such as switching off lights, changing incandescent lamps for compact fluorescent lamps and ensuring thermostat settings for heating and cooling at levels that minimize waste of energy. In personal transportation habits also, walking to places wherever practicable or using a bicycle are options that can cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases substantially, because almost a quarter of the world's emissions are generated by transportation.
However, a significant reduction in emissions can be brought about through changes in diet. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) brought out a major document in 2006 titled 'Livestock's Long Shadow' which clearly brings out a clear message that the single most effective act that any individual can currently perform to lessen the emissions of greenhouse gases is to become vegetarian or reduce meat consumption. That this message comes directly from an authoritative body such as the UN (whose member states, it should be remembered, are not generally considered vegetarian) rather than an organisation committed to vegetarianism is significant.
'Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems of today' says Henning Steinfeld of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). 'Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.'
- '70% of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.'
- 'Livestock now use 30% of the entire world's land surface.'
- 'Cattle rearing is also a major source of land and water degradation.' (FAO report Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues & Options.)
Another important conclusion of this significant report was conveyed in the statement:
'The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth's increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution... from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and the pesticide used to spray crops.'
There are several reasons for a shift to a much lower input of meat in human diets if not complete vegetarianism. Both the authors of this communication are vegetarians. One of us, Sir Paul McCartney, has been a vegetarian for thirty years and the other for about eight years. Quite apart from reasons for compassion for animals, a move towards vegetarian diets would also address the crisis in the global food market which leaves the poorest of the poor severely malnourished and ill-fed with food prices that have climbed to substantial heights in recent months largely because of diversion of food grains for conversion into animal protein.
Unfortunately, with higher incomes, societies, even in developing countries, are turning to greater and greater consumption of animal protein, which reduces the availability of food grains for direct consumption by impoverished human beings. Already 60% of food crop production in North American and Western Europe is being diverted for production of meat.
Given all these reasons it is surprising that there is still an increasing trend towards greater meat consumption worldwide. But if we wish to improve our own health and that of the planet, reducing the consumption of meat has significant benefits for this generation of consumers and certainly for generations to come who are likely to face the worsening impacts of climate change. We are, therefore, writing this letter not because vegetarianism is a fad or an emotional issue but because it is a very attractive option for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and stabilizing the earth's climate and ensuring global food security.
With kind regards
Sir Paul McCartney
R K Pachauri