When the Meatless Monday campaign was launched, its premise was to encourage folks to skip animal products for one day in order to help the planet. Vegan groups figure it would be tough to convince folks to give up their bacon, eggs and burgers entirely, so they settle for one meal or one day and appeal to folks using emotion and fear surrounding ethics and the environment.
The idea that beef is a driving force behind climate change (if you believe Al Gore and think climate change is real anyway) is ridiculous and has been further perpetuated by a false study released in 2006 by the United Nations called “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which said that livestock production contributes to 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions. According to University of California, Davis, Professor Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., "In the U.S., the entire livestock and feed sector contributes 4.2% to the U.S. total carbon footprint (and that is according to the official UC GHG inventory by the EPA). The reason why the global number is so high is that other countries are relatively much less efficient in turning feed into food."
Yet, despite the efforts the industry has made to debunk these myths, it seems the misconception is here to say. Heck, even our U.S. government in 2015 wanted to make changes to our dietary guidelines based on biased information about meat production and the environment. While the industry was able to curtail that from completely happening, it looks like other governments didn’t get the memo.
According to an Independent article written by Adam Withal, “Denmark is considering proposals to introduce a tax on red meat, after a government think tank came to the conclusion that ‘climate change is an ethical problem.’
“The Danish Council of Ethics recommended an initial tax on beef, with a view to extending the regulation to all red meats in future. It said that in the long term, the tax should apply to all foods at varying levels depending on climate impact.”
What’s worse, the article says beef production contributes to 10% (again that number is much lower) and agriculture contributes 19-29% (see above 6%).
While I can appreciate people being concerned about environmental stewardship and conservation of our planet’s natural resources, to irrationally and emotionally blame agriculture for climate change, particularly the beef industry, is ridiculous.
Recently, Mitloehner released a white paper titled, "Livestock's Contributions to Climate Change: Facts and Fiction.” The paper looks into animal agriculture and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately, Mitloehner concludes that the livestock industry is not a major driving force in climate change.
"Efficiencies in U.S. livestock agriculture have lowered this industry's combined greenhouse gas emissions to a historic low of about 4% of the nation's total," said Mitloehner, in a press release. ”Furthering recent advances will be paramount to satisfy a growing global demand for animal protein without depleting natural resources.”
So what can people do to really help the planet? It might be as simple as eating a burger but changing the lightbulbs. According to the release, “if Americans practiced Meatless Mondays, there would only be a 0.6% decrease in U.S. GHG emissions. However, replacing incandescent lightbulbs with Energy Star bulbs would be twice as effective—1.2%.”
It’s time for people in leadership positions to start ignoring the propaganda and start relying on science-based information. Consumers are relying on the best information from sources that they trust, and they shouldn’t have to be victims of people within governments and organizations that are hell-bent on pursuing their own personal agendas.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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