Diets rich in beef and other red meat can be bad for a person’s health. And the practice is equally bad for Earth’s biodiversity, according to a team of scientists who have fingered human carnivory—and its impact on land use—as the single biggest threat to much of the world’s flora and fauna.
Already a major cause of extinction, our meat habit will take a growing toll as people clear more land for livestock and cro
ps to feed these animals, a study in the current issue of Science of the Total Environment predicts.
“It’s a colossally important paper,” says Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at Bard College in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, who studies how human diets affect the environment, and who was not part of the study.
Researchers have struggled to determine the full impacts of meat consumption on biodiversity, Eshel says.
“Now we can say, only slightly fancifully: You eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot.”
That’s because species-rich habitats are being converted to pasture and feed crops as the human appetite for meat swells.