Britain’s Prince Charles recently spoke out about the combined dangers of climate change and the so-called sceptics who deny that it’s happening. [1]

He was speaking at a conference for forest scientists, and commented on accelerating rates of deforestation in south-east Asia and Africa.

It’s great to see Charles speaking out on this issue and standing up to corporate lobbyists and others who appear unconcerned about the future of the planet. However, if forests are a key concern, he should be promoting a plant-based diet.

We will not overcome climate change without massive reforestation, and the only way to do that is to claim back land currently used for grazing and animal feedcrops. The inherent and gross inefficiency of animals as a food source is the key prohibiting factor in that regard, causing us to use far more land than would otherwise be required to satisfy humanity’s nutritional requirements.

According to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization’s 2006 “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report [2]:

Directly and indirectly, through grazing and through feedcrop production, the livestock sector occupies about 30 percent ice-free terrestrial surface of the planet.

Similarly, a report from the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in 2009 stated [3]:

. . . a global food transition to less meat, or even a complete switch to plant-based protein food [was found] to have a dramatic effect on land use. Up to 2,700 Mha of pasture and 100 Mha of cropland could be abandoned, resulting in a large carbon uptake from regrowing vegetation. Additionally, methane and nitrous oxide emissions would be reduced substantially.

They said a plant-based diet would reduce climate change mitigation costs by 80%. A meat-free diet would reduce them by 70%.

Prince Charles need look no further than the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, responsible for the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 plan. A summary of the plan states [4]:

Zero Carbon Britain 2030 will revolutionise our landscape and diets. An 80% reduction in meat and dairy production will free up land to grow our own food and fuel whilst also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. The report also represents an opportunity to tackle the relationship between diet and health in the UK by promoting healthier diets and lifestyles.

The following image [5] shows that 58% of the planet’s appropriated plant growth in the year under review (2000) was fed to livestock, and provided only 17% of humanity’s calorie (energy) intake. On the other hand, only 12% of the plant growth was fed directly to humans, and provided 83% of our calorie intake. For protein, the comparison was around 40% from animals and 60% from plants.


If the comparison was based on a business whose end product was human nutrition, any competent management team reviewing the operations would throw out the animal-based approach.

A general move away from animals as a food source is essential if we are to have any chance of preventing further catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Do we want a habitable planet or don’t we? It’s our choice.

Blog Author: Paul Mahony (also on on Twitter, Slideshare, Sribd and Viva la Vegan)

Related posts:

Omissions of Emissions: A Critical Climate Change Issue

Livestock and climate: Why Allan Savory is not a saviour


[1] Harvey, H. Charles: ‘Climate change sceptics are turning Earth into dying patient”’, The Guardian, 9 May 2013

[2] Steinfeld, H. et al. 2006, Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Livestock, Environment and Development“, FAO, Rome, p. 4.

[3] Elke Stehfest, Lex Bouwman, Detlef P. van Vuuren, Michel G. J. den Elzen, Bas Eickhout and Pavel Kabat, Climate benefits of changing diet Climatic Change, Volume 95, Numbers 1-2 (2009), 83-102, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6 (Also

[4] Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales, “Zero Carbon Britain”, 2010, and

[5] Derived from Fridolin Krausmann, et al “Global patterns of socioeconomic biomass flows in the year 2000: A comprehensive assessment of supply, consumption and constraints” and Helmut Haberl, et al “Quantifying and mapping the human appropriation of net primary production in earth’s terrestrial ecosystems”, cited in Russell, G. Burning the biosphere, boverty blues (Part 1)


“Prince Charles And Duchess Of Cornwall Visit Japan – Day 2” | EdStock | iStockphoto