Climate activists and some scientists claim that giving up meat is the best thing we could do for the planet. However, some experts have warned that going vegan is not better for the environment and that eating meat has benefits which are often overlooked.
Speaking at an expert panel in London, UK, scientists from the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College argued that meat is critical for the development of children worldwide. Rather than moving away from livestock production, they said, we should be looking at ways to make it more efficient – something researchers are already working on.
According to Prof. Geoff Simm, Director of Global Academy Agriculture and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh, “Often the argument is made that going vegan would minimise land use, and the modelling studies that have been done demonstrate that that’s not the case.
“We feel that while livestock production has a range of economic, social and environmental costs and benefits, the costs have perhaps been receiving far more attention recently than some of the benefits.
“Meat has massive social benefits. It’s an important source of dietary protein, energy, highly bioavailable micronutrients, even small amounts of animal-sourced food have a really important effect on the development of children, in the developing world on their cognitive and physical development and they are really important.”
Researchers are currently attempting to breed more efficient cattle which eat less but grow faster. The hope is that this could reduce the amount of methane released by cattle and improve the sector’s carbon footprint.
Prof. Mike Coffey from Scotland’s Rural College pointed out that the difference in methane emissions from best and worst cattle was as much as 30 per cent, and that using the most efficient animals could reduce carbon emissions by almost a third (in the UK). This could happen as early as next year.
He explained, “By next year farmers will be able to select bulls whose daughters consume less feed for the amount of milk they produce.
“Where we go next is, can we actually measure methane emissions from groups of animals?”