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The impact of the livestock on the global environment

I was listening to a feature on BBC World Service about the devastating depletion of fish stocks off West Africa that is not only threatening the livelihood of the fisherman of countries such as Senegal, but the health of the people living in the area. Apparently fish contribute 75% of the protein intake for people across the region. (Featured image courtesy of the BBC)

The issue here is not global warming but a case of massive overfishing by huge factory fishing vessels mainly that take the fish to huge processing plants in Mauritania (right next to Senegal) where there are turned into fish meal powder. This fish meal is exported, much of it going to China to feed other fish (farmed fish) and other animals such as pigs.

When I became a vegan, about a year ago, one of the main reasons I chose to move away from consuming animal products was the environmental impact of worldwide animal protein production. It is of course a complex topic with many conflicting studies showing the impacts of the livestock industry on the environment – but stories such as what is happening in West Africa offer empirical evidence that something is not right.

Also this week there was another story on this theme, also on the BBC, about the threat of expanding soybean production in Brazil. This is all the more pertinent with the recent result presidential election that has bought the far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro to power. Beyond his extreme views on the civil rights of women and minorities, he has also outlined his plans to expand agriculture in sensitive environmental ecosystems, such as the Amazon rain forest and Cerrado savanna. Deforestation is a major concern for its impact on global warming! One of his first actions has been to merge the agriculture and environment ministries, a sign of what is to come. The Cerrado is not as well known as the Amazon and is the same size as Western Europe. It is one of the most bio-diverse places in the World, with 40% of the animal and plant species being found anywhere else. Sadly, the Cerrado is under threat from unscrupulous burning and clearing for soybean production, much of which is exported as livestock feed around the world.

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