1) The meat industry is choosing to feed animals instead of humans
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one-third of the world’s population is affected by malnutrition; at least half of the 10.4 million child deaths each year are attributed to it. Yet, between one-third to half of world’s edible harvest is fed to livestock each year.
We are using the land in developing countries — in which malnutrition rates are inhumanely high— that could otherwise be used to grow food for humans to produce and export feed for animals in the developed world.
For example, Brazil sends large amounts of crops, that are grown on destroyed rainforest land, to Europe and Japan each year while 16.7 million people in the country suffer from malnutrition.
A report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that if we can decrease meat consumption in the developed world by 50 percent, we can save 3.6 million children in the developing world from malnutrition.
Yes, killing animals to feed humans is cruel (for some) but feeding them at the expense of millions of people is beyond that, it is a violation of human rights.
2) The meat industry is draining the planet
Water is a resource critical for life on earth and it is vastly exploited by the meat industry. Worldwide, more than a billion people can’t access enough safe water that meets minimum levels of health. And the threat of water scarcity is growing by the day.
Meanwhile, the meat industry plays a critical role in depleting and polluting the planet’s water resources. The average of meat products has a much larger water footprint than plant crops. According to David Pimentel, a water resource specialist at Cornell University, it takes 500 litres of water to produce a kilogram of potatoes, 900 to produce a kilogram of wheat, 2000 for soybeans, and a whopping 100.000 litres of water for just one kilogram of beef.
The diet of a meat eater requires 15 times more water than a plant-based one. This means that switching to a plant-based diet can save up to five million litres per year, per person.
3) It’s not just food and water
On top of food and water, another resource crucial to the prosperity of people and the planet that the meat industry is exploiting is land. A meat-based diet uses up to 20 times more land than a vegan one. The use of land is mainly attributed to animal feed pastures and grazing.
Worldwide, we are now using 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface for livestock. And as if taking up precious land is not enough, the meat industry also degrades the land it uses, making it baren.
As the world isn’t this big flat ball (oblate spheroid) the land that’s required to grow and feed livestock isn’t just around for the taking. To create this land trees and vegetation, habitats for millions of living organisms, are destroyed.
Over four decades, about 40 percent of rainforests were cut down in Central America to produce animal feed and land for grazing. Between 2004 and 2005 an estimated 1.2 million hectares of rainforest was destroyed because of the soybean boom, the production of soybean as animal feed.
Many experts on desertification argue that the deforestation of the Sahara Desert which was once a fertile region was caused primarily by animal grazing, the direction we are going towards right now.
The desertification caused by the meat industry affects the rural poor the worst. Drought caused by the changes in rainy seasons, which is related to the destruction of rainforests and overgrazing of the land, has become the chief cause of extreme human famine. Destruction of the land is leaving local communities hungry, poor, and desperate.
4) Working in the meat industry is not good for humans
Animal farming is considered amongst the most dangerous industries worldwide. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US government (OSHA) has reported that just in the US, close to 10.000 people have died from work-related injuries between 1992 and 2009.
The injuries that occur in animal farming include a vast range from chronic pain to cardiovascular disease, to death.
Slaughterhouse work is often undertaken by transient and migrant workers who are undocumented which leads to situations in which the workers are fearful of reporting illness or injury. Often, they don’t receive adequate treatment.
On top of the physical toll, many workers endure incredible emotional trauma that comes from working in a slaughterhouse. According to Human Rights Watch, worker conditions in factory farms are considered “systematic human rights abuse.”
5) Did someone say climate change?
A report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, states that "the livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity.”
According to the same report, the meat industry produces 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than the emissions of all planes, trains, and cars combined.
By now, we should all be convinced that climate change is real and it affects not just the planet but also its inhabitants. As Dr Katherine Hayhoe says, "The most dangerous myth we’ve bought into is that climate change will only harm plants, animals, and future generations; someone else, not me.”
