Having watched the BBC documentary recently on the topic of Meat production and the threat it poses to our planet. I thought a short assessment on the documentary would be appropriate.
Largely, this documentary focused on the US and South America. However, the overall message was applicable no matter where the location. The current form and sheer scale of meat production is unsustainable. This only increases when we factor in global population growth in all continents.
This is the documentary description
Following on from 2018’s award-winning Drowning In Plastic, science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin is travelling around the world to investigate the impact that our hunger for meat is having on our planet’s environment.
Reports from the IPCC and the FAO revealed that the global livestock industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the running of all the world’s transport combined – and it’s polluting our air, land, and water. So just how bad is the problem, and what can we do about it?
Liz travels from Texan megafarms, where 50,000 cows belch out vast amounts of planet-warming methane, to giant pig farms producing colossal quantities of polluting manure. In the Amazon rainforest she discovers how beef farming is a leading cause of deforestation, and comes face to face with a baby harpy eagle – a species rapidly losing its habitat as cattle farmers cut down the forest. Feeding our planet’s livestock is also leading to huge biodiversity loss and, in South Africa, Liz discovers how this is affecting life in our oceans, helping to drive the African penguin towards extinction.
Liz also meets the scientists and entrepreneurs urgently looking for solutions. At a university in California, Liz puts her hand directly into the stomach of a cow – all in the name of reducing methane emissions. In North Carolina she meets an entrepreneur who’s using his manure to power local homes. And in San Francisco, she becomes one of the first people in the world to try a lab-made chicken nugget – a product that might reduce the environmental damage caused by meat production.
Liz finishes her journey on a small farm in Wales, where she meets a family who have shifted their relationship with meat by taking the bold step of slaughtering their own animals.
At the end of her journey, Liz starts to assess her own attitude to meat, and questions what we can all do to save our fragile planet.
Twitter lit up throughout the documentary with arguments for veganism, which in itself is not the solution. Changing the behaviour of millions or potentially billions of people is difficult at best. Many advocates of veganism, advocate total veganism which in itself is unsustainable.
As I have argued previously, what we need to promote globally is a balanced diet. The dangers of unintended consequences loom large promoting such a diet, for example the land mass to for a plant based diet may be significantly less but the consequences of a loss of biodiversity have not been adequately considered. Far better to promote incremental change and balance with regards to how people eat, rather then total change as it is simply impossible to foresee every consequence of any action.
It is great to see that the media is finally broadcasting programmes that make the public aware of the environmental problems some of the food we consume can cause. However, this is just the beginning.
What is needed by everyone though is more focus on the security of food and population sustainability. Whether it be crops or meat, overall the climate will force us to change our diet. This will create ‘food deserts’ in some areas of the world, where little or nothing can grow or be produced. Overall the BBC made a good start, but more focus on the benefits of genetic modification and the circular effects of food waste/losses in different regions of the world would be something to explore.