You can start changing the world now by simply changing your diet

A number of families in the villages have traditionally depended on animal farming for their livelihood especially by selling milk.

A number of families in the villages have traditionally depended on animal farming for their livelihood especially by selling milk. While the Foot and Mouth Disease was in the news a few weeks ago and mass slaughter of livestock in Rodrigues and Mauritius sparked reactions for cultural and other reasons, there were also talks on the issues related to cattle-rearing which villagers had to face years ago and other problems repeatedly cropping up even today.

A tale of intimidation, threats and theft. Cattle owners relate how butchers from the city who were informed about new-born calves would come and harass the farmers to sell them. When the latter refused, goondas were sent to steal the calves in the middle of the night. Today, disturbing reports from several cattle-breeders reveal the short life expectancy of calves especially after some veterinary officers’ visit for regulatory vaccination. Strangely, the young animals fall ill and die. And it has been going on for years. People opine that it is a deliberate act done to harm and cut off livelihood of some village folks.

The Ministry of Agriculture must as a matter of urgency investigate such cases and probe into the work carried out by veterinarians to find out whether there is any vicious motivation behind the premature death of young animals. This would clarify the issue and send the right signal to all parties concerned.

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Meat Consumption and Climate Change

Much has been written on the topic. Probably not enough. Reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by changing your diet – the most obvious solution proposed, judging from scientific reports on the impact of animal agriculture on climate change.

First on the list of culprits are livestock sector and the by-products which account for more greenhouse gas emissions than transport, and is a major source of land and water degradation. Global industrial farming is said to be the most destructive industry in the world, responsible for global warming, deforestation, drought and murder of land activists. It is a business which is among the most sectors that use massively the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources, contributing to water pollution and the degradation of coral reefs.

It takes 660 gallons of water to produce a beef-burger. 68% of the world’s approximately 5 billion hectares of land is used for livestock, a sector which grows more rapidly than any other agricultural sub-sector. One third of the land is used to produce food for livestock, not humans. 80% of the pasture land can be used to restore grasslands and forests, capture carbon and further alleviate climate change, besides being a boon to biodiversity. The remaining lands could be dedicated to growing more crops to fill gaps in the food supply, according to reports.

A murky complicity between politicians, multinational corporations in meat industry and cowardly impotence of NGOs worldwide is also denounced.

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Less meat, Vegetarian or Vegan

Young adults are getting more sensitive to awareness campaigns focusing on slaughter of billions of chickens and cattle on a daily basis. Videos on cruelty to animals in slaughter houses go viral. Elimination of red meat in food habits is on the rise, all the more as environmental and health benefits are highlighted. Consuming less meat, and becoming vegetarian or vegan entail fewer health risks, and consequently reduce medical bills for people and governments.

Environmental-friendly solutions to fight against pollution and deteriorating food quality are increasingly brought into the limelight to sensitize the public. Reports and documentaries highlight land degradation and disturbance of water cycles through overgrazing, the damage done by animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers used to spray feed crops, human-induced methane, ammonia, phosphorous and nitrogen contamination. It is estimated that by 2050, elimination of red meat will cause food-related gas emissions to drop by 60%.

It is a well established fact that self-serving governments defend the interests of multinational corporations to the detriment of public interest. The power of the meat industry to silence those who stand up to them, even resorting to murder, is no secret.

Vegetarianism is deeply imbedded in Indian culture. Going back to it is no great feat, neither is eating little meat especially to those who never include red meat in their diet. The change is occurring in advanced countries where young adults are taking the lead in adopting an alternative lifestyle by eating less meat, and becoming vegetarian or vegan.

In Mauritius, the Ministry of Agriculture should inform the public about the measures taken to regulate the use of pesticides in the production of vegetables. Currently, it seems that even brèdes should be soaked in water for one hour before use. Given that planters are as law-abiding as drivers respect traffic rules on the road, the public should be more demanding as regards alternative agricultural methods for a higher quality of vegetables.

Notwithstanding the power of big food and drink corporations, real power lies where truth comes up. The higher the awareness that diets affect the environment and health, the deeper the desire to change diets will spread. In all likelihood, it will certainly be the contribution of the younger generation to save the planet from destruction today and for future generations – by simply changing consumption habits. No doubt, the idea that you can start changing the world now by simply changing your diet is compelling and liberating.

Nita Chicooree-Mercier

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