The erroneous cattle and climate change myth is like a bad boyfriend we just can’t seem to get rid of, and activists know it.
When they couldn’t get Americans to go meatless to “save the animals,” they tried something else.
When they couldn’t get Christians to value a cow over a human being, they tried something else.
When they couldn’t get us to go completely meatless by demonizing animal fats and proteins through the Dietary Guidelines, they tried something else.
When they couldn’t trick us in to thinking that plant-based patties taste the same as the real deal, they tried something else.
And the “something else” strategy they are tirelessly utilizing is blaming cattle on climate change.
Ever since the UN released the 2006 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which falsely claimed cattle production contributed the lions share of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), our industry has been unable to correct that myth.
That’s because a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has even tied its shoes.
So what are we to do?
Last week, Ellen DeGeneres encouraged her fans to go meatless for our health, the planet and the animals. In turn, I wrote an open letter to the TV talk show host, urging her to hear our side of the story.
I guess you could say the blog ended up going viral, and I promise I will have some reflections on that experience in the days to come.
Today I want to alert you to how closely some people are looking at farmers and ranchers as it relates to climate change.
Of course, there are less than 2% of us involved in production agriculture today, so it’s incredibly easy to point the fingers at farmers and ranchers instead of each individual taking personal responsibility for reducing their carbon footprints through practical measures like driving less, consuming less electricity, recycling, not wasting food, reducing the use of plastics, etc.
No, it’s the cows, and everything else doesn’t matter, they say. They skip the burger and alleviate any guilt they might have about their own environmental footprints.
If I sound angry, it’s because I am. Negative public sentiment is tough, for sure. But when our livelihoods have now become a regular political punching bag, that’s when I get seriously worried.
I’ve been closely watching the debates and political speeches of the Democratic hopefuls contending for the nomination to run on the ticket for the upcoming U.S. Presidential election. From Cory Booker to Mike DeBlasio to Kamala Harris, climate change and agriculture are frequent topics of discussion on the campaign trail.
Most recently, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang spoke at a climate change forum hosted by MSNBC where he shared the policy adjustments he would make to combat climate change and get people to cut down on their meat consumption.
And this is where it gets scary.
His plans to “curb expansion and reduce the environmental impact of the cattle industry” in order to “reduce demand” include addressing the “energy expensive” cattle industry and making producers “internalize the cost of emissions.”
He told the crowd, “Because if your cattle end up polluting a lot, which they do just naturally — we don’t hate them for it, they’re just animals. So then what that would naturally do — and some people are going to hate this — but it’d probably make those products more expensive. And that is appropriate because there’s a cost to producing food in that way.
“And so if you were to make it more expensive, then you would end up changing consumption patterns over time. So I think it would be healthy on an individual and societal level to move in that direction. But again this is a country where there is a lot of individual autonomy and so you can’t force people’s eating choices on them. All you do now is try to shape our system so that over time we evolve in a productive way.”
Read more of these politicians’ comments and watch the video footage where they discuss sin taxes on meat producers by clicking here.
So to be clear, these policy makers and presidential hopefuls want to control what Americans eat through sin taxes and regulate ranchers out of business by taxing emissions.
Folks, now is not the time to sit back and disengage. When I wrote the Ellen post, I expected negative feedback from the vegan trolls, but I was surprised by many in our agricultural world who suggested I should be “polite” and not say anything at all.
Now more than ever, we need strong voices to discuss climate change and cattle, beef and nutrition and who we are in rural America. If we don’t, someone else will do the talking for us; someone else will dictate how we get to operate; and someone else will determine if meat stays on the dinner table.
Please, get involved. Use the readily available resources and tools that currently exist, and then share, share, share!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.