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Views And Reviews

Bacon rashers, statistics, and controversy

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 14 October 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l5989

Re: Bacon rashers, statistics, and controversy

Tim Spector and Christopher Gardner are mistaken in their view that reducing meat intake is probably the most important act we can do for the planet. Herbivorous animals stimulate the growth of grass by pulling it from the ground, manuring the soil and breaking up the soil surface with hooves. Grazing animals will therefore cause a steady build-up of topsoil. This creates carbon sequestration. A small increase in animal agriculture could absorb all the atmospheric carbon dioxide produced since the industrial revolution. Moisture retention is also increased. The surface of the ground is cooled. Conversely, plant agriculture strips carbon and topsoil away, reversing these effects.

America used to have millions of Buffalo, lots of grass and plenty of topsoil. Now they have a relatively small number of cows. Topsoil is vanishing and dust bowls have been created. Yellowstone Park is a good example of how animals can regenerate the landscape. Allan Savory describes in his TED talk (1) how animals can be used to revive land that has been turned into desert.

Arne Astrup and colleagues (4) clearly demonstrated that advice to reduce consumption of meat, eggs and dairy has resulted in many unnecessary deaths. The obesity epidemic was caused by the advice to reduce red meat and animal fat consumption in the 1980s. As a result we eat more plant oils, sugar and starch which produce weight gain.

Having more animals on the land and eating more meat are the best ways of reversing climate change and preventing chronic disease.


1. Allan Savory TED talk
2. Savory Institute
3. Cows Save the Planet by Judith Schwartz
4. Arne Astrup and colleagues, WHO draft guidelines on dietary saturated and trans fatty acids: time for a new approach? BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 03 July 2019)Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4137

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 October 2019
William Neville
General practitioner
Abbey Road Surgery, 63 Abbey Road, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire EN8 7LJ