Opinion: Got beef?



Giving up on cows meat and dairy products is a good place to start if you care about tackling climate change, argues Alex Stacey.


By Alex Stacey

I’ve decided to stop consuming cows’ meat and dairy products. Here’s why.

Cattle farming could make our planet uninhabitable. The greenhouse gases it emits have a higher global warming potential than any other human activity. It is also the cause of 90% of rainforest deforestation, where land is used for grazing or to grow crops to feed cows.

It’s also really inefficient. Cows drink loads of water. The clean water supply needed to produce one burger is the equivalent of taking showers for two months — and the amount of land needed to produce a kilo of beef is 14 times more than is needed to produce a kilo of chicken and 160 times more than a kilo of potatoes.

Wait, there’s more… Cow poo gets dumped into the oceans and messes them up and antibiotics used in dairy farms get into people and the water supply.


I’ve decided I won’t be consuming cows or cow’s milk products because doing so would be contributing to something which may be a major cause of the end of civilisation (if you believe in climate change of course). I can’t justify it. If I am concerned about emissions when I take a flight, or about recycling, or about spending too long in the shower, I cannot contribute to cattle farming by buying its produce.

What this means in practice

No burgers. No beef stir-fry thing from the Thai place. No mince meat. No steak. Also no milk. No yoghurt. No butter. I guess that means no croissants. No cheese. Fuck! @ no cheese. That’s a tough one. That means no pizza too. On the plus side, there are probably health benefits of not eating some of that stuff…but I’m going to miss cheese. I wonder if good vegan cheese exists. All in all, though, it’s not that bad. I’m pretty sure I can do it. My wife is up for doing it too which should make it easier.

It’s all relative

In a quest for an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, I’ve looked at various options. I went three years without taking any flights, have switched to a wind-powered energy provider, and have seriously considered taking shorter showers. I don’t have a car. I recycle. I take a tote bag to the shop to put shopping in. etc.

I now believe that the impact of all of those efforts on global warming is insignificant compared to the effect of giving up beef and dairy, so that’s what I’m going to do. I encourage you to do the same.

Sources: Google and stuff. If you think I’ve got any facts wrong send me a message or leave a comment. I don’t claim to be an expert. To clarify, the point about animal agriculture being the biggest contributor to global warming takes into account the methane emissions from cow farming. Methane has a much higher global warming potential than CO2 but also disappears from the atmosphere much faster than CO2 (like 5 years vs. 100 years) so producing less methane would cause a drop in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere much quicker than producing less CO2 would. So stop eating beef and tell a friend.

Alex is passionate about trying to live in a way that promotes healthy systems in which art, culture and society can thrive. He currently runs a music promo platform, a record label, and a monthly party in Berlin.   

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