Mitigate climate change at the dining table


  • Letters
  • Monday, 16 Dec 2019

I REFER to “Scientists: Greenland losing ice faster than expected” (The Star, Dec 12). I wish to highlight a crucial and often overlooked contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems – animal husbandry.

The rearing of cattle for meat and dairy consumption has been proven to be one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane every day as a by-product of their digestive processes. This is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat.

These emissions contribute to 18% of greenhouse gases, more than the 13% from all global transport exhausts combined. Though methane doesn’t remain in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, other livestock, together with cows, contribute 32,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide ever year.

In other words, 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock. Furthermore, livestock accounts for 65% of human-related nitrous oxide emissions which is 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide and can remain in the atmosphere for 150 years, beating both methane and carbon dioxide.

Greenhouse gas emissions are not the only ill effects of animal husbandry. In Malaysia, 66.6% of antibiotics are registered for use in animals and are a major catalyst for antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

Farm animals consume 34 to 76 trillion gallons of water annually; it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef, therefore rendering many water conservation efforts less effective.

Despite overwhelming evidence, many organisations have downplayed or ignored these issues. This is due to invested interest in the industry.

As the climate crisis nears its devastating climax, I urge the public to reconsider their diet and the part it plays in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Everyone can try to reduce their meat intake by delegating a meat-free day every week, and then extending it as the idea gets more comfortable.

If you fear that you are lacking in proteins, remember that lentils, chickpeas, beans and peas are ample sources of protein.

Mushroom and soy-based meat substitutes are also readily available should you find yourself craving meat. Even something as simple as owning a pet or living with animals may change your perspective on the need to eat meat.

I believe that we as a community have the power to bring change, and it can start from our dining tables.

HARESH JAYANT MAHALINGAM , Ipoh


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