Is Taiwan poisoned by excess consumption of meat?

By J.Fan

Mid autumn festival, one of the most important holidays of Chinese culture is coming up in less than two weeks. It is the time when most Taiwanese celebrate the festival with BBQ parties and beers. However, Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) warned against the adverse effects of excessive meat consumption because the average Taiwanese consumes triple to 7 times of recommended meat consumption limit.

The Ministry of Health’s nutrition guideline suggests an average adult only need to intake 70grams of processed meat a day. Therefore, it should only be 580,000 tons of meat consumed a year. However, 1.48 million tons were consumed according to the Council of Agriculture, excluding the quantity of imported meat.

What happens when people increase their meat consumption?

The most direct effect is adverse health effects. It has been proven by many medical experts that excess protein may fuel weight gain, yeast overgrowth, and cancer. It also aggravates hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia and hypertension. In 2015, medicines which treat the conditions mentioned above took up 7 spots on the Top 20 Best Selling Medicines in Taiwan. Additionally, research has found hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia and hypertension have cost Taiwan’s healthcare system NT$ 140 billion, which nearly match the annual value of Taiwanese agricultural production, NT$ 150 billion.

Photo courtesy of CNA
Photo courtesy of CNA

It does not stop there. Excess meat consumption not only affects people’s health, it is also linked to climate change. Links between climate change and meat consumption have been recognized for the recent years, partly due to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest to accommodate the growth in livestock. Clearing these forests is estimated to produce a staggering 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector, according to the Guardian. The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation, yet governments around the world are afraid to tackle the issue due to fears of consumer backlash, reported by the think tank Chatham House in 2014. As the consumption of meat increases, the factory livestock increases. The treatment of livestock manure has become a huge difficulty for both public health and environment sector. In 2013, there was 2.25 million tons of livestock manure produced, which didn’t include livestock waste water, according to the statistics published by the Council of Agriculture. In addition, according to EAST’s research and calculation, pig manure accumulated to 10.6 million tons in 2013, which is equivalent to two thirds of the mass of Taipei 101. The estimation did not include other livestock manure but it has already exceeded the Council of Agriculture’s statistics.

Photo Courtesy of  Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan
Photo Courtesy of Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan

The current consumption of meat and the industrial livestock production has been wildly acknowledged as unsustainable, unethical and destructive to our environment. To improve the conditions of livestock and reduce environmental effects, EAST recommends the public to reduce their meat consumption and avoid intensive farming products if possible. Furthermore, the politicians and the government should revise their current policies in order to diminish the current predicaments.

photo credited to CNA
photo credited to CNA
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