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Opinion

August 7, 2015

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Going vegetarian

Going vegetarian

Whenever economies grow, their net of activities extends which ultimately adds to increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. According to the World Development Indicators, in the year 2010, the per capita carbon dioxide emissions of Pakistan were 0.9 metric tons while India had 1.7 metric tons and USA 17.6 metric tons.
Advanced countries achieved economic growth at the cost of polluting the environment. The high CO2 in Arab countries is mainly due to production and supply of oil. The increasing CO2 emissions globally are alarming. Various measures are taken to reduce the level of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emission, such as pollution tax, environment-friendly technology adoption, regulations etc.
However, awareness among people about this alarming status is instrumental to cope with the increasing level of CO2 emissions at the household level. Households may use environment-friendly electrical appliances and also change their consumption patterns which will help ‘green’ the economy ultimately. Among other items used by households, the consumption of meat and vegetables is worth mentioning.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the target for the livestock sector growth rate was 3.9 percent for the year 2013-14. During 2012-13, meat production was 3,379 thousand tons in which beef was 1829,000 thousand tons, mutton 643,000 thousand tons and poultry 907,000 thousand tons. On the other hand, 15 percent of all emissions come from the agriculture sectors in which half are from the livestock sector. Food systems contribute 19-29 percent of global anthropogenic GHG emissions.
Both meat-eaters and vegetable-eaters emit CO2 but the percentage of meat CO2 equivalent is more than the CO2 equivalent of vegetarians. According to the NEAA, moving from eating meat to vegetables reduces CO2 emissions by 17 percent, methane emissions by 24 percent and nitrous oxide by 21 percent after 30 years along with a decline in GHGs. Along with this the demand and production of meat will also reduce.
A survey was conducted in the UK to check the diet of 55,504 people to see how many times per year they ate 130 different foods and how much CO2 was emitted. It was observed that meat-eaters contributed/emitted 46-51 percent more GHGs than all other group of people. Meat-eaters contribute a 7.19 kg of CO2 (e) each day and vegetarians contribute 3.81 kg CO2 (e) while vegans contribute 2.89 kg CO2 (e).
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide, lamb has 39.2 CO2 kilos equivalent followed by beef with 27.0 CO2 kilos equivalent, chicken 6.9 CO2 kilos equivalent and vegetables 2.0 CO2 kilos equivalent.
Moreover, in Pakistan the production and consumption of dairy products and poultry is expanding – which causes CO2 emissions to increase. Meat and milk production has increased due to the increase in population. Demand for more cows and sheep has also increased.
According to the Pakistan Economic Survey (2014-15), the population of cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat is 41.2 million, 35.6 million, 29.4 million and 68.4 million respectively. Total meat production is 3,696 thousand tonnes in which beef is 1,951 thousand tonnes, mutton 671 thousand tonnes and poultry meat 1074 thousand tonnes. This will definitely have more environmental implications as against using vegetables.
In Pakistan meat is not only used as a daily diet but also used in various functions, traditional ceremonies and hospitalities. Changing food consumption patterns and using vegetables in place of meat would help us to reduce CO2 to some extent.
The writer is assistant professor at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad.
Email: [email protected]

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