LETTER: Eliminating meat from your diet is not the solution to climate change

Cows at the K-State Beef Unit look up from their corn feed on Feb. 20 2017. (Regan Tokos | Collegian Media Group)

This letter to the editor was written by Gabriella Leone, freshman in animal sciences and industry. If you would like to write a letter to the Collegian, send us an email at letters@kstatecollegian.com or visit kstatecollegian.com/contact.

The carbon footprint being left by today’s population is a really popular topic and controversial subject. Everyone wants to point fingers and blame livestock production for a problem that is much bigger than my cows.

Multiple sources use charts and graphs to explain that livestock production is only 9 percent of the United State’s greenhouse gas emissions, and 14.5 percent of the world’s. Now, I am not sure how so many people have found it rational to support a world where livestock production isn’t one of the most important parts of our economy, a major source of nutrition and provider of jobs.

Humanity’s entire evolution over the last two or three centuries revolved around the improvements we make using livestock. Our entire infrastructure is built around livestock production and transportation. There are people that get excited when they see that the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions can be cut nearly in half by removing livestock production from the equation.

The catch is that these numbers do not take into consideration changes to our carbon dioxide, methane and hydrofluorcarbon emissions that would follow when the world creates a new means of sustaining humanity.

People around the world would be forced to increase use of farming equipment and new transportation to move all the vegetables and fruit necessary to meet our nutritional needs. There are research groups that estimate a 2.6 percent decrease in emissions in the U.S. once animal facilities are vacated and more irrigation cropland is developed. I can’t even start to imagine how much money and resources that project alone would take.

This would be a major problem not only for America, but also in China and India, the two most populated countries in the world that are already struggling to meet their populations’ nutritional needs and can’t import food animals in fast enough to keep up with population growth.

On the other hand, I see Earth’s greenhouse gas problem answered with a more obvious solution. How about the fact that vehicles account for 29 percent of America’s carbon footprint? That is a much bigger number that we could correct far more easily and by hardly changing the world we already live in.

Instead of giving up meat, it would be much more logical and effective to give up driving and using gasoline. By choosing to walk, ride a bike or use public transportation, we could cut our greenhouse gas emissions by up to 29 percent. I don’t know if you remember, but that is more than double the amount of emissions that livestock produce in the U.S. It is estimated that every year, a single two-passenger vehicle produces 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the course of one year.

It’s true that we need to take action in reducing our carbon footprint, but the most obvious way to do that is to give up burning gas. Instead of changing humanity’s way of life and everything that mankind has built, let’s all drive less. We can make a difference in the world in a much more logical and practical way than giving up meat.

Gabriella Leone is a freshman in animal sciences and industry. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.