The way we eat not only has a direct impact on our health, but also on the environment and climate. This knowledge has been part of general education for years. The order of the day is: Eat less meat, because livestock is a factor in climate change. It produces about “15 to 20 percent” of all man-made greenhouse gases, according to Andreas Michalsen in his bestseller “Healing with Nutrition” (2019). Meat production not only generates CO2 emissions like any other industry, but above all it also releases CH4 (methane), which is especially harmful.
The meat must be something special.
Europeans are especially hungry for meat
The order of the day goes to our address. An average European consumes twice as much meat as the average person in the world. On average, a German eats as much meat as seven Indonesians or 22 Indians. Each German generates about 0.6 tons of CO2 equivalents on his diet. A vegetarian diet can cut this value in half, and a vegan diet can even cut it by 80 percent. This is the solution for more and more young people and especially women, often also motivated by the idea of animal welfare.
But it would make a significant contribution to climate protection if people could decide to eat less meat. People who have decided to do this sometimes call themselves “flexitarians.” They only eat meat when it is offered to them in invitations, for example, but they do not buy any meat products or sausages. Or they refrain from eating meat periodically once a week or during Lent.
Meat as something special
While the meatless day has been a hotly contested issue in Europe’s canteens for several years because it appears to be a lever for a cultural transformation of the Western world, it has been a reality in the church for centuries. Abstinence from meat dishes is applicable on all Fridays of the year (with the exception of major movable holidays that fall on a Friday), as well as on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (Can. 1251 CIC). The tenor of these strategies: meat is becoming something special again (the proverbial “Sunday roast”), so one is also willing to spend more money.
On the other hand, if humans continue to eat as much meat and dairy as in the past, global emissions from agriculture will double by 2070. If the “two degree target” decided at the 2015 Paris climate conference is still is about to be reached (it doesn’t seem likely at the moment), meat and dairy products will still be allowed in the future, but they shouldn’t be anymore. on the daily menu.
More flavor, less CO2
And: if it’s meat, then organic. Species-appropriate husbandry relieves animals by reducing avoidable suffering, the demand for regional organic products promotes their marketability. What do you get out of this? More flavour, more health, less pangs of conscience and less CO2.
As far as meat consumption is concerned, a technological solution is also in sight: the artificial generation of animal muscle tissue from stem cells. The process is still in its infancy, but it could revolutionize meat production in a few years, says Michalsen. The production process is currently extremely expensive, a hamburger would cost several thousand euros. But technical innovations are characterized by a rapid price drop once they are ready for series production and are mass-produced. This is also to be expected with “artificial meat”. Alone: Do you want to eat that? Or don’t you prefer to do without the schnitzel more often so that you can enjoy a piece of “real” meat from time to time?
quality not quantity
Not only the quality, but also the quantity of food production is a lever in climate protection. You should only buy the amount you need. Massive food waste is absurd. Between a quarter and a half of all food is wasted worldwide; Half of this destroyed food is still edible at the time of throwing it away, according to Wolfgang König in his “History of the Disposable Society” (2019). This is bad for people, the environment and the climate.
Here too there are countermoves. Some people band together to systematically “contain,” that is, take edible food from supermarket bins. They are criminals under current German law. At the same time, they are moral heroes of the idea of ecological efficiency and sufficiency. Some church officials see it that way too. Jesuit Jörg Alt campaigned for the container in the media and became active himself. After being accused of “particularly serious theft”, he made a full confession to obtain a judgment against himself.
voluntarily in court
When the Nuremberg-Fürth prosecutor’s office unexpectedly dropped the criminal case in May, Father Alt defended himself. He sees this as an unjustified privilege of his person. He wants the process and ultimately a sentence that will finally lead to the decriminalization of the “container” as “food savings”: “I committed this act to draw attention to the abuses in our legal system and I asked the legislator to correct this to achieve it.
So far this has not happened. This means that other people without comparable institutional protections can still be denounced, charged and convicted,” the courageous Jesuit said in a statement posted on Facebook.
positive effect on health
For these spectacular actions there is the great initiative of the “Tafeln”, which have been organized in many cities for decades, increasingly also in rural areas. Volunteers collect groceries from fruit and vegetable wholesalers, supermarkets and bakeries and distribute them to social institutions and people in need. In this way, they prevent mountains of garbage from growing every day, help people in need and protect the climate.
Let’s go back to the first thought: health. An unbalanced diet, too based on animal fats, which does not provide the body with all the necessary nutrients or takes certain substances in excess, can have a negative effect on the “body mass index” and, consequently, have a harmful effect on the Cardiovascular system. As a side effect, as “flexitarians” who buy consciously, we should expect better individual and collective health, in particular a reduction in cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure caused by civilization. This, in turn, would greatly relieve the chronically slow health care system financially.
Healthy nutrition for climate protection and against world hunger
A low-meat, zero-waste diet is therefore an important contribution to individual health care and climate protection. It also offers the opportunity to defeat world hunger. The German Association for Animal Nutrition, which is not suspicious on this issue, puts the proportion of agricultural land used worldwide for growing animal feed at 60 percent. Much of this could be used to grow crops for staple food production if we shift our diet from grass to farmland.
So it is up to us or our diet whether or not we will solve the core problems of the 21st century. Diet has long since become a matter of fate. We should answer them before we lose our appetite.
Read a detailed analysis of the coalition agreement in the next issue of the Daily Mail.