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The Meat Industry

Daphne van Hesteren

The Meat Industry

In the last century, eating (processed) meat has become a standard for many countries across the world. People, including myself, were raised with the belief that meat is a necessary ingredient of a healthy lifestyle. Although some forms of meat can contain beneficial nutrients such as proteins, it is easy to replace these with natural products. Thus, eating meat is not a necessity on a daily basis.

Slowly but steadily, the media is increasing awareness for the disastrous effects the meat industry has on the climate through greenhouse gas emissions1, deforestation2, and the exploitation of agricultural land and water supplies3. Academic research supports these claims and through the practice of data sharing – in this case agricultural data – this knowledge transferred to government institutions as well. Through media coverage and research, people are being encouraged to consider a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or flexitarian lifestyle in order to collectively hamper the effects. Examples of such media coverage are the interesting documentary ‘Cowspiracy’ or the short animation from Kurzgesagt.

Nevertheless, an American study shows that people are still not aware or convinced of the full extent of meat’s climate impact4. Although plant-based diets are gaining popularity, the European average meat consumption per capita has continued to steadily increase over the last 5 years5. It is surprising that given the enormous quantities of data showcasing meat consumption’s environmental impact, few politicians and policy makers show interest in strategies to reduce meat consumption or encourage more sustainable eating practices6.

Apparently, the media and researchers cannot attack this issue on their own, even with an abundance of data. It is important that institutions and policy makers support the goal of informing citizens about the impact of the meat industry. In order to achieve this, it is vital that datasets from the meat industry are published openly and shared with other industries. In addition, sharing information about the positive impact of a vegetarian diet on people’s health and suggestions on how to properly change your diet would be very helpful. This can be achieved for instance through visualisations.

Eating meat is routine, and people are creatures of habit. Behavioural change is incredibly difficult to achieve, but widespread awareness is a step in the right direction. Governmental institutions carry the responsibility of informing, or even convincing people that eating less or no meat at all is beneficial for our health7 and crucial for our planet.

Thus, this leaves a question: How can governments use data sharing to increase awareness about the environmental impact of the meat industry?


The Meat Industry
Image credit:
(c) Tobias Nordhausen, Flickr/Creative Commons