7th December 2018

Educate children about meat

Olivia Stringer suggests we need to begin to educate children on the impacts of eating meat in order to work towards a more sustainable future.
Educate children about meat
Photo : dottorpeni @Wikimedia Commons

A worldwide survey conducted by market research company Ipsos MORI found that twice as many people believe that transport is a bigger contributor to global warming than animal agriculture.

This is not the case. The meat and dairy industry produces more greenhouse gases globally than cars, planes and buses combined.

At school I remember being told countless times the benefits of car sharing and of using public transport. We even had a walk to school week where you got a lovely sticker for getting to school fossil-fuel free.

However, not once was I ever informed of the impacts that eating meat has on the planet. This leads, in a lot of cases, to ignorance later in life.

Everyone assumes that I do not eat meat because I’m some sort of ‘sheep-worshipping saint’ who believes that every creature is sacred, but actually that is not true at all – I am not even sure I like sheep that much.

I am a vegetarian for the purely selfish reason that I would like to live on this planet for as long as I can without burning in a forest fire or becoming submerged by rising sea levels.

In a report released earlier this year, the world’s leading scientists warned that we only have 12 years to prevent catastrophic climate change from destroying the planet.

That is an alarming fact. Yet people seem to remain relatively unconcerned. The reason, I think, in part, is that people do not believe there is anything that they personally can do about it. They push the thought to the back of their minds and pray that a miracle will occur suddenly and save us all from our impending doom.

I believe that the environmental impacts of eating meat should be more widely taught in schools. It should be at the heart of the curriculum, so that people understand that they do have the power to make a difference. According to the website One Green Planet, if just one person gave up eating meat, it would save 162,486 gallons of water annually – enough to provide for 445 people.

Not only are a lot of people uneducated about the environmental impacts of eating meat, they are also uneducated about its health impacts. Red meat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, and processed meats such as ham and bacon are ranked by the World Health Organisation alongside tobacco as a major cause of cancer.

However, the majority of children are completely oblivious to this and shovel Billy Bear ham and other carcinogens down their throats in a manner which, unfortunately, could have serious health impacts in the future.

In order to try and reduce the health and environmental impacts of consuming red meat, scientists at the University of Oxford have suggested that the government impose a red meat tax, with a 14% tax on red meat and a 79% tax on processed meat.

I still do not believe that this is good enough. Telling people what they can and cannot eat is only going to anger people and cause an uproar. However, focusing on the power of education will help people to make a conscious decision to eat less meat and therefore will help us work towards a greener, healthier future.

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