By Avanthi Jayasuriya
At present, climate change has become one of the major challenges faced by mankind. In view of the adverse impacts of climate change, cuts in global emission levels are considered to be an imperative and immediate need. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has noted that livestock supply chains, the meat production industry in particular, are among the most significant contributors to climate change with emissions estimated at 7.1 gigatonnes CO2-eq per annum, representing 14.5 percent of human-induced GHG emissions. In addition, animal agriculture also results in more dire consequences as seen in the deforestation for grazing purposes, the loss of biodiversity, and pollution of water sources due to animal waste disposal.
Mitigation efforts should therefore take into account the greenhouse gas emissions of the livestock industry. As such, the campaign for meatless food consumption has significant implications as an ecologically conscious, alternative lifestyle pattern. It is clear from the facts that a sizeable reduction in terms of daily meat consumption would contribute immensely towards reductions in emission and in country’s reaching their emission targets as promised in the Paris Agreement. This would not only ensure healthy living but also would help fulfill the individual and collective responsibility in contributing to the reduction of the carbon footprint. Further, the rescaling of meat industry would lead to more sustainable patterns of livestock production which incorporates humane farming practices that would ensure the welfare of animals.
The recently ratified Nationally Determined Contributions of Sri Lanka (NDCs) include climate actions that focus on the sectors pertaining to livestock sector. This would also have impacts of co-benefit based actions as livestock industry would feature under adaptation as a sector mentioned within the NDCs, though it will also contribute to the reduction of emissions if focusing on reducing the scale of animal agriculture, and reduce the meat production. It is important that in the implementation of these NDCs, that the country adopts a humane approach, as all beings are impacted by climate change, not only humans.
Speaking at the Global Youth Forum on Climate Change, Bhagya Wickramasinghe, who works with SLYCAN Trust with animal welfare related issues, commented on SLYCAN Trusts’s new initiative- Meatless Monday- which advocates change of lifestyle towards the meatless/vegan option by recognizing the impact of meat on the health and environment through conscious eating habits. She mentioned that mindful eating, and meatless food consumption are important in fulfilling our individual contribution to mitigating climate change impacts.
As part of the Sri Lankan government’s agenda in addressing the issue of climate change, the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment of Sri Lanka recently organised the ‘Sri Lanka Next - A Blue Green Era' Conference and Exhibition, and the 5th Asia- Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum, which took place from 17th – 19th October at Bandaranaike Memorial International Convention Hall. The forum focused on the theme of “adapting and living below 2*c: bridging gaps in policy and practice”. As a token of the significance of vegetarianism in mitigating climate change issues, the inauguration reception for Sri Lanka NEXT conference was held as a meatless dinner. The reception which was held on the eve of the 17th of October was attended by over 1000 international and local delegates participating in the APAN forum. The array of food which included many different types of cuisines, served as a tangible reminder of the alternative lifestyle options that are more environmentally friendly and sensitive to animal welfare. On the whole, the reception which marked the commencement of the Government’s official campaign in addressing climate change, reiterated an important message in highlighting the significance of meatless food consumption in fulfilling our individual and social responsibility towards creating a better environment.