CNN just aired a segment ‘How Meat is Making the Planet Sick,’ highlighting ways that the meat industry is hurting the health of the environment. The news segment featured the dangers to the planet created by farming practices, laying out public health, environmental, and climate concerns. The program warned about the ‘tremendous consequences’ of meat production, and how pressing the dangers are.

“People are seeing the light, as I have, that eating animal products can not only be bad for you, it can be bad for the planet,” CNN Host Fareed Zakaria told a columnist for The New York Times, Ezra Klein during the report.

The program outlined how land use for grazing, plus greenhouse gasses from big agriculture, and the horrific treatment of animals is all enough to turn you off meat. Zakaria suggests that individuals can have an impact on these harmful practices by cutting down their meat consumption. The meat industry currently slaughters eighty billion land animals a year to meet the high demand. With half of the habitable land on the planet being used for agriculture, specifically animal agriculture, the risk to the planet is becoming unsustainable.

Rather than ask, "What can I do about it?" Zakaria and Klein urge: Eat less meat."

Zakaria and Klein discussed how the raising of beef leads to deforestation, higher carbon levels released into the atmosphere, and the overall contribution to greenhouse gases, which all contribute to the climate change we are witnessing.

“People like meat, I like meat,” said Klein, who is vegan. ”I’m not here to tell anybody it’s not delicious. But what it is doing to the planet, what it is doing to the animals, and what it is doing to our own pandemic and antibiotic risk is something that should worry all of us.”

During the pandemic, slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants were hubs for outbreaks of COVID-19 among their workers, and by one count, 20,000 people had gotten sick in the plants by June of last year. The outbreaks forced meatpacking plant closures and meat shortages throughout the supply chain. The industry was the target of lawsuits and strikes when the practices that led to people getting sick were exposed. Sen Cory Booker sponsored a new bill to protect the workers at meat plants, in the wake of these outbreaks.

Another lawsuit also brought to light the horrific fast-kill treatment of animals when the administration lifted restrictions on how the slaughter was brought back up to speed to fulfill consumer demand.

During the pandemic, consumers became more aware of where their food comes from, and the meat industry has found itself under new scrutiny for how it treats the humans at the plants, as well as the animals on their way to slaughter. Between the meat industry’s devastating environmental impact and the fact that the packaging plants put workers in danger, Zakaria emphasizes the true dangers of meat production and consumption at every level.

“So there is a lot of animal suffering here, but stacked on top of that is actually a lot of human suffering, too,” Klein said.

2020 made us aware of where our food comes from. Looking forward, it's about the planet

With individuals already cutting down on meat consumption, the meat industry is already having to change its production lines. Last week, the CEO of meat giant Cargill David MacLennan announced that he believes that plant-based protein and plant-based consumer demand will significantly cut into the meat industry.

As more consumers choose to buy plant-based products, the meat industry finds itself having to acknowledge that change is inevitable. Cargill CEO David MacLennan told investors that plant-based protein will be taking market share away from the meat industry in the future. A report commissioned by the investment bank Credit Suisse projected that the plant-based food industry will grow 100 times larger by 2050.  Even after pandemic consumer behavior is a thing of the past, CNN’s broadcast tells us that eating less meat is the way of the future.