Desmond Bellamy, special projects coordinator, PETA Australia, Byron Bay
The Great Barrier Reef, described by David Attenborough as one of the ‘greatest wonders’ on earth, is in grave danger. The latest government ‘report card’ on the reef gives it a D (poor) for the fifth year in a row, and an ecosystem-wide grade of E (very poor). The report names climate change as ‘the most serious threat’ and the warming and acidification of the oceans is widely acknowledged as the cause of the massive coral bleaching last summer.
We know that animal agriculture is responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emission, up to 51 per cent according to Worldwatch. What is not so well known is the more localised damage done by farming of animals for meat in the reef catchment area.
The Department of Primary Industries estimates that there are four to five million cattle grazing in the reef catchment area, which results in extensive land clearing, widespread soil erosion, and the flow of eroded material, with associated nutrients, into the World Heritage Area.
Grazing of cattle for beef is, according to the Marine Park Authority, ‘the largest single land use on the catchment’.
Saving the reef, and combating climate change globally, demand urgent answers. Solutions which involve reducing fossil fuels require decades of preparation and billions of dollars. Yet the most effective way to stop climate change and save the reef is available to every one of us three times daily: just leave meat off our plates.