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June 5, 2017

World Environment Day: How eating green can help save our planet

Humane Society International

  • Eat with the environment in mind. Demuths Cookery School

Billions of people are called to take a green step towards reducing their carbon footprint for World Environment Day, 5 June 2017. This year’s theme, "Connecting People to Nature," aims to encourage us to appreciate nature, consider how intimately we depend on it, and make an effort to protect the Earth we call home. One easy, fun and delicious way for anyone to participate is to indulge in plant-based foods. Green Monday is a global movement that encourages South Africans to make a positive difference to the environment — one meal at a time. Replacing meat, eggs and dairy with plant-based foods such as nuts, grains, beans, legumes and vegetables, even just one day a week, can make a tremendous difference, especially as we face water restrictions, shortages of arable land and dangerous climate change.

Help animals: Take the Meatless Monday pledge.

We raise more than 1 billion land animals for food every year in South Africa and research indicates we are consuming more and more animal products. In just ten years, for instance, pork intake increased 77 percent and poultry intake rose 63 percent. We are also consuming more beef, eggs and dairy too. All of this comes at a price, as raising animals for food contributes to dangerous climate change, deforestation, water pollution and water shortages:

1. Climate-changing gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are released into the atmosphere at nearly every stage of meat, egg and milk production. These gases increase the chances for severe weather events and harm the atmosphere and oceans. In South Africa, animal agriculture accounts 60 percent of total agricultural carbon dioxide.

2. More than half of all land in South Africa is used to raise farm animals, a process which severely degrades the land and damages plant and animal species. Tremendous amounts of farm land are also used to grow feed for farm animals.

3. Raising farm animals pollutes our water, in large part because of animal manure but also because of chemicals used to grow animal feed.

4. Producing meat, milk and eggs requires huge amounts of water, whether for growing feed, cleaning housing enclosures, hydrating the animals, disposing their waste or disinfecting slaughtering equipment. Amazingly, it takes over 4,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of chicken meat, significantly more than needed to produce almost every other plant-based food.

According to Leozette Roode, farm animal campaign manager for HSI/Africa: “It has never been more important for South Africans to save our precious natural resources, and with the death-threatening droughts we are experiencing, the focus is on water conservation. Humane Society International/ Africa asks that you consider replacing animal products with plant-based foods every Green Monday in order to help animals and to help us conserve and protect South Africa’s precious water supply.”

Other benefits come from a greener diet. Numerous studies indicate that a diet rich in plant-based foods can help improve your health. In South Africa, nearly 30 percent of men and 56 percent of women are either overweight or obese. Studies show that people who eat fewer animal products have lower rates of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. Replacing meat, milk and eggs also benefits farm animals in South Africa, millions of whom spend their entire lives in cages or crates, where they are unable to exercise, engage in their natural behaviours, and often cannot even turn around because of lack of space.

“It is really easy to replace animal products in our meals with delicious and healthy plant-based alternatives,” according to Ms. Roode. “Simply use nut milk instead of dairy milk and add pulses like lentil and beans to your soups and stews for protein. ‘Meaty’ vegetables like mushrooms are great in pastas and soaked cashews makes the creamiest sauces. There are also a variety of meat alternative brands available in South Africa to replace braai favourites like patties, schnitzels, nuggets and sausages.”

Since the launch of HSI's Green Monday campaign in South Africa, not only have countless individuals begun to enjoy more plant-based foods every Monday, but also South African restaurants, food brands, government departments, and other leaders of the industry have also enthusiastically joined the initiative.

All of these efforts are helping to create a more environmentally sustainable South Africa. This year, World Environment Day happens to fall on a Monday, so make it a Green Monday.

HSI works with governments, farmers, and other stakeholders in the egg, meat, and dairy sectors to end the extreme confinement of animals in cages and crates, and improve the overall welfare of farm animals. We can all stand up for animals every time we sit down to eat by reducing the number of animal products we eat, replacing them with plant based products or animal products from sources that adhere to higher animal welfare standards when possible.

For more information and healthy green recipes, visit www.greenmonday.co.za. Join the conversation on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GreenMondaySA and on Twitter at #GreenMondaySA.

Contact: Leozette Roode Campaign Manager, Farm Animals: lroode@hsi.org, +27(0)713601104