Editorial: More than what ‘meats’ the eye

Last Updated on Thursday, 2 September, 2021 at 1:41 pm by Andre Camilleri

According to a Eurobarometer survey on climate change released this last week, Maltese are the least likely in the bloc to cut back on meat. Nearly a third of Europeans are likely to reduce their personal meat consumption to battle climate change, but less than one-fifth of Maltese will follow suit.

Respondents in the Netherlands (55%), Germany (51%), Luxembourg and Sweden (46% in both countries) are the most likely to answer that they buy and eat less meat. Those in Romania (12%) and Hungary and Poland (14% in both countries), Bulgaria (15%) and Malta (17%) were the least likely to do so.

Why does it matter? Meat and dairy, particularly from cows, have an immense impact on climate change, with livestock accounting for approximately 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases each year. To put it into perspective, that’s roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, aeroplanes and ships combined in the world today at once. In general, beef and lamb have the most extensive climate footprint per gram of protein, while plant-based foods tend to have the least impact. Pork and chicken are somewhere in the middle.

Locally, awareness on lowering meat consumption for health reasons and the fight for climate change remains low. Although trends in veganism and vegetarianism are popular with younger generations locally, the mere concept of not swapping to a veggy only diet but just lowering consumption remains at the back of our minds.

Yet, in the same survey, possibly indicative of the result of heavy campaigning from both government and NGOs working on the subject, revealed the Maltese are also more likely to say that they separate their waste (82% vs EU average of 75%) and to have cut down consumption of disposable items when compared to European counterparts (71% vs EU average of 59%).

Furthermore, positively welcome news for Minister Miriam Dalli is the findings regarding energy consumption. The Maltese are more likely than the EU average to have installed equipment in their home to control and reduce energy consumption (29% versus 10% in the EU as a whole) and to have installed solar panels on their roofs (19% vs EU average of 8%). They are also more likely to say that lower energy consumption is an important factor in their choice when buying a new household appliance (58% vs the EU average of 42%). But when it comes to insulation, the Maltese lag behind (11% vs the EU average of 18%). But when have we ever been concerned about insulating our homes or received the message to do so?

The statistics are telling us what’s working and what’s not in campaigning; it seems we are just not willing to forgo a steak just yet.

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