Ditch Desperate Dan for Lent!

 Published in March Parish News

Arguably the single biggest thing you can do for the environment is eat less meat. 


Here are a few facts:*

·      The carbon footprint of a beefburger is fifty times greater than the carbon footprint of a similar amount of protein derived from pulses, beans or lentils. 

·      80-85% of all agricultural land is dedicated to growing feedstuffs for animals or for animal grazing.

·      A typical meat eater requires 10,000m² of agricultural land to support his or her diet; the equivalent of 1.5 football pitches, while a vegetarian requires just 3 penalty boxes.

·      If we all stopped eating animal products, we would save 3.1 billion hectares of agricultural land – the area of the USA, Europe, Australia and China combined!



Meat has become a huge indulgence during my lifetime. It has also been long associated with machismo.  Remember Desperate Dan and his cow pies? Just as many cars are designed with male ego in mind, and Top Gear massively played on that laddish culture, addressing our environmental crises is going to require new memes of masculinity!  


 I’m not quite a vegetarian. I’m an antelopian. That is, I eat meat as often as I think I could have caught an antelope – which is getting less frequent as I get older!


I devised my diet decades ago, on the assumption that a healthy diet would be whatever we were eating as our digestive system evolved. My primary school memory recalled the caveman diet of nuts, fruit, roots and berries, until the men decided to get up off their backsides and hunt an antelope. Returning victorious, they would light the fire, strike the drum, max out on meat, before crashing down under the jacaranda tree for another week or two, eating whatever the women gathered. Men, eh?


My antelopianism seems to be keeping me fit and is very affordable! My treat of the week is fish on Sunday evenings, whatever is sustainable from Saffron Fish, reserving meat for moments of celebration. That way I can afford something local and humane. I think we should all know where our meat has come from and how it was reared. 


I don’t want happy Herefords to stop grazing in Welsh valleys or sheep to cease populating the Lake District. There is a very real role for freely grazing animals in good Permaculture or Agricology. They stimulate micro-organic activity in the soil. But we really should not be eating cheap, factory produced meat, whether from the UK, Texas or Argentina – from a humanitarian point of view, let alone to preserve our future on this planet.


Eating less meat would mean all those billions of hectares could start sequestering carbon; there would be reductions in acid rain, water use, pesticides and the use of antibiotics, 80% of which goes into animal production. The alarming rate of extinction of species who have lost their habitats to feed our appetites, would also slow dramatically. Don’t we owe it to God’s creation?


So with Lent upon us, how about giving up meat for 3 or 4 days a week. Or entirely? Explore the wonderful variety of vegetables. Ditch Desperate Dan. Become an Antelopian!


*Mike Berners Lee ‘How Bad are Bananas?’ and BBC New Year Solutions Ep 1.