Same goes with eating a meat-based diet, we are vaguely aware of the effects of the livestock industry on climate change but do not realise how dire the situation is, and how close to home.
Ignoring the effects of the meat industry on climate change is essentially just fooling ourselves, trying to sweep a massive problem under a bath mat.
Veganism implies different things to different people. To some, it’s just a dietary preference, some don’t like the taste of meat, some think eggs are gross. To others, eating meat represents animal suffering, a violation of animal rights.
But in the current climate veganism represents much more than a dietary preference or caring about animals. The meat industry, as it currently is, does much more than just harm animals. It is depleting our resources, polluting the planet, and exploiting human beings.
Substantially reducing (and preferably ending, but let’s be real) meat consumption and production is crucial for the future of the planet and consequently, the people.
Sign up for our newsletter. Every week, we will send you the best stories about the world of doing good.
Join us for the second of our Kinder Conversations - the Sky has a Limit.
Following our investigation into the Future of Meat in February, we've turned our attention to the sky. We'll be talking about whether air travel can be more sustainable, and how.
We're delighted to be hosting this event in collaboration with our friends at TQ, the Amsterdam tech hub where we're based.
📅 When Monday 17 June 18:30 - 20:30
📭 Where TQ, Singel 542, Amsterdam
🎯 Why should I fly Kinder? To hear about the latest research and technology making air travel more sustainable. To find out what you can do to reduce the impact your flights are having. To share a drink with like-minded travelers, and sample some of our vegan snacks (including beloved Professor Grunschnabel ice cream, as seen at the Future of Meat event)
Here at Kinder, we believe that greener travel is one of the key ways in which we can tackle the climate crisis. Travelling green can mean a lot of things, but right now we’re concerned about the aviation industry.
If aviation were a country, it’d be a top 10 polluter - and C02 emissions from air travel are growing many times faster than any other form. We’re already in a very dangerous position, and although there are many potential solutions, we sometimes feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do about it.
That’s where Kinder Conversations comes in.
Kinder Conversations is a series of events which delve into the biggest issues facing the world.
At the Sky has a Limit, we’ll be bringing together representatives from research and technology, the aviation industry and the not-for-profit sector to talk about sustainable air travel. We’ll hear more about the problem, and a lot more about the solutions.
Plus, there’ll be time to get a drink from TQ’s bar (buying a drink helps our friends from TQ support more events like this), try some vegan ice cream, and chat to fellow travellers about the steps you can take to travel greener.
✈️ Are you ready to #flykinder? Then secure your boarding pass here.
I don't have a driving license and when pressed about getting one by friends tired of chauffeuring me around I usually say I will only get one if I can drive something cool, like the Batmobile or a flying car. Unfortunately, I might have to honour that promise as it seems that flying cars are finally taking off (alas, no commercial Batmobiles in sight).
Indeed, several promising startups around the world are working to deliver the "car of the future" over the next few years. Like the Dutch company PAL-V that showed off a limited edition of its flying car at the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland.
The PAL-V is a hybrid between a car and a helicopter (or more precisely, a gyrocopter), able to reach a top speed of 160 km/h on the tarmac but also get airborne in just 5 minutes, hitting airspeeds of 180 km/h over a range of up to 500 km. But since buying a PAL-V will set you back around € 350,000 I might have to pass on this one. Moreover, flying this beauty requires not just a driving license but also (understandably) a license to fly, and that's just too much for me.
Thankfully, other companies are developing vehicles that need no driver at all. Aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter, for example, is working on Nexus, an air taxi capable of taking off and landing in the middle of a city (whereas the PAL-V still needs a runway, albeit short, to get airborne).
Called VTOLs (short for Vertical Take Off and Landing), these aircraft aim to become sort of an Uber of urban air travel, bringing customers to the opposite part of the city or even to a nearby city in a matter of few minutes.
If you're at JFK airport in New York, for example, and have a meeting in Manhattan, instead of embarking on a 1-hour, Cosmopolis-style taxi ride, you could just hail a flying car and be downtown in 5 minutes.
