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Eat less red meat to reduce cancer risk, say researchers

News Section Icon Published 23/05/2011

A report out today from the World Cancer Research Fund has found that red and processed meat increase the risk of developing bowel cancer and that eating fibre can reduce it.

It recommends people moderate their consumption of red meat and avoid processed meat altogether, while increasing the amount of wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and pulses they eat.

Joyce D'Silva, Compassion's  Director of Public Affairs said: "It's great that all the different arguments are coalescing around the central message of reducing meat consumption. We know that industrial animal farming uses vast amounts of the earth's precious resources of water and crops, it produces highly polluting wastes, including greenhouse gases and it condemns  animals to lives of misery. This new research supports the message that reducing meat consumption is better for our health too. If these arguments are put into global policy, we can have an all round win-win situation for people, animals and the planet."

One of the central messages of Compassion's Beyond Factory Farming campaign is for people to eat less meat for the good of their health, animal welfare and the environment.

Around 60 billion animals are slaughtered for food every year, a figure predicted to double by 2050.  To achieve this, producers would have to rely more and more on factory farming methods.

Besides the animal welfare impact of factory farming, the environment also suffers, as animal agriculture accounts for 18 per cent of greenhouse gases produced by humans.

Joyce added: "It is important that people don't replace red meat (beef, lamb and pork) in their diets with cheap, factory farmed poultry. Here, the welfare of the animals is the strongest argument for only buying higher welfare products."

If people were to reduce their meat consumption and replace it with plant-based foods it would also help reduce the strain on the world's resources, for example livestock feed consumes nearly 43 per cent of the food energy produced by the world's total harvest of edible crops.

So eating less red meat, as recommended by the report, not only reduces the risk of bowel cancer but also the need for factory farming, with its heavy impact on animal welfare and the environment.

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