Ahead of the country’s national day, protesters dressed as one of Australia’s most iconic animals – the koala – rallied outside New South Wales’ premier’s office with signs that read, “It’s Me or Meat” and “Eating Meat Kills Koalas.”
The message comes after months of debate in the NSW parliament about land clearing laws and a recently released report that identified Australia as one of the world’s worst deforestation hotspots – largely because of the creation of pastureland for cattle and sheep.
Does Eating Meat Really Kill Koalas?
Yes. People often struggle to understand how killing and eating cows and lambs is also killing koalas and other native wildlife, so let us break it down.
Preparing land for farming animals is not as simple as putting up a few fences. It often involves razing native forests, which destroys the habitats of animals who live there, including koalas. Clearing is done for all kinds of land uses, including urban development, which often gets the brunt of the blame for land clearing because it occurs near cities, under the watchful eye of the public. But development doesn’t even come close to being the biggest problem.
Dr Martin Taylor, the senior scientist with WWF Australia, recently told the ABC programme Hack the following:
People do see their local favourite patch of bush being bulldozed for a housing or industrial estate, or a road …. That turns out to be a small percentage of the total destruction in Eastern Australia. Most of it is out bush, far from the public gaze, and most people don’t know it’s going on.
He also noted that “[e]ighty-five per cent of it is just for beef cattle pasture or for sheep pasture”.
Obviously, we all need to eat, but animal agriculture is an extremely inefficient use of land. The space needed to raise animals and feed them – whether they’re fed grass or grain – is staggering compared to the relatively few calories that can be produced.
The most comprehensive analysis of land use to date, published in the journal Science, found that raising livestock provides just 18% of the calories consumed by humans but takes up 83% of farmland! The research showed that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland could be reduced by more than 75% and still feed the world.
If you haven’t already, check out David Attenborough’s latest Netflix documentary, A Life on Our Planet, for an in-depth look at this issue.
The NSW Government Is Failing Koalas
In late 2019 and early 2020 in many of our states, Australian wildlife suffered in devastating bushfires. More than a billion native animals died, including thousands of koalas.
Since the Berejiklian government weakened land-clearing rules in 2017, habitat destruction has increased some 60 %. In 2020, the government sought to bring in a new State Environmental Planning Policy on koala habitat protection, but after the Nationals called the policy a “nail in the coffin” for farmers and threatened to leave the coalition government, it was reported that farmland would be excluded from the new protection regulations.
But YOU Can Help
We don’t have to wait for protective legislation to help koalas. We can act to save them and their homes three times a day, when we sit down to eat.
We need to pave the way towards a greener, kinder future. Will you join us?