By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest (which has suffered larger wildfires this year than in the Amazon’s history) is one of the world’s most prominent meat-producing, meat-eating, meat-loving countries. The reality is that its meat production is killing its own country, both in terms of the environment, and human population. But the ‘Meat’ nation Brazil is hasn’t stopped pioneering vegans from taking control of what’s fast becoming an epidemic. A lawyer, and vegan for over a decade, has single-handedly worked with ministries to ensure animal protein is replaced by plant-based proteins at all public schools across 4 districts. By the end of 2019, only plant-based meals will be served to the area’s more than 33,000 students. “To preserve the environment for the present and for future generations, we need to take additional measures,” Leticia Baird declared. “Including changing our own habits.” In a rural environment, Leticia Baird asked, with little money and even less water, why not remove meat, a product that required a lot of both? In a region where kids suffered from high rates of obesity, why not help them become a bit healthier? Why not save the community some money in medical costs? Not only is her justification absolutely spot-on in terms of adopting a pragmatic approach to veganism, but it got me thinking: if meat-loving, meat-producing Brazil can accept the facts about why we all need to be adopting a vegan diet, and now begin to ensure children are eating plant-based foods…why are other countries, including Qatar, not faster at accepting the same reality? Addressing Qatar’s Shura Council this week, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani outlined our country’s economic achievements and said that we will keep developing our food security and renewable energy sectors. Food security is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food — and with the number of people who are overweight or obese in Qatar is huge, it’s time to act now on educating on the need to introduce plant based foods into diets if we want a healthy, long-living nation that’s food secure. It’s important for Qatar, like Brazil, to recognise that meat-heavy diets are a waste of resources, we desperately need to conserve. This is because farmed animals consume much more protein, water and calories than they ‘produce’. Most of the protein from vegetable feed is used for the animal’s bodily functions and not ‘converted’ to meat, eggs or milk. If we are to avoid future global food scarcity we must use sustainable ways of utilising our natural resource base, and Vegan and plant-based diets use fewer resources and produce more food for more people, from the same amount of natural resources. While cow’s milk has long been advertised as the go-to source for calcium, much of the world has woken up to the reality that dairy is best to be avoided in order to pursue a healthy life. Medical study one after another has found that people who consume the cow’s milk have significantly higher fracture rates than those who drink little to no milk. And if you’re eating large amounts of cheese? That’s an order for saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol on top of that. Another major study of more than 12,000 children also showed that the more milk they drank, the more weight they gained. Aside from the health implications, avoiding meat and dairy products continues to be the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. If Brazil can do it, Qatar can. We’re an ambitious, practical, academic nation with pragmatic and intelligent leadership, and it’s up to us to acknowledge the concern of food security in Qatar, educate ourselves on the single largest way to ensure we know how to eat sustainably and keep healthy through plant based foods, and then act on it. It’s time to act. No excuses.
The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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