Category Archives: World News

A Fully Vegetarian Village

ItahariTole, a village in Bishnupur, Saptari, has turned into a pure vegetarian settlement.There are 200 households in the village where all residents are Mandals, except for one family each of Harijan, Kamar, Thakur and Kayastha.

Consumption of meat and fish is prohibited in this settlement. “As all the villagers follow Kabirpanthi philosophy, they are against killing any living organism,” said former VDC vice-chairman Mohan Mandal. Villagers have never consumed meat on the sixth day of a baby’s birth and have never carried a fishing net in the locality since ancient times. “We are also against animal sacrifice to appease the Gods,” said Mandal. Duragananda Mandal, a local youth, said nobody is allowed to hunt in the village. The villagers offer fruits, betel nuts, and flowers to their kuldevta in Kabir Ashram, said Chandreshwor Mandal. Local youths pay homage to their kuldevta before leaving for foreign employment. Social activist Bhupendra Mandal said anybody found consuming meat will have to distribute curd and beaten rice to the entire village as penalty.


Meat makes the Planet Thirsty

By James Mcwilliams
March 7, 2014

AUSTIN, Tex. — CALIFORNIA is experiencing one of its worst droughts on record. Just two and a half years ago, Folsom Lake, a major reservoir outside Sacramento, was at 83 percent capacity. Today it’s down to 36 percent. In January, there was no measurable rain in downtown Los Angeles. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. President Obama has pledged $183 million in emergency funding. The situation, despite last week’s deluge in Southern California, is dire.
With California producing nearly half of the fruit and vegetables grown in the United States, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and grapes. These crops are the ones that a recent report in the magazine Mother Jones highlighted as being unexpectedly water intensive. Who knew, for example, that it took 5.4 gallons to produce a head of broccoli, or 3.3 gallons to grow a single tomato? This information about the water footprint of food products — that is, the amount of water required to produce them — is important to understand, especially for a state that dedicates about 80 percent of its water to agriculture.

But for those truly interested in lowering their water footprint, those numbers pale next to the water required to fatten livestock. A 2012 study in the journal Ecosystems by Mesfin M. Mekonnen and Arjen Y. Hoekstra, both at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, tells an important story. Beef turns out to have an overall water footprint of roughly four million gallons per ton produced. By contrast, the water footprint for “sugar crops” like sugar beets is about 52,000 gallons per ton; for vegetables it’s 85,000 gallons per ton; and for starchy roots it’s about 102,200 gallons per ton.

Factor in the kind of water required to produce these foods, and the water situation looks even worse for the future of animal agriculture in drought-stricken regions that use what’s known as “blue water,” or water stored in lakes, rivers and aquifers, which California and much of the West depend on. Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons per ton of blue water; starchy roots, about 4,200 gallons per ton; and fruit, about 38,800 gallons per ton. By comparison, pork consumes 121,000 gallons of blue water per ton of meat produced; beef, about 145,000 gallons per ton; and butter, some 122,800 gallons per ton. There’s a reason other than the drought that Folsom Lake has dropped as precipitously as it has. Don’t look at kale as the culprit. (Although some nuts, namely almonds, consume considerable blue water, even more than beef.) That said, a single plant is leading California’s water consumption.

Unfortunately, it’s a plant that’s not generally cultivated for humans: alfalfa. Grown on over a million acres in California, alfalfa sucks up more water than any other crop in the state. And it has one primary destination: cattle. Increasingly popular grass-fed beef operations typically rely on alfalfa as a supplement to pasture grass. Alfalfa hay is also an integral feed source for factory-farmed cows, especially those involved in dairy production.

If Californians were eating all the beef they produced, one might write off alfalfa’s water footprint as the cost of nurturing local food systems. But that’s not what’s happening. Californians are sending their alfalfa, and thus their water, to Asia. The reason is simple. It’s more profitable to ship alfalfa hay from California to China than from the Imperial Valley to the Central Valley. Alfalfa growers are now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year from this drought-ridden region to the other side of the world in the form of alfalfa. All as more Asians are embracing the American-style, meat-hungry diet.


The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

World News

China is urging people to eat less meat — which could have a big climate impact

In the US, the Obama administration has been reluctant to encourage people to eat less meat for health and environmental reasons. The 2015 US Dietary Guidelines, for instance, remained fairly muted on the topic after fierce lobbying by the meat industry.

But in China, where livestock emissions are soaring and obesity is on the rise, officials are being far less circumspect. The Chinese Nutrition Society (CNS) is now enlisting celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, director James Cameron, and actress Li Bingbing in a nationwide campaign urging people to cut their meat consumption in half — in line with new dietary recommendations. The campaign, taglined “Less Meat, Less Heat, More Life,” will tout the climate benefits of lower meat consumption and feature PSAs on billboards and televisions across China. We’ll see how it goes, but even a partway successful “less meat” campaign could have a surprisingly large impact on global warming. A new report from WildAid, which is partnering with the campaign, crunches some numbers. Right now the average Chinese person eats about 170 grams of beef, pork, poultry, and lamb a day. China’s latest health guidelines, crafted by CNS and the Ministry of Health, advise cutting back to 75 grams a day.

If all 1.3 billion people in China were to follow this advice — a big “if,” but just to illustrate — global agricultural emissions would drop 12 percent. That, in turn, would cause total greenhouse gas emissions to fall roughly 1.5 percent, more than the entire annual output of France and Belgium combined. And the savings would get bigger and bigger over the next few decades. We’d get about one-twelfth of the emission cuts needed to stay below 2°C, the report calculates. It doesn’t have to entail going full vegetarian — even just whittling down portions can make a dent.

The average Chinese person eats half as much meat as the average American each year. But because there are 1.3 billion people in China, total meat consumption is enormous — and growing fast. China already consumes twice as much meat as the United States. By 2030, it’s expected to be triple. The livestock needed to support those diets have a considerable climate footprint. Cows and sheep release lots of methane through “enteric fermentation” — burps, mostly — and their manure. Plus, there’s land use, the energy needed for farming, and so on. All told, emissions from livestock are estimated to be some 14.5 percent of the global total.

As a 2015 report from Chatham House points out, the type of animal makes a big difference. Beef and lamb produce the most greenhouse gases per kilogram of meat produced. Chickens, which convert feed more efficiently and use less land, produce just a fraction of the amount. As China gets richer, the country has also seen a rise in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and so on. So health officials have been pushing healthier diets: more fruits and veggies, less meat, etc.