Meatless Monday: Do you know what your “methane footprint” is?

Michael Maya, Director
International Bar Association – North America (Washington, D.C.)

Do you know what your “methane footprint” is?  And why is it so important? Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 84x more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.  Leading scientists and the United Nations have issued multiple, dire warnings about the need to keep methane emissions in check.  So what is the biggest contributor to your methane footprint?  Hands down, it’s beef, lamb and other livestock.  In other words, our diets.  More generally, human influenced sources contribute most of the methane in the atmosphere.  But livestock stands out as the most insidious, with grazing animals contributing roughly 40% of the annual methane released per year.  Did you know that, if all the cattle in the world had their own nation, “Cattle-Nation” would be the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the U.S.?  Please see the chart below.


Also, did you know that livestock production is the second leading cause of global warming after energy production? Please see the chart below.


Leading Causes of Global Warming



There is a reason why it’s useful to think of industrial meat production as the “coal mining of food production.”  Given the above, it’s not surprising that numerous scholars have concluded that reducing our meat consumption is the single most effective thing we can do as individuals to combat climate change.


As lawyers, we can use our legal training and advocacy to promote climate solutions.  But as individuals we can be a part of the solution by (1) cutting back on our meat consumption, thereby reducing our methane footprint, and (2) exerting a bit of leadership in our workplace by persuading the organization with which we are affiliated to do the same.  Hence, the concept of Meatless Monday.  Meatless Monday is a simple, elegant, partial solution to mankind’s ever-growing methane footprint.  By giving up meat just one day per week, you are reducing your meat intake by roughly 14% — a very meaningful reduction when it comes to climate change.


Call to the Bar and our many partner law firms and organizations are taking the pledge to go Meatless on Mondays.   The International Bar Association’s office in Washington, D.C. last year adopted a Meatless Monday policy at the suggestion of a colleague – to this day, a committed carnivore — who recognized the need to cut back on meat consumption for the sake of our groaning planet.  Will you join us in adopting this policy? How about suggesting that “Meatless Monday” be an agenda item at your next staff meeting?  You likely will be surprised by how many people will support this small but important move in the right direction.  Some of your colleagues will lend their support because they recognize the impact our diet is having on climate change.  Some will be motivated by health reasons, and still others by animal welfare considerations.  Whatever the motivation, your leadership is needed now more than ever.  Thank you for giving this your consideration.


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