TIERethik - Zeitschrift zur Mensch-Tier-Beziehung


Ecological and social problems of excessive meat consumption. Overview and ways out of the crisis
Susanne Stoll-Kleemann


Excessive meat consumption is highly problematic, not only for the obvious reasons concerning animal welfare. This article shows the main negative ecological and social consequences of high meat consumption, particularly caused by developed countries. These manifold consequences include, e.g., biodiversity loss, with 70 percent of the world’s deforestation stripped for animal husbandry; about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock activities as well as water pollution and depletion. In the social realm food, security is challenged with hunger, displacement of former smallholders, and destroyed local markets in developing countries. In addition, health problems are caused by high meat consumption. The article argues that reducing global meat consumption enhances food security and other social issues and retains biodiversity as well as it reduces climate change and water pollution. If more crops were directed to human consumption rather than indirectly forfeeding livestock, there would be less need to intensify agriculture. The research reviewed here applies to the feasibility of reducing rising trends in meat consumption. Results indicate that individual, socio-cultural and politics-based factors can explain the feasibility of such behavior change, such as knowledge, values, habits, emotions, socio-demographic factors, and social identity and lifestyles. The article reviews the steps that have actively to be taken to encourage lower meat eating, such as changing social and cultural norms, and enhancing the visibility of role models. Several measures on the political level are listed, such as reducing harmful subsidies, but they won’t be implemented in Germany within the next years due to the close relationship between leading politicians of the German Government and agro-industrial lobby groups.


Keywords: climate change, biodiversity loss, meat consumption, behavior change, plant-based diet