Kochi: Former Environment minister Jairam Ramesh described the beef industry as a "huge culprit" in contributing to global warming while he batted for adopting a vegetarian lifestyle that would help fight the threat.
He was participating in a discussion on the ecosystem of Western Ghats at the Krithi International book fair, organised by a state government-controlled society here.
"I know that the beef curry is a very important element in Kerala's diet but there is no doubt in my mind that the carbon footprint of a non-vegetarian diet is greater than the carbon footprint of a vegetarian diet," the Rajya Sabha MP said.
He was responding to a query from the audience on the role of veganism in fighting climate change.
"I have always held this view that if you want to do something on global warming, become a vegetarian," Ramesh said.
He said forests are cut down in countries like Argentina, Brazil and the US to make room for the cattle population which emit climate damaging methane gas which is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
He, however, clarified that the choices about the food is a lifestyle issue.
"Perhaps the way we (Indians) use non-veg is different than the way Americans use it," he said.
Claiming that ancient Indians were non-vegetarians, Ramesh said "Somehow we got converted to vegetarianism maybe because of the influence of Jainism and Buddhism."
During the discussion, the senior congress leader also highlighted the leadership role played by women in leading environment movements in the country and said green movement in India is a feminist movement.
Noting that all great environment movements in India have been led by women, Ramesh said the Chipko movement in Uttarakhand was entirely led by women.
"The silent valley movement and Athirappally movement in Kerala and Narmada Bachao Andolan led by Medha Patkar and these are very good examples where women played a very important role in raising public consciousness," he pointed out.
He also referred to the Bishnoi community's struggle to protect trees and environment centuries ago and the role played by the women in the historic movement.
"I think environment is a feminist movement in India. If the young women take an aggressive role on environmental issues... I am actually a great optimist," Ramesh added.