The study is the first- of-its kind to correlate how changes in diets in China have increased emissions of agricultural ammonia (NH3) from fertilizer and livestock manure and the subsequent impacts it has had on human health.
A study has found that nearly 90,000 premature deaths in China occur annually due to pollution caused by the meat Industry.
The new study has been published in the scientific journal Nature Food.
It was conducted jointly by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Joint Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Resilience (ENSURE) and Britain’s University of Exeter.
The study is the first- of- its kind to correlate how changes in diets in China from 1980-2010 have increased emissions of agricultural ammonia (NH3) from fertilizer and livestock manure and the subsequent impacts it has had on human health.
According to the findings, a growing population and increased meat consumption has led to a 433% production spike since 1980—growing from 15 to 80 megatons.
Lead author professor Amos Tai Pui-kuen of Chinese University said that meat consumption increased 30% from 1980 and 2010 and this has led to a 60% rise in ammonia gas emissions from farming practices such as the use of nitrogen-based fertilizer and livestock manure that leaches off fields growing feed for livestock.
“China’s population has increased sharply in the past 30 years, and the amount of meat consumed by each person has also grown, from around 30 grams per day to more than 150 grams a day,” Professor Amos Tai Pui-kuen told South China Morning Post.
“Hongkongers eat even more, about 200 grams per person each day.”
The research team added that farming-related ammonia accounts for 20% of air pollution in China and nearly 90,000 lives annually.
This is because ammonia is known to react with other air borne pollutants to form the fine particulate PM2.5, which can travel into the lungs and bloodstream and potentially cause respiratory illnesses, lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
‘Move to a diet of mainly vegetables’
According to China’s 2016 dietary guidelines, around 40 to 75 grams of meat consumption is recommended per day, half of what is being consumed currently.
The researchers noted that if Chinese diets could get less meat-intensive, it would reduce agricultural ammonia emissions and reduce the harmful effects of air pollution on health for the entire population.
“We can’t undo the damage that has already been done, but what we can do is to move to a diet of mainly vegetables with a much smaller proportion of meat,” Tai said.
Co-author Professor Gavin Shaddick from the Joint Centre for Excellence in Environmental Intelligence, added, “We show that changing food consumption patterns can not only lead to improved health through more healthy diets but also has important co-benefits in terms of the environmental impacts of the agricultural sector and those additional effects on human health.”
This study is just one of the many evidences highlighting the negative impacts of industrial meat farming.
Aside from jeopardizing human health, animal farming aggravates climate change since it releases as much greenhouse gasses as all cars, trains, ships and planes combined.
Furthermore, animal husbandry is responsible for 80% of global deforestation, which further increases global carbon emissions.
Commercial agriculture is estimated to account for at least 40% and up to 70% of all deforestation across the tropics.
Pasture for livestock and cropland for soya production have also been identified as the two main drivers of deforestation worldwide.
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