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Turn a light on, go meat-free
AUSTRALIANS are being urged to turn off their lights for an hour on March 29 in order to save energy and draw attention to the fact that, for the future health of our planet, we need to reduce our energy consumption. But is there something just as simple that we could do that would be far more effective?
According to a study conducted last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan, producing 1kg of beef uses enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. Consequently, wouldn't it be far more effective for Australians to be urged to go meat-free on the 29th?
Since the Earth Hour campaign is ultimately aimed at saving the planet from environmental destruction, a meat-free day would make sense in other ways too. It would save water. According to the CSIRO, it requires 50,000 to 100,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of beef, compared with 1550 litres to produce a kilogram of rice.
But the livestock industry doesn't simply waste water, it is also one of the biggest polluters of water. This pollution comes from animal waste, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries and fertilisers and pesticides used to spray feed crops. As if squandering energy and wasting and polluting our precious water isn't bad enough, there are still more harmful environmental effects of meat production.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the livestock industry is one of the main contributors to all of Earth's most pressing environmental problems including global warming, land degradation, air pollution, acid rain and destruction of rain forests.
Getting back to turning off the lights, could this have any negative impact? What about security? In Canberra, many large government agencies and national institutions such as the High Court of Australia and the National Gallery will have their lights extinguished at 8pm for one hour. In Sydney, Parliament House and Kirribili House are among those that will be darkened. Will additional security be required to protect these buildings from attempted break-ins?
A meat-free day, on the other hand, would have no negative impact. Energy would be saved and the individuals participating would consume less artery-clogging saturated animal fats and more health promoting vitamins from plant foods. Less meat equates to less animal suffering _ so a positive outcome for the animals too.
If a meat-free day was announced, restaurant owners could be encouraged to serve vegetarian cuisine and diners would have the opportunity to discover new and delicious vegetarian dishes from around the globe. Surely a win-win situation all round.
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