I am a vegetarian, well not a real one - I eat meat once every 10 days - but I don't see meat consumption reducing anywhere in the world. My friends and family still eat meat, they actually think I'm dumb for not eating much of it, but I am convinced that if they all follow my example, we could heal the world (quote from Michael Jackson, ihihi!).
My question is: is the power of the consumer strong enough to change things? In some cases it is, but only when the claim doesn't strongly impact the economy. For example, flying has become such a casual thing these days that experts warn about its environmental impact and some people are less comfortable taking the plane. Are we going to stop flying? No, but can we make flying greener? Yes, and it is happening.
Turning flying into a green experience is actually a very lucrative business. Research laboratories are developing the 2nd generation of biofuels, big companies will start making these fuels, experts work on greener landing/take off techniques, etc. Many new jobs and companies are created, it is economically good for the aviation industry and people will still fly to Amsterdam or London for their weekends because they don't feel very bad about the environment.
Now, what would happen if we decide to reduce our meat consumption (trust me, you'll get more creative in the kitchen and discover a whole new section on the menus of some restaurants)? The beef industry is huge nowadays and eating more veggies will strongly impact these companies. People would be laid off, the stocks of the concerned companies will plummet, restaurant would go out of business and many meat-oriented cultures would be disoriented. However, we'll be healthier and it will be significantly better for the environment (so much land is used for feeding livestock rather than for producing fruits and vegetables for us).
The entities capable of changing the current situation are: governments, big corporations, small businesses/restaurants and consumers
Governments have no incentives to act upon that because they would be responsible for another economic crisis.
Big corporations have no incentives either because meat-based products are so much easier to produce and more popular.
Restaurants don't care; cooking meat is easier and more filling. Though they could add something else to their vegetarian menu besides green salad and Penne Al Arrabiata
So it seems like it is up to us. Are we going to do it? No, because the impact of eating meat on our health and on the environment is not immediate. So we don't feel less healthy nor do we feel like we are directly harming the environment hence we won't change our behaviour. Plus the Americans cherish their fat-ass burgers and the French their gay steak-frites too much to do anything.
Well, we're doomed. No one wants to make one single little effort to eat less meat and contribute to less pollution, better land use, healthier lives and the end of some big crappy food corporations. Even when diseases affect meat around the world - mad cow disease, swine flu and avian influenza - you guys won't give up your stupid piece of meat! What do you need to eat less? If you start eating less, then companies will be forced to adapt to our needs and they'll invent some nasty, fattening, industrialised, tasty vegetarian food. I would love to trust the suppliers to impose more veggie alternatives on the consumer, but it's not going to happen. And I certainly don't trust you to take the initiative.
This sucks. I hate you all.