In 2019, fires and deforestation in the Amazon finally started to gain visibility in Brazil and around the world, in addition to taking over the media. Activists, politicians and public figures from different countries have turned their eyes to Brazil with their concern for the largest tropical rainforest in the world, which covers nine countries in Latin America and protects more than 60,000 plant and animal species.
Much has been said about the correlation between deforestation in the Amazon and livestock, more precisely regarding large scale meat consumption in Brazil and around the world.
But after all, do you know about the relationship between meat consumption and deforestation? Well, you should.
The simple concept of reducing the amount of animal protein you consume already helps preserve forests and reduce the number of fires not only in the Amazon but in several other areas around the planet.
1. High Price
The growth of agriculture and livestock over Brazil’s natural landscapes has taken too high a price to be ignored. In the interest of expanding soy and cattle production, large companies deforest, enslave and contaminate soil and water, consuming a large portion of water resources.
This is because meat production and consumption have a very high social and environmental cost. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), has been warning for years that 40% of land surface is being occupied by livestock and continues to increase quickly.
If, in the 1970s, only 1% of the Amazon was deforested, today the index reaches 20%, according to a report by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office for the Environment. The report claims that livestock occupies 80% of the deforested area in the region.
Billions of cattle on the planet are raised for the production of meat, food and animal products and this requires clearing forests to make pasture for these animals.
2. How does this happen?
The production of food for cattle requires immense spaces for planting soybeans and an excessive use of water for planting them, which serves as food for these animals (around 79% of soybeans in the world are crushed to make animal feed). More than 2,400 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of meat.
Because of this process, burning in the Amazon is considered an “easy” method of opening new pastures, consequently creating large and new spaces for cattle raising by removal of the forest. And this is a reality that has been increasing and causing more damage year after year.
In other words, immense hectares of forests are converted into pastures with this practice, and where there were once trees there are now pastures and breeding cattle.
“The felled forest spends time drying on the ground, usually for months, to lose enough moisture. Then they set fire to it, to clear the vegetation and plant grass.”
Says Erika Berenguer, a specialist in tropical forests at the University of Oxford, UK.
According to data from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM Amazônia), about 89 million hectares of natural vegetation were lost in Brazil from 1985 to 2018. Just in the Amazon, 47 million hectares of forest were lost in the 34 years that the survey covered.
3. Increasing fire focuses x Political factor
The fires in the Amazon are the biggest since 2010, and this has been happening amid controversial measures taken by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, such as the reduction of environmental inspections, budget cuts for the Ministry of the Environment, questioning of deforestation data and extinction of the Amazon Fund.
In contrast to the August 2019 statement by Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles that the fires are due to “dry weather, wind and heat”, INPE data and researchers from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) indicate that the fires have been caused by the felling of the forest.
4. Rampant consumption
Due to rampant meat consumption, the 2019 population of Brazil counted more cattle than people, being the main exporter and the second largest meat producer according to information from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It is worth mentioning that the rampant consumption of meat causes farmers to buy more land in order to produce more. And do you know what that means? Deforestation!
5. Deforestation x GHGs
Another problem caused by meat production and consumption is related to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), responsible for global warming, extreme climatic changes and consequent environmental catastrophes.
This happens with deforestation, through burning and methane gas from livestock. A single ox produces around 700 liters of methane a day during the rumination process (belching and flatulence), equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a large truck circulating 56 km per day.
While deforestation diminishes the filtering of gases normally carried out by trees, fires add onto the problem due to their emission of gases and consequent harm to the proper functioning of the planet, setting up a vicious cycle.
Here is the question: is it really worth enduring so many consequences of this recklessness? The end consumer is not “getting his hands dirty” by burning and cutting down forests, but he also has a share of blame for all of the destruction.
6. Reducing meat consumption
If you have been wondering how you could help reduce the rate of deforestation in the Amazon and the world, a good first step is to start now by reducing your meat consumption, it will make a difference for you and for the environment.
Having this awareness and attitude is already a good way to reduce animal suffering, since the slaughter and living conditions of these animals are extremely problematic. After all, when it comes to large industries, animals do not live free and happy, despite what many packaging and brand logos may portray.
It is not necessary to be radical in order to make a difference. Small changes in habits help the environment as well as positively influencing your health. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), consumption of red meat and processed meat can facilitate the development of cancer.
Initiatives such as “Meatless Mondays”, for example, already have many followers. The campaign consists of not eating any type of meat on Mondays.
Something simple for you, a great benefit for the planet. If everyone does a little, the result is huge!
Films and documentaries have been exploring and debating more and more the issue of meat consumption and its impacts on the environment. “Cowspiracy” (2014), “Earthlings” (2005) and “Before the Flood” (2016) are some examples.
Now reduce your meat consumption and feel the satisfaction of doing your part!
“You are never too small to make a difference.”
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