Love of meat root of climate change

In Ghana, people are often regarded as successful based on the quantity amount of meat on their plate, especially when they are eating in public. That’s why most taxi drivers go to 'chop bars' and restaurants point at different types of meats they want to add to their plate with their car keys — just to show off the amount of money they have.

Meat consumption is not a bad thing since meat contains a large amount of protein which is beneficial to the body. Protein is important for the body. But like the Bible said in 1 Timothy 6:10, “the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” The same can be said about the love of meat. Excessive consumption of meat is the root of all sorts of injurious things to the climate.

Meat consumption has increased so much that domestic production does not meet demand hence the resort to importation although there have been several attempts to ban the importation of meat into the country.

The quest to improve cattle production in the country has been a major agenda with successive governments over time and has also been a burden to most people especially with the issue of Fulani herdsmen killing and attacking innocent people in defence of their cattle.

It appears government as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have deliberately turned a blind eye or are oblivious of the fact that the increase in life stock production has a damaging effect on our climate. 

Personally, I think the political will and the commitment to respond fast to climate change has not been existent.

Reports are that by mid-century the average annual temperature in Ghana is projected to increase by 1.2 degree Celsius with a change in annual precipitation remaining an uncertainty. Too much meat consumption will be a major contributing factor if not addressed.

Why too much meat consumption is dangerous to the environment

Shifting diets away from meat could reduce in half per capita greenhouse gas emissions related to eating habits and ward off additional deforestation which is a major donor to climate change.

The World Resources Institute showed that reducing heavy red meat consumption primarily beef and lamb would lead to a per capita food and land use-related greenhouse gas emissions reduction of between 15 and 35 per cent by 2050.

The world population is estimated to grow from 7.1 billion people to 10 billion people by 2050, and about a third of them are expected to be joining the middle class, which usually consumes more calories many of those are from meat-based foods as earnings rise, most of which is land and resource intensive to produce and discharge greenhouse gases.

The environment and the climate will profit if people embrace a low intake of meat, especially beef because beef uses more land and freshwater and generates more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of protein than any other commonly consumed food.

Livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use, occupies 30 per cent of the planet’s land surface and is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide according to research.

The more meat consumption surges so do its climate impact since growing animals for food is also inefficient and it takes about five to seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef each of those takes energy and water to produce and process.

The livestock sector contributes to global warming through deforestation triggered by expansion of pasture land and arable land used to grow feed crops. The UN FAO reports that overall animal agriculture is responsible for about 9% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions globally.

Livestock production is a significant source of other greenhouse gases like methane, which is a greenhouse gas about 20 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide.

Way forward

Climate change poses multiple dangers to health and wellbeing through increased risk of extreme weather including floods, droughts and heat waves which is the biggest threat to health in the 21st century.

The government of Ghana has already produced a National Climate Change Policy, National Climate change Adaptation strategy and national climate change and green economy learning strategy. That in itself is a good thing to do but the awareness creation should be intensified.

Ghana emitted 59 million metric tons of greenhouse gas between the year 2011 and 2017 with 53% of the emission coming from land use change and forestry sector. But dropping the intake of meat products in the country is essential if we are to meet global greenhouse gas emission reduction target. Ghana aims to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 15% by 2030 which are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

The government must try to encourage people to eat meat-free foods. Although some people have started cutting down in their meat consumption, the government of Ghana through the National Commission for Civic Education must roll out radio and TV campaigns to sensitize people of the danger of eating too much meat. That is also not to suggest that people turn vegetarians but at least cut down on meat.

Organic meat is better for the climate.  Animals that aren’t fed antibiotics or growth hormones are more nutritious and healthy. Ghana government must ensure that proper practices are carried out by livestock producers so as not to have a negative impact on the environment.

The Planting for Food and Jobs programme is a commendable project so far initiated by the Ghana government but the program has to trickle down into livestock production that will encourage individuals in their small ways to produce in their backyards.

Climate change is real therefore the need for necessary measures should be put in place to address it.