Meat and dairy products are a major cause of climate change and a topic Pope Francis must address when he speaks before Congress this Thursday.
Meat and dairy products are a major cause of climate change and a topic Pope Francis must address when he speaks before Congress this Thursday. Members of the House Committee on Agriculture should pay special attention as they ready for hearings on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which could help fight climate change.
Earlier this year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended a shift away from animal products toward plant-based diets for sustainability. The committee stated that “a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet.”
Leaders across the globe are making the same recommendation. The United Nations says that “animal products, both meat and dairy, in general require more resources and cause higher emissions than plant-based alternatives.” And the World Health Organization notes that “cutting back on red meat production reduces the nitrous oxide released into the atmosphere by fertilizers and animal manure. Nitrous oxide is … the most important … contributor to stratospheric ozone destruction. Reducing livestock herds would also reduce emissions of methane, which is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.”
But moving toward a plant-based diet won’t only save the planet and animal lives. It’s good for human health, too. Heart disease and stroke are the leading killers worldwide. Meat and dairy product consumption increases the risk of both, while plant-based diets can prevent and reverse these deadly epidemics.
The pope has said that “reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.” It’s a message I hope Congress and the meat and dairy product industry take to heart this Thursday.