More reasons and alternatives to stop consuming animals

We talk a lot about global warming, climate change, drought, desertification, how to take care of the oceans and how to preserve and recover biodiversity. And we talk about using the car less and promoting more sustainable transport, recycling and using less plastic. But when we talk about stopping eating animals, the debate ends. We want to take care of the oceans by ending plastic straws, but without giving up capturing, killing and devouring its inhabitants. We want to protect biodiversity, but without giving up one of the human activities that most harm it.

Of all the mammals on Earth, only 4% are wild; the rest of us are humans and domesticated mammals. Humans make up 36% and cattle, 60%. Of the birds, only 30% are wild, while 70% are birds raised by the livestock industry. These are data from a study that was carried out in 2019 on the distribution of biomass on the planet. And despite this, despite the fact that other animals are being extinguished by the increasing weight of livestock and animal agriculture, there are still those who consider that these other animals are the ones that “annoy” so that more and more surface of the planet is pasture or cultivation, activities that are less and less compatible, as they are conceived, with the presence of other animals that are not exploited for their consumption.

More data: about 75% of the planet’s agricultural surface is devoted to livestock: either pasture or to grow grain to feed livestock.

Beef requires 18 times more land, 10 times more water, 9 times more fuel, 12 times more fertilizers and 10 times more pesticides than legumes, nutritionist Aitor Sánchez usually explains.

According to an FAO report from a few years ago, 45% of livestock emissions come from the production of livestock feed, which includes deforestation to generate pasture or produce grain, and 39% come from of methane emissions from ruminant animals. It is necessary to highlight, separately, the emissions of manure and those derived from the processing and transport of animals.

A 2015 study, ‘Biodiversity conservation: the key is reducing meat consumption’, concluded that with the current global agricultural system, 7 gigatons of plant biomass are needed to produce 0.26 gigatons of meat. On the other hand, directly consuming vegetables makes it possible to increase food production: the calories available for human consumption would increase by 70%, which would make it possible to feed 4,000 million more people.

In 2018, the study ‘Reducing foods environmental impacts through producers and consumers’ was published in ‘Science’: if the entire world population adopted a vegan diet, the use of land to produce food would be reduced by 76%, greenhouse gas emissions greenhouse of the food sector by 49%, acidification by 50%, eutrophication by 49% and the use of fresh water by 19%.

Another fact: even the meat whose production involves fewer emissions implies emitting eight times more greenhouse gases than the plant-based foods with the greatest impact in this regard, which are seed oils.

All these data, studies and reports have been compiled and explained by Marta Tafalla in her latest book, which I recommend reading. We have more than enough arguments to give up consuming animals. We have ethical, political, social, environmental arguments. We have a war that is aggravating those motives. We have alternatives to meat and dairy products of animal origin. But none of this will be enough for those who simply do not want to take that step and can find as many excuses as arguments they want to refute.

For those who are willing to move forward on this path, the alternatives are increasing and the options to delve into an entirely plant-based diet that is healthy for us and for the planet are increasingly varied, healthier and more sustainable.

A few days ago, Madrid hosted the promotion of alternative proteins not only for emerging Spanish companies but also for Latin American ones, thanks to the program developed by ProVegan international organization that works to raise food awareness, and Madrid Food Innovation Hub, a nursery for companies in the food sector.

In the second edition of the conference ‘Promoting alternative protein in Spain’, it was possible to learn about the Updairy project, a ‘startup’ dedicated to the production of milk proteins using microorganisms and precision fermentation technology.

It was also possible to verify how innovation can be applied to cultivation processes to obtain vegetables with a minimal environmental footprint thanks to Futuro Hidropónico, which applies 4.0 technology. and develops high-tech indoor modules that control weather variables, health and all the necessary conditions for vegetable production to take place 365 days a year.

Another project is Nanas, which innovates through the use of traditional foods such as legumes to make ‘fast food’, while The Dalia surprises with healthy and ultra-personalized ice creams to be taken where this food is not normally present, such as the healthcare field.

A project was also announced in Peru that develops protein bars based on superfoods with Andean grains such as lupine, with more protein than soybeans.

“It is extremely important to have quality training, it is also Spain, so that those projects that want to transform the food system to make it more sustainable, healthy and ethical can achieve it,” said Verónica Larco, Communications Director of ProVeg. “I really believe that these days have been of great value and inspiration for our students. We have managed to bring in great professionals with extensive experience who have left us important lessons”.

“At the Madrid Food Innovation Hub, we are committed to supporting business projects that seek to promote a more sustainable and healthy diet through the application of new technologies in the agri-food value chain. In collaboration with ProVeg, we have incorporated this session on Alternative Proteins into our complete activity plan, which includes free training, incubation and acceleration programs to promote entrepreneurship in the food sector”, commented Paula Giser, director of acceleration programs and MFIH incubation.

Patxi Larumbe shed light and reality on the projects: “If there is no industrial scale, there is no project. Handmade is fine, but it’s not worth it to go far”, and he commented that his 3D printer can produce the equivalent of “one million pigs” in a year.

Despite the war in Ukraine, international trade tensions and inflation, there is still strong demand for plant-based products, ProVeg says. At the European level, sales in euros of plant-based foods have grown by 6% in 2022 – and 21% since 2020 – to reach 5.8 billion euros. Plant-based foods in Spain constitute a market of 447.4 million euros, according to the latest GFI report with data from the consulting firm NielsenIQ.

“The ‘plant-based’ sector is expected to continue to grow in Spain and that is why it is important to support these new ‘startups’ that are working to gain a foothold in this emerging market”, comments Verónica Larco.

There are plenty of reasons. Excuses, too.

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