24 January 2010

Eat Less Meat, Slow Global Warming

Environmentalists have been urging people for years now to eat less meat to reduce their environmental impact. Actually, decades: Consider Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet, first published in 1971, which led me to stop eating meat after I read it in the early 1980s.

In any case, the Times has finally reported on the phenomenon in an article that appeared on line today, but not in their print edition. In the interest of journalistic objectivity, they had to go out and find some representatives of the meat industry to counter environmentalists' claims about the environmental degradation caused by meat farming.

The heads of various industry groups insisted that the evidence for detrimental environmental impact of farming meat is controversial. One pointed out a different study that showed that only 18 percent, not 50 percent as claimed by World Watch, of greenhouse gases come from meat.

If meat production is "only" responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gases, that's still a major proportion. That's a fifth of the total. That's huge.

By the way, remember cigarette manufacturers, anybody? Remember their claims, going over decades, that cigarettes weren't bad for you, and then that the evidence was controversial? Am I just being cynical in being disinclined to fully trust studies of environmental impact that have been funded by the manufacturers?