The impact of our meat industry: the African penguin

It’s good to remind myself once in a while why I do the things I do. That is why I like to watch sustainability documentaries. Recently I’ve seen one about meat and its impact on our planet.

The problems

I’m aware of most of the problems that come with our meat industry. The welfare of animals in factory farms is questionable, the excess of manure is turning our waterways into toxic open sewers, the Amazon rainforest is disappearing and cows are burping out methane. But there’s one environmental effect that was completely new to me.

Meet the penguins

South Africa is home to the African penguin. It feeds on sardines and anchovies, but lately has been having trouble finding food. As a consequence the species might go extinct in 15 to 25 years. Where did the sardines disappear to? Apparently the small fish are being ground down to fishmeal. This protein rich powder is fed to salmon, pigs and chickens. So we’re taking food from a wild animal to give it to a factory farmed one. I had never heard of this, but almost one-fifth of all the marine fish catch globally is turned into fishmeal. Two months ago I adopted a koala for Ibi, but now I feel like I should have gotten him an entire zoo.

If we want to save the African penguins, we need to change our broken food system fast. You can make a difference by eating less and better meat, from real free-range, organic farms. Or no meat at all. Let’s take better care of our planet to preserve our wildlife.

Are vegans innocent?

In every burger we eat, there is a piece of wood.

Farm cows are a severe cause of deforestation because of two reasons. Not only does Bella need plenty of space to live on, growing her food takes up a lot of space as well. The soybean industry for example is responsible for the clearance of more than 17,000 km² of the Brazilian Cerrado.

I once had a discussion about this with a colleague of mine. He is a sheepherder who is trying to sell meat the right way: small-scale, local and with respect for the animals. While the sources I come across tell me that 80% of the Amazon soy is destined for animal feed, he claims only by-products of soy agriculture end up on Bella’s plate. That would mean unaware hipsters sipping from their soy latte are mostly to blame for the soybean monoculture.

It makes me wonder if the algorithms of this worldwide web are slowly turning me into a radical fool. If Google is only showing me clickable content that will confirm my belief, am I therefore not as informed as I think I am? I guess this part of the story is more about having open minds and conversations. It’s a plea to stop polarization and to not point fingers. If we want to save this planet, we’ll have to do it with joined forces anyway.


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