Meatless days

Meatless days

A small town in Belgium has gone meat-free one day a week, thanks to Dr R K Pachauri’s efforts at urging the world to adopt meatless days. Says Dr Pachauri, ''I had gone to the city of Ghent, where I had addressed a 800-strong gathering saying how eating less meat is beneficial for our environment in the long run. There are smiliar efforts on in other European countries as well.''

The Belgian city of Ghent met his request by declaring Thursday a meat-free day. Restaurants, cafes and schools will now opt to make vegetarianism the default for one day a week, and promote meat-free meals on other days as well.

Speaking to Sunday Herald from Berlin, where he is addressing a group of world business leaders to work out ways in which they can contribute towards protecting the environment, Dr Pachauri said, “Asking people to change their lifestyle is not an easy thing to do. There is bound to be extreme reactions. But I am happy that it has initiated a discussion with a number of editorials in the world media coming out in support of vegetarianism.” He said though people are now beginning to recognise the importance of cutting car and air journeys, they don’t fully realise the impact of livestock production on climate change, let alone its future impact.

Dr Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, raised a global debate when he made a public statement last year asking the world to eat less meat. “An average household would reduce the impact of their greenhouse gas emissions by more if they halved their meat consumption than if they halved their car usage,” he is reported to have said.

He cites a 2006 report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which stated that livestock are one of the most significant contributors to climate change because 70 percent of  forest land in the Amazon has been turned over to grazing, and livestock now use 30 percent of the world’s land surface.

Current global animal production is responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, he says, with more than 60 billion farm animals reared each year. The IPCC projects that figure will double by 2050. “Meat production represents 18 percent of global human-induced GHG emissions, including 37 percent of global methane emissions, which has 23 times the Global Warming Potential of CO2 and 65 percent of nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the warming potential of CO2,” he says.

Dr Pachauri, who turned vegetarian himself some 10 years ago, says there are many who have not taken kindly to his suggestion. In his blog, he gives the example of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, who reportedly retorted by saying: ‘No, Rajendra Pachauri, distinguished chairman of the panel, I am not going to have one meat-free day per week. No, I am not going to become a gradual vegetarian. In fact, the whole proposition is so irritating that I am almost minded to eat more meat in response.’

Adds Dr Pachauri, “All in all I am happy that I have been able to at least stir up a ‘healthy’ debate linking dietary choices with the health of individuals and, of course, the health of the planet, the only one on which we humans can live at present. As a result, I have also received several invitations for speaking on the same subject in other parts of the world, and I might accept some of these to see that there is global attention provided to the excessive consumption of meat and the benefits of reducing it both in terms of human health and the health of the planet. I certainly do not expect people to alter their daily preferences, but perhaps some reflection could bring about changes that may actually result in reducing emissions of GHGs. If that were to happen I would feel satisfied that at least raising this issue was not so futile despite the Hon’ble Mayor of London threatening to eat more meat in response to my provocation.”

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