Futuristic as it may sound, concrete plans to make it come true are underway. Earlier this month, German startup Lilium successfully completed the first test of its new five-seater Lilium Jet, an electric vehicle that, according to the company, will have a range of 300 km and a top speed of 300 km/h.
The reason electric flight is such an exciting area of research is not just because flying taxis will allow a handful of high rollers to drastically cut on their commuting time. Electric flying cars might be really good for the environment too.
A recent study published by Nature highlighted that, in some cases, flying cars could eventually be greener than even electric road cars, cutting emissions while reducing traffic on increasingly busy roads.
Moreover, developments in the field of flying cars could also boost the research on electric flight at large, including long haul electric flights, sort of the Holy Grail of aviation. And, as known, the civil aviation industry needs to find effective ways to lower its carbon emissions as soon as possible.
However, as explained by Hugh Hunt in an article on The Conversation that we republished here on Kinder World, "gaps in necessary technology and practical uncertainties beyond the cars’ promising physics mean that they may not arrive in time to be a large-scale solution to the energy crisis and congestion."
Let's get this one thing straight: most people prefer flying to other modes of transport, and we seem to do it more and more often. The airline industry is booming and 4.1 billion passengers have been transported last year. Almost every figure one looks at shows the impressive increase in flights over the last two decades.
Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Association for Flight Transport proclaims: “In 2000, the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months. Flying has never been more accessible. And this is liberating people to explore more of our planet for work, leisure, and education. Aviation is the business of freedom."
However, this ‘business of freedom’ runs on fossil energy carriers as planes still almost exclusively fly on kerosene. Kerosene is a fuel produced by oil refining and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major product of burning kerosene. The 2-5% of all global CO2 emissions the aviation industry emits is caused by its fuel consumption (and choice). And unlike other fuels like diesel or gasoline, airlines don't pay taxes on kerosene in most countries — making cheap air travel possible.
In 2018 Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair became number 9 in the list of Europe’s biggest CO2 emitters and still claims to be the ‘greenest and cleanest airline’. Andrew Murphy – the aviation manager at the European Federation for Transport and Environment — argues that Ryanair the new coal when it comes to climate pollution. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, on the other hand, dismisses such claims by saying the claims are ‘’complete and utter rubbish’’.
Other airlines, like KLM who partly uses renewable jet-fuel, are acknowledging the problem but they aren't too far behind Ryanair on the list of emitters.
The growth of the industry is not expected to slow down. India and China are the biggest growth markets, the latter alone is building 200 new commercial airports in the next ten years. Moreover, industry forecasts suggest that emissions will rise by 700% until 2050 which amounts to more than 4% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.
If we want to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, every the average earthling has a quota of two tons of CO2 per annum but just a return trip between New York and Amsterdam generates three tons already.
Compared to other modes of transport planes are the biggest CO2 emitters per travelled kilometre followed by cars, buses and finally trains which are the least polluting. The CO2 emissions, however, are only one half of the medal. The impact of flying on global warming is different than most other transport as it happens in the air high above the ground where the processes that cause or reduce global warming happen. These include CO2 and nitrogen oxide emission but also cloud formation, ozone and soot as well as methane reduction.
The climate impact of the emitted greenhouse gases in the stratosphere are three times higher than on the ground. Flying also causes condensation trails and fog clouds in certain weather conditions. Such clouds can have a warming or a cooling effect on the climate. One way to improve the climate effect of flying would be planning better routes where warming clouds are avoided and the formation of cooling clouds is favoured — our current routes have an overall warming effect.
So, hypothetically, some flights with clever flight-route planning might even reduce global warming. However, as we don't have time to hypothesise, we need to find and urgently implement other ways to bring down the impact of flying, like using better fuels or even better planes.
This article was written by Eric Schuler for Kinder World. Schuler is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam and works on new industrial sustainable chemistries to turn captured CO2 into useful things such as plastics or fuel. He's also a photojournalist with an interest in climate and land-use change.