The average consumer ate 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, surpassing a record set in 2004. But some politicians have joined anti-meat and climate change activists in a massive effort to restructure the American diet – and to ensure that the rest of the world will be stuck with a mostly plant-based diet.
Last March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shocked America’s meat producers by announcing the expansion of “meatless Mondays” to all New York City public schools. The reason? “To keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come.”
The Monday Campaigns is a national organization that collaborates with the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Their goal is to reduce U.S. meat consumption by 15 percent “for our personal health and the health of the planet.”
Finnish researchers in 2012 investigated the intended and unintended effects of the mandatory “vegetarian days” in Helsinki schools. While the forced choice restriction model “increased healthy and sustainable dietary patterns,” they also found evidence of “psychological reactance, hedonic dislike, and noncompliance.”
Progressive local governments are already looking at replicating de Blasio’s bold move. For example, a resolution calling for Meatless Mondays in Hawaii public schools made it very far in the Hawaiiʻ State Legislature in 2019, and supporters are hopeful it will become law next year.
One of the world’s leading voices condemning meat consumption is the United Nations, which in 2018 bestowed its “Champions of the Earth” award in the science and innovation category to Patrick O. Brown of Impossible Foods and Ethan Brown of Beyond Meat.
The UN Environment Programme claims that “our use of animals as a food-production technology has brought us to the verge of catastrophe.” Both Browns insist that, because “the destructive impact of animal agriculture on our environment far exceeds that of any other technology on Earth, there is no pathway to achieve the Paris climate objectives without a massive decrease in the scale of animal agriculture.”
The anti-meat campaign has hit the top echelons of the UN. Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, recently stated her hope that restaurants of the future will “treat carnivores the same way that smokers are treated [today]. If they want to eat meat, they can do it outside the restaurant.”
The UN is also touting a study, published in the journal Nature, which claims that “huge reductions in meat eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change.” The authors implore western countries to cut their beef consumption by 90 percent.
The Economist recently published results of two studies claiming that going vegan for two-thirds of meals could cut food-related carbon emissions by 60 percent. Full-on veganism was deemed “the most environmentally friendly,” with “die-hard leaf-eaters claiming to have knocked off 85 percent of their carbon footprint.”
Danish scientist Bjorn Lomborg, who is President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, mocks these arguments. Lomborg, who is a vegetarian himself, says that 1.45 billion of the world’s people are vegetarians because of their extreme poverty, and that many of them desperately want to be able to afford meat in their diets.
Lomborg chastises those who claim that going vegetarian will cut carbon footprints in half, noting that food-related emissions account for just 20 percent of total carbon dioxide releases. A study of Swedish vegetarians found that lifelong vegetarianism will in reality reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by just 2 percent.
The truth is the vegan revolution is as of now overstated. A recent Gallup poll found only 5 percent of Americans are vegetarian and just 3 percent are vegan. But 16 percent of liberals are vegetarian or vegan, compared with just 2 percent of conservatives. The numbers are much higher for younger progressives in the U.S. and elsewhere.
That may explain why Goldsmiths, part of the University of London, has banned beef from the entire campus. Goldsmiths head Frances Corner has sounded the alarm – one that may grow exponentially (as fads tend to do these days): “The growing global call for organizations to take seriously their responsibilities for halting climate change is impossible to ignore.”
And there you have it, whether the goal is to enlist vegans and vegetarians in the “climate catastrophe” movement or to include veganism as a basic tenet of that movement. Be prepared for more anti-meat protests, more “meatless Mondays,” and more assaults on the livestock industry, including calls for taxing meat to raise the cost above the ordinary person’s budget.