In recent months a number of reports have suggested that people in Western countries need to reduce their consumption of red meat, partly for health reasons and partly because meat consumption contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions – up to 18 per cent, according to estimates.
The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend that individuals eat no more than 500g of red meat a week. But many people eat meat every day, meaning their weekly consumption is way over this.
The latest advocate for cutting back on red meat is Professor Ole Faergemann of Arhus University Hospital in Denmark, who told attendees at the European Cardiology Society in Barcelona, Spain this week that professional organisations in cardiovascular medicine and research should pay more attention to the links between health and climate.
Such an approach, already adopted by the World Health Organization and national medical institutions, is merited for two reasons.
Firstly, he said: “Risk of cardiovascular disease can be reduced by interventions which also reduce the risk of climate change. For example, recommendations could be given regarding the consumption of red meat such as those already made by oncology institutions.”
Secondly, he drew attention to physicians and researchers’ training, which stands them in good stead to understand the often complex scientific details of climate change, and promote this understanding in public and private debate.
“It is difficult for politicians in democratic countries to make the necessary changes in national and international policies for energy, transport, agriculture, urban planning, family planning etc without general public understanding of the issues.”
Faergemann said that physicans and scientists have the authority to promote understanding.
Calls to eat less meat
Prof Faergemann is not the first to draw links between meat consumption for better health and climate change.
The Swedish government recently circulated draft dietary guidelines which were based on climate considerations as well as human health.
And a recent report from the World Wildlife Fund suggested that retailers could play more of a role in curbing red meat consumption, both in the interests of their customers’ health and the climate.