By Amaraizu Iheanyi Genius
One of the greatest challenges threatening the existence of mankind currently is the issue of climate change. Climate change also referred to as global warming which is a rise in the average temperature of earth is simply an effect of a change that occurs in weather pattern over a period of time. Many direct causes of climate change has been identified especially the emission of greenhouse gases and the burning of fossil fuels. Nonetheless, there are many other indirect causes which have not so far been popularized among our society and they keep being on the rise, one of these indirect causes of climate change is meat consumption.
In time past, the World Health Organization (WHO), had issued a health alert stating that the consumption of all forms of red meat and processed meat such as pork, beef, hot dog, ham, sausages, corned beef, canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces among others, carries a high risk of cancer. Even with this warning, according to FAOstat there are 19.5 million heads of livestock in Nigeria with the production about 380 thousand metric tons of meat per year.
Photo: A Typical Meat Market in Nigeria
Consumption of meat in Nigeria has been on the increase, and this rise has been identified as an indirect cause of another challenge of climate change in our environment. One may wonder, “How does consumption of meat affect climate change?” Here is how it works: consumption equals to production. Increase in the consumption level invariably stirs an increase in production, and according to a publication in Guardian newspaper, “intensive livestock-rearing is a major cause of greenhouse gases, in part because of the methane produced by the animals and the massive slurry pits that accompany large farms. It also diverts water and grains to animal-rearing, which is less efficient than directing the grains towards direct human consumption.” It is confirmed that Livestock farming has a vast environmental footprint, being a source of about 18% of human produced greenhouse emission (more than emissions from trains, trucks, ships and cars combined). It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration and deforestation.
Even, meat consumption is indirectly a major cause of farmers and herders crisis currently rocking Nigeria which has claimed over 2, 000 lives in the last 365 days. Chiagozie Udeh, an ecologist and environmental expert in an interview said, “Climate change is not ranked among the five top causes of conflict in Nigeria, namely, Tribalism, Resource Control, Religion, Land and Trade. But that reality has been altered. The past thirty-six months has been fiercely violent for several Nigerian States that experienced rampaging Fulani herdsmen killing many subsistent farmers, who defend their farms from grazing herds.
“The Fulani herdsmen are nomadic and habitually migratory. They move from North to South annually, with their cattle in search of grazing fields. The movement is seasonal. Now with climate change, the movement pattern has been markedly altered. Due to expansive desertification, drought and unchecked deforestation in
Herdsmen (Photo: Premium Times)
In Nigeria, the major challenge against reduction in meat consumption is ignorance. Kemi Ola, a meat consumer has this to say: “I have been hearing of climate change and its effects, but I don’t believe eating meat is the cause of flooding or the cause of hot weather.” In an interview with Mr. Bello, a meat seller at Kabusa Market in Abuja, “I don’t know anything about climate change. I sell meat to survive and I pray for more customers to buy meat from me.” This goes a long way to show the level of ignorance and the perception among most meat sellers in Nigeria. Asking for lower consumption of meat is like a bad business for them, and this shows there is still a lot of sensitization needs and engagements to be made. First, people need to know and learn how to contribute to fighting against climate change.
Photo: Plant-based food
A report showed that widespread adoption of vegetarian diet would bring down emissions to 70%. In an article written by Mattew Prescot, he observed that there are also whole, plant-based foods readily available to help us each curb climate change. We can replace the chicken in our chicken salad with chickpeas. We can try black bean burgers, and fill our sandwiches with sautéed Portobello mushrooms instead of turkey for a meaty, smoky texture and flavor. The list of options is only as limited as our creativity in the kitchen. “With the marketplace making it easier to eat more plant-based foods, it’s no surprise that movements like “Meatless Monday” have taken off,” Prescot said. David Suzuki Foundation (One nature) outlined four (4) things members of any society can do to affect the needed change of meat consumption:
- Eat meat-free meals
- Buy organic and local food whenever possible
- Don’t waste food
- Grow your own
The Nigerian government has a role to play in reduction of meat consumption to help save our planet. Apart from funding massive sensitization campaigns, the government can generate income by imposing high tax on production, processing and purchasing of meat. This will make meat affordable to but a few while the rest will be forced into considering other sources of protein, and this will be a healthy source of income to our government.