Humankind’s relatively recent obsession with the beef burger and with fried chicken has had a huge impact on the world around us.
This extent of that impact has been laid bare by a recently published study by Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science. The study, uniquely, set out to look at the distribution of all living things on Earth – plants and animals – by mass rather than population.
Using this method of calculation, humans comprise just 0.01% of the total of living things on the planet. However, that tiny 0.01% has been responsible for the extinction of 83% of all wild animals and 50% of wild plants. By contrast, animals that we have domesticated, such as cows and chickens, have grown as a proportion of the whole, because humans nurture them in order to then kill and eat them.
In fact, the study reveals that – by mass – cows and other livestock farmed for human consumption make up a staggering 60% of all mammals on the planet.
Similarly, farmed poultry make up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% of birds now being wild.
Around 50% of all animal species on Earth have disappeared over the last 50 years as a result of human activity, not least of which is habitat destruction to make way for more grazing land for cattle.
This study shows perhaps more starkly than most others just how our dietary choices impact on the world upon which we live. We do not need to eat meat to live (and indeed, there is plenty of evidence that we live more healthily without it).
If more of us stop eating meat, we could begin to redress the imbalance and maybe, just maybe, prevent the continued slide to what more and more scientists are calling the Sixth Mass Extinction.
Not all fast food needs to be unhealthy or damaging to the environment around us.
I’m not sure how authentically Indian the dish Bombay potato is, but there’s no doubting that it’s a great dish. In this version I’ve used new potatoes because they are seasonal and also have a different flavour and texture to main crop potatoes.
Quick (25 minutes) and easy to put together, this works well as a side dish, can be eaten cold as part of a picnic, or eaten all on its own.
Bombay new potato
500 g organic new potatoes, washed and scrubbed
2 tbsp groundnut oil
2cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (keep the seeds in for more heat)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped.
1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Halve or quarter any larger potatoes. Add the potatoes and cook for 20 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set to one side.
2. Place a large frying pan or skillet over a high heat. Add the groundnut oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for 30 seconds. Stir in the chopped ginger and chilli and cook, stirring, for a further minute.
3. Now reduce the heat to medium and add the ground coriander, garam masala, turmeric and sea salt. Stir to combine before adding the potatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring, or until the potatoes are covered in the spice mix and are starting to crisp. Remove from the heat and serve.