2. Essay: Animal Agriculture and Global Warming,
Three weeks ago I wrote an essay about global warming. I noted
that, if we are to take seriously our calling to be good stewards of
God’s Creation, we must address this growing crisis. Since that
time, I was contacted by Jeff Anhang, a co-author of the article
Livestock and Climate Change published by WorldWatch in Nov/Dec 2009
(1), which concluded that animal agriculture contributes 51% of
man-made greenhouse gasses. His comments, and the articles to which
he kindly referred me, offered some further insights that I’d like
Greenhouse gasses remain in the atmosphere for many years,
particularly CO2, which has a half-life of at least 100 years. These
gasses generate positive-feedback loops, such as the one I discussed
three weeks ago, in which global warming melts sea ice, exposing
waters that absorb the sun’s radiated heat much more efficiently
than ice. Most climatologists agree that humanity must substantially
curb greenhouse gas emissions within the next few years in order to
prevent runaway global warming, which would be catastrophic for
humanity and many of the world’s creatures.
Many people favor moving toward sources of energy that do not
require CO2-emitting fossil fuels, such as solar energy and wind
power. However, these technologies will require huge investments and
require decades to implement on a massive scale. Meanwhile, moving
toward a plant-based diet is quick and easy, and it can have at
least as great an impact on global warming as a shift to alternative
energy sources. Gooding and Anhang’s analysis(1) indicates that a 1%
reduction in worldwide meat consumption would prevent global warming
to the same degree as the investment of $3 trillion in solar energy.
Those hoping to consume animal products in an environmentally
responsible manner might find this impossible. Only about 8% of
animal flesh is produced from pasture-raised animals, and there is
little land available to increase this amount without deforestation.
Raising cows on pastures tends to result in less CO2 emissions, but
the cows have as much as three times more methane emissions, and
methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Finally, most
pasture-raised animals spend the final parts of their lives in
feedlots, and the grains used to feed the cows contribute heavily to
atmospheric CO2 levels.
Many think that eating certain kinds of flesh, such as chicken,
will reduce their greenhouse footprints. However, nearly all animals
produce the same amount of CO2 per pound of body mass, so the
contribution to global warming of animal respiration – a leading
cause of global warming from animal agriculture – is roughly the
same for all farmed animals.(2) Therefore, if humanity wants to
avoid ecological catastrophe, rapidly moving toward a plant-based
diet is a necessary, though perhaps not sufficient, change.
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
3. The Next Issue of The Peaceable Table Is Now
* This month's Editorial, by philosopher-theologian Jay McDaniel,
speaks of the importance of balancing our active intentions to save
the animals and the planet with a stance of listening to them, as
* One of the Unset Gems is taken from a bumper sticker reminding
viewers that "God's original plan" has to do with "a couple of naked
* Ethologist Jonathan Balcombe shows and explains, in a short
film cited in a NewsNote, why chickens aren't the "birdbrains"
people like to think.
* The November Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom shows a lion hug
between activist Ana Julia Torres and a big cat she rescued.
* A high point of your Thanksgiving feast can be this tasty
Pumpkin Pie from the Recipe section.
* In My Pilgrimage, activist Lesa Miller tells of her
life-changing awakening, at a conference, to the animal concern.
This month let us all give thanks not only for the wonderful
bounty on our tables, but for the Divine goodness in opening our
eyes and hearts to that Presence in all beings, even "the least of
To read this issue, go to
Gracia Fay Ellwood,
4. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary
Daniel, God’s Man in the Field (Part XVI)