Multinational news-based television channel CNN recently aired a segment called ‘How Meat Is Making the Planet Sick’. The program discussed the public health and climate risks associated with meat production. CNN has more than one million primetime viewers.
CNN host Fareed Zakaria spoke to New York Times columnist Ezra Klein about the ‘tremendous consequences’ of meat production. Zakaria clarified that while he’s not a vegetarian ‘yet’, he’s actively cutting down his meat intake.
He said: “People are seeing the light, as I have, that eating animal products can not only be bad for you, it can be bad for the planet.”
Eighty billion land animals are slaughtered every year for meat. Zakaria pointed out that half of all habitable land on Earth is used for agriculture. Most of that is used for animal agriculture, such as raising livestock or growing crops for livestock consumption.
The land required to produce the amount of meat eaten globally leads to mass deforestation. As well as displacing wildlife, deforestation leads to an increase of carbon in our atmosphere. High populations of cows increase greenhouse gas levels further.
Zakaria and Klein agreed the most effective thing an individual can do to reduce climate risk is to eat less meat.
Klein, who is a vegan, commented: “People like meat, I like meat. I’m not here to tell anybody it’s not delicious. But what it is doing to the planet, what it is doing to the animals and what it is doing to our own pandemic and antibiotic risk is something that should worry all of us”.
Research published in peer-reviewed journal BMJ revealed that slaughterhouses and meat packing plants are a ‘major risk’ for COVID-19 infections. Further, scientists stated COVID-19 probably originated at the Wuhan wet market, where meat is sold and live animals are slaughtered.
Antibiotic resistance is also an area of concern. The World Health Organization named it ‘an increasingly serious threat to global public health.’ A 2011 FDA report stated that around 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in the meat industry.
The antibiotics are typically used preventatively, rather than to treat disease, as well as to increase growth rates. This can contribute to antibiotic-resistant diseases.
“So there is a lot of animal suffering here but stacked on top of that is actually a lot of human suffering, too,” Klein said.