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Humans must urgently cut meat consumption to survive: book

Media release

A provocative new book by a team of leading international researchers says humans must urgently reduce their meat consumption to ensure environmental sustainability and the long-term survival of humanity.

The book, Impact of Meat Consumption on Health and Environmental Sustainability, is an international collaboration between 29 leading thinkers and researchers across 10 countries in the transdisciplinary area of sustainability.

Launched at Curtin University today, the book features 10 contributions from Curtin University academics and has been edited by Dr Talia Raphaely and Professor Dora Marinova, of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP).

Professor Marinova said meat consumption impacted all aspects of human life and humanity’s long-term survival prospects.

“Despite this knowledge, society continues to ignore the negative impact of consuming meat, which include excessively high contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions, land and water pollution and depletion, antimicrobial resistance, and negative impacts on human health,” Professor Marinova said.

“The publication is timely as it coincided with the recent categorisation by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as a probable carcinogen, and with the recent Lancet Commission report about the threat of climate change to human health.

“This book raises a spectrum of issues ranging from meat restrictions in dietary guidelines to misuse of antibiotics in meat production to environmental and climate change impacts of meat consumption, ethical stances, marketing myths and educational approaches to achieve reduction,” Professor Marinova said.

Impact of Meat Consumption on Health and Environmental Sustainability also explores the impact of increasing homogenisation of national diets in countries, such as China and Bangladesh, and its links to the West.

“It also argues that reduced meat consumption is an under-considered but essential part in any suite of solutions aimed at preserving the use of antibiotics for human treatment.”

Dr Raphaely said people tended to be either strongly against or in favour of reduced meat consumption, however scientists had to put opinion aside and look at the evidence.

“Irrespective of personal opinion, the consideration shouldn’t be about whether curbing meat consumption could solve all human and ecological problems,” Dr Raphaely said.

“Rather, it should be whether the existing evidence, as highlighted in the chapters of this book, suggests that reducing personal meat intake, and overall meat consumption, is a significant part of the solution to safeguard human and planetary wellbeing.

“Dietary intervention may be unpopular, particularly in countries which show the most excessive or growing quantities of individual meat consumption, such as Australia. However given the immediate benefits of meat reduction, such changes hold enormous potential to mitigate environmental destruction and improve human health.”

Professor Marinova and Dr Raphaely said the health and environmental consequences of vast-scale and industrialised meat production and consumption were among the greatest challenges humanity had ever faced.

“Whilst maintaining academic rigour, we call on politicians and policy makers to position this critical discussion about growing and excessive meat consumption where it belongs – at the forefront of the sustainability discourse and policy environment,” Professor Marinova said.

More information about the book can be found here.