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Livestock production: forgotten source of greenhouse gas

September 15th, 2008 · 4 Comments

Hey, I’m new here.

I work with the Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland.  What relevance does that have to climate change, you may well ask?  Well, it may be surprising to learn that 30% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock production.  Mostly from beef, but other animal production has much more than its fair share to answer for too.  In contrast, plant food production is responsible for less than 2% – and 2.5 times as much plant food is produced in Australia than animal product.

It’s one of those things that even environmentalists seem to have overlooked.

It’s also perhaps one of the easiest ways to reduce our greenhouse emissions.  Though it may take years to replace coal power stations and replace transport with lower-emission vehicles, if most of the population made a voluntary change to an animal-reduced or animal-free diet, we could cut almost 30% of our emissions very quickly.  I wouldn’t recommend an overnight mass-slaughter of all farmed animals, that wouldn’t be a very sensible idea.  But a phase-out, where animals would be bred no more (as all breeding of farmed animals is under full human control) seems very feasible.  Farmers could be compensated by our government at far lesser cost than nuclear power stations or many other options being presented for greenhouse gas reduction.  Farmers could be supported to convert their farms to plant production or to learn skills to work in different sustainable industries.

What about the other environmental issues around animal and plant production?  Well, plant production pretty much always comes out on top.  Plant production is on average 4.5 times more water efficent in Australia.  E.g. even rice – yes, it’s a big user of water, but uses less than half the water per kilo in its production as chicken meat does (chicken is the meat using least water of all types of meat).  96% of land clearing in Queensland is for livestock grazing.  About half of the total Australian landmass is at any one time used for grazing, and only about 3% is used for plant production.  Then, a large portion of grain in Australia (more than Australian people eat directly) is fed to our production animals.

Eating kangaroos on a larger scale – not feasible, we’d soon eat them to extinction.  We’re already harvesting the sustainable quota (some people even believe they have evidence for their populations being critically low from overhunting), and farming of kangaroos isn’t done because it’s not really feasible.

There are plenty of vegans and near-vegans around, we probably all know a couple.  So we know it’s a healthy way to live.  Scientific studies have confirmed this, and have even shown that it may be an even healthier diet than one including animal products.  I.e. a vegan diet can reverse heart disease, obesity, and reduce risk of diabetes (both types), many common types of cancers and many other diseases.  The American Dietetic Association (peak nutrition body in America) have stated “Well-planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian, and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation. Appropriately planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian, and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth.”

Hey, if you want to know the source of any of these facts and figures, email me.  If you’re interested in this issue and want to get involved in promoting animal-reduced diets on environmental grounds, give me an email too.  E.g. distributing fact sheets, helping at stalls, doing other promo kind of stuff, fundraising to pay for stalls and info sheets etc.  Or if you have other ideas to make the facts better known and get animal-reduced diets accepted as a real feasible way to reduce greenhouse emissions, you’re very welcome to use our organisation (working within it’s limits) to make them reality.  If you’re interested in moving towards an animal-reduced or animal-free diet, the Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland can offer support too – contact them (or me) for a free info pack.


amwhyc @

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Tags: Campaigns · News

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Penelope // Sep 20, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I just read your article
    Our group world wide is constantly promoting the Vegan/vegetarian diet as a means to halt global warming
    Please check out there is so much information on there about what the world leaders are saying about the importance of adopting the veggie diet
    We have members in Qld that may wish to find out about your veggie promotions etc.
    Please also check out
    this is a teleconference recently held in Los Angeles, and we are working towards organising a similar teleconference here in Melbourne

    Yours sincerely
    Penny Bassett-Scarfe
    03 5940 1079
    0417 660 647
    The TV channel is focused assist

  • 2 Greg McFarlane // Oct 12, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to environmentalist’s attention. The evidence is now conclusive that the meat and dairy industries are having a massive negative impact on the earth’s environment. It is just a fact and if you want to do something about climate change, going veg is one of the easiest and effective ways. For lots of evidence go to and click on “Environment”.

  • 3 Matthew C // Oct 29, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Great article. For those who do not wish to obstain from meat all togther there are other options.
    Reduce red meat consumption and the red meat that is consumed substitute Kangaroo for beef. Kangaroo is low in fat, high in ron and protein, does not require de-foresting of our habitats and is drought proof.

  • 4 Greg McFarlane // Oct 30, 2009 at 9:53 am

    In response to Matthew C, the idea that eating kangaroo meat is somehow environmentally sound is completely false. To replace the amount of beef eaten in Australia, hundreds of times the entire kangaroo population would need to be killed each year. Obviously impossible. This is because kangaroos have a very little “meat” on them. They breed and grow very slowly. They can not be farmed. They are very labour intensive to shoot, gut, house in temporary cool rooms, transport to an abattoir, butcher and package. All for a few kilograms of human grade meat. No, the only diet for an environmentalist is one based solely on plants.

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