The Question of Reducing Meat Consumption
The combination of rising incomes, population growth and urbanization has led to an increasing request for animal products. Especially the worldwide production of meat has been growing continually from 70 million tons (1961) to 318 million tons (2014). It is projected to increase up to 376 million tonnes by 2030. (The table down below showcases how the consumption has increased in individual areas.)
Therefore, the livestock industry takes up a large part of the world’s population’s nutrition. For the large majority of people, livestock products are desired both for nutritional value and taste. Livestock products provide high-value protein and are important sources of a wide range of essential micronutrients. Products like meat, eggs and milk provide minerals such as iron and zinc, but also vitamins like vitamin A, B6 or B12.
Excessive consumption of animal products in some countries and social classes can, however, lead to excessive intakes of fat. These dietary changes are compounded by lifestyle changes and lead to a reduced intake of complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre and fruit and vegetable intakes.
There is a strong affiliation between the level of income and the consumption of animal protein. As diets become richer and more diverse due a higher budget, the population can afford for their nutrition, the consumption of animal products increases in parallel. The dietary changes that characterize the ‘‘nutrition transition’’ include both quantitative and qualitative changes in the diet. At the same time, developing countries continue to face food shortages and nutrient inadequacies.
The growing appeal for livestock products is likely to have an unwanted impact on the environment. Industrial livestock farming is producing 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and is said to become one of the biggest contributor to the climate change.
In terms of shortage of space and a growing large-scale, industrial production, the farms will be located closer to urban centres, which brings with it a range of environmental and public health risks.
Furthermore, the animal welfare should be considered while taking action. The protection of animals act is stated in the legal provisions of the EU and must not be missed out.
The worldwide consumption of meat has a great impact on the world’s population’s health, positively but also negatively. It can be reduced indirectly e.g. through taxes or stronger regulations of the meat industry, but also directly through e.g. elucidations and further public measures, if it is considered as necessary. The debate should be focussing on how the WHO can combine the international meat consumption with the pressure of climate change, the economic interests and development, as well as the individual’s health, the animals’ wellbeing and the situation of the farmers.