Mainstream Media Finally Recognizes
Reading the Los Angeles Times editorial page on October 15, 2007, we almost fainted from shock. What bowled us over was that a mainstream publication was echoing what prominent vegetarians have been saying for years, "Livestock emissions are a leading source of greenhouse gases. One solution may be to eat less meat."
The Times editorial titled "A Warming World; Pollution on the Hoof" details how livestock production has become a serious global pollution problem. Unfortunately, political leaders are reluctant to confront this problem. Even Al Gore, who has won a Nobel Peace Prize and an Academy Award, has been silent on the huge amounts of greenhouse gases emitted by cows, sheep, and goats.
As the Times pointed out, "It is extremely hazardous for politicians to take on the U.S. beef industry, a lesson learned by Senator George McGovern in the late 1970's when his Select Committee on Nutrition dared to recommend that Americans cut down on red meat and fatty dairy products for health reasons. After a ferocious lobbying blitz from meat and dairy interests, the committee rewrote its guidelines to suggest people simply choose lean meats that 'will reduce saturated fat intake.'"
When McGovern ran for reelection in 1980, he was defeated, partly because of the opposition of cattlemen in South Dakota. "So it's unlikely any candidate will endorse a national vegetarian movement to fight global warming any time soon," the editorial continues.
In 2006 the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations issued a report called "Livestock's Long Shadow--Environmental Issues and Options." The document revealed that livestock cause 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, more than that coming from all the airplanes, automobiles, and trains combined. The FAO report produced these startling statistics:
Because of increased prosperity, global meat production is expected to more than double from 229 million tons in 1999/2001 to 465 million tons in 2050. Milk production is expected to climb from 580 to 1043 million tons during that same time.
Cut back on red meat
Almost one-third of the editorial sounds like it came from John Robbins rather than a writer from the mainstream press. It essentially advocates that Americans eat less meat. That's quite a task because Americans are enamored with beef. The 2000 census revealed that Americans rank third in the world in per capita beef and veal consumption. People in Argentina and Uruguay have the distinction of devouring more beef than the Americans. People in this country comsume an average of 100 pounds of beef annually. Red meat has been linked to the high incidence of obesity, heart disease, and colorectal cancer.
Because cutting back on beef consumption would benefit personal health and the environment, the editorial urges people to move in this direction. The writer recognizes that political leaders are afraid, but questions why environmental leaders are reluctant to advocate less meat in addition to urging people to buy fluorescent light bulbs.
One of the greatest obstacles to cutting down on meat consumption is the U.S. Department of Agriculture that assesses ranchers and dairymen to fund marketing campaigns for their products. Hardly anyone in this country can escape the television ads that announce "Got Milk" and "Beef: It's What for Dinner." These campaigns spur more meat consumption and more global warming.
"This isn't quite tantamount to a government-mandated campaign to promote cigarette smoking, but it's close," says the editorial. "The government should not only get out of the business of promoting unhealthful and environmentally destructive foods, it should be actively discouraging them."
"We're mad as hell"
Farm subsidies that encourage livestock production should be abolished and, instead, directed to farmers growing organic produce. And at the same time, our government should not purchase unhealthful surplus foods to distribute to the poor and to children for school lunch programs. Faced with no government support for surplus meat and dairy products, livestock producers would be forced to limit or reduce production. School leaders must understand their responsibility to promote and provide healthy and tasteful food instead of mimicking local fast food outlets.
Most of all, our country needs role models in education, government, business, and medicine who will speak out and are not afraid to take on the dairy and meat industries. Instead of ignoring or bemoaning environmental and health concerns, these leaders need to involve the public in understanding and resolving these problems. The imperative is that we all become conscious of what we stick our forks into.