Inspirational Viva! Founder and Director Juliet Gellatley blogs for VV TV……
From a purely vegan perspective China is often seen as a land of contradictions. Historically – arguably due to widespread poverty – it is a country with comparatively low meat and dairy production but also has a generally terrible record on the treatment of the animals they kept for slaughter and other cultural activities.Vegan Love tee 2015
Recently, with new-found economic prosperity and the rise of a more capitalist society, the amount of meat and dairy the average Chinese citizen eats has rocketed and it now sits on the list of top 12 countries for meat consumption.
But, the Chinese Government has once again turned the tables and is now leading a major call to arms for its nation to halve its meat consumption.
China’s health ministry has published guidelines that recommend its 1.3 billion population should consume between 40g to 75g of meat per person each day – 50% less than what is currently being eaten.
The guidelines have been created to improve public health, but there has also been a massive cheer from climate change campaigners as this kind of decrease in production would potentially also see a lowering in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 1.5% of global emissions.
There is no doubt this is an amazing, positive and, to be honest, surprising, step forward. But, while we must cheer and celebrate the excellent intentions, there are still a number of contradictions that need to be looked at in the cold light of day.
First of all, there seems no clear actual plan on how this dietary change will be implemented apart from what seems to be a US-led coalition led by Wildaid. This is also to be applauded and I particularly liked this entertaining little film from Wildaid involving Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron, which was released to help promote China’s ambitions to the world.
But the Chinese people are constantly emerging from Communism into a consumerist way of life that many of us now know can bring about heath epidemics and climate catastrophes, but which is also providing freedom on a scale not known in the country’s history.
With 1.3 billion people’s eating habits on the table, without a unilateral action plan, the prospect that this nation can manage to deal with this on its own seems overwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong – at Viva! we have no doubt that every individual can play their part by ‘voting with your wallet’ and this is a proven and effective way of lowering production of meat and dairy.
But every country that is serious about climate change and diet-related disease needs to stand alongside China to deal with this together and come up with a joined up solution. As individuals and individual nations, we must increase our pressure on the international policies that address unsustainable eating patterns that are bad for the planet, humans and animals alike.
We must take this announcement from China and use it as a catalyst to do more and ensure that meat and dairy production is served up on the next round of national pledges taken by the international community on climate change.
For this is a moment where issues such as a meaningful carbon tax on meat and dairy producers need to be argued even further and pressure brought to bear not only on those who consume meat but who are in charge of the industry.
The EU must also end the subsidy system currently propping up livestock farming and ensuring the world’s oceans are being fished to death. The results of these ‘hand outs’ is that the already wealthy are given vast grants to effectively sustain their land as ecological dead zones, something we need to stop now.
Immediate state-led action should involve rewarding organic horticulture and discouraging livestock farming. Production of lab-grown meat could be supported so that those who lust after meat still get their fix while minimising damage to the environment and saving billions of animals.
By rising and forming together, we can hope that when the Chinese release their next set of guidelines – due in a decade – the picture for the billions of people and animals on this beautiful planet of ours is actually different and not in facing a worse position than we are now.
In the meantime, we can all take responsibility for our own actions – try and order the new free Everyone’s Going Vegan 64 page magazine