Beef’s environmental impact is worse than that of other meat and vegetables. Image Credit: Getty Images

Dubai: Climate change is real. The US-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) states that glaciers have shrunk, there is an accelerated rise in sea levels and trees are flowering sooner. If this is a concern for you, you might want to reconsider eating that juicy steak in front of you.

Beef’s environmental impact is worse than that of other meat, as stated in a study published in the US-based scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In fact, eating less red meat would be a better way for people to cut carbon emissions than giving up their cars.

A study conducted by UK-based University of Oxford found that meat-rich diets resulted in almost double the amount of carbon emissions than a vegetarian one. A non-vegetarian diet results in 7.2kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day. On the other hand, both vegetarian and fish-eating diets cause about 3.8kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day.

This fact made Gulf News reader Leila Hussain, a Pakistani legal consultant based in Dubai, give up meat altogether. Around three years ago, she did a lot of research on the subject and discovered some shocking statistics.

She said: “I was surprised about how the practice of slaughtering animals creates a lot of greenhouse emissions. By consuming animal products, we are increasing our carbon footprint. And giving up meat slows down global warming.”

Another thing that concerned her was animals being confined in small spaces and being fed hormones. She finds it to be a “cruel practice” and was willing to let go of her regular diet, consisting of chicken, beef and fish.

It turns out that eating green is arguably the more humane choice. In the US alone, 500,000 animals are killed for meat every hour. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), every day millions of male chicks are killed because they will not be able to lay eggs.

Hussain said: “I also read a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying processed meat as a carcinogen. So, it is bad for your health. The best thing about being vegetarian is I feel healthier, more energetic and lighter. I haven’t been sick much at all since I became a vegetarian.”

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), WHO’s cancer agency, published a report stating that consuming 50g of processed meat every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent. That’s the equivalent of about a hot dog. Additionally, there was evidence of increased risk of pancreatic and prostate cancer.

These statistics convinced Denis Kisanje Nsubuga, Ugandan national based in Dubai, to also go the vegetarian way. Some of his friends informed him about the different ways of consuming meat was affecting the planet and people and there was no looking back.

He said: “I then went on the internet and read about how vegetables are really good for your health in general. This is why I decided to become a vegetarian. Earlier, I was consuming meat and my health was not so good. I used to fall sick very often. Now, I’m feeling better.”

Nsubuga states that he used to feel tired all the time and fatigued without much activity, but after he changed his diet, he was feeling fresher.

Food production is responsible for about 25 per cent of the greenhouse-gas emissions heating up the planet, as stated by the US-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Scientists have long known that meat has a bigger carbon footprint than fruits and vegetables. This is for the simple reason that meat takes more energy to produce, but also because cows tend to burp up a lot of methane.

Additionally, producing meat requires more when it comes to rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking and disposing of the food that we consume. To give it some perspective, you need to drive 102km, almost equal to driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, to produce the same emissions as eating one kilogram of beef.

Not fully aware of the effects, Eleanora Stoyanova, a Bulgarian fitness trainer based in Umm Al Quwain, was consuming beef on a daily basis up until last year.

She said: “When I found out that meat is harmful, I watched a lot of documentaries and learnt a lot about it. I didn’t know it affected the planet so badly! Earlier, I loved to eat salmon, tuna and chicken.”

Even though her diet didn’t consist of too much red meat, she gave up meat altogether. Today, she doesn’t miss it at all.

She said: “For some people, it’s very hard to give up meat. But, if you add a variety of dishes, you’re fine. Additionally, my sister gets stomach issues due to the animal product that she eats. I feel full of energy and healthier. My target is to go vegan.”

In her opinion, forcing someone to switch will not work. People need to be able to understand the consequences and the effect of their eating habits on the planet on their own. But, as a fitness trainer, she does give advice to customers on what they should and shouldn’t consume.

She said: “I ask people what makes them feel bloated and ask them to give up one food at a time. If people eat more than 150g of meat per meal, they will gain weight. On the other hand, you can consume larger quantities of vegetables, in the form of salads for instance.”


Big numbers:

7.2kg of carbon dioxide emissions caused by non-vegetarian diet per day.


3.8kg of carbon dioxide emissions caused by vegetarian diet per day.


500,000 animals killed for meat every hour in the US.


Consuming 50g of processed meat every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.


Food production is responsible for about 25 per cent of the greenhouse-gas emissions.


You need to drive 102km to produce the same emissions as eating one kilogram of beef.