Jul 9th 2021

Beefatarians Not Wanted

MELBOURNE – “If the sound of beef sizzling on the grill brings tears to your eyes, you’re a real beefatarian.” That’s the opening line of a TV ad produced by a European advertising campaign called Proud of European Beef. Just more advertising silliness? No, because the European Union is paying 80% of the cost of it.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2013 report Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock states that beef contributes 41% of the greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions from the entire livestock sector, and also has the highest emissions intensity – that is, the highest GHG emissions per unit of protein – of any animal products. That is largely because ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. 

Since that report, the case against beef has strengthened. In 2015, a report from London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs pointed out that worldwide, meat and dairy consumption are rising at a rate that, if projected to 2050, would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature. A study published in Science in 2018 indicates that producing protein from soybeans in the form of tofu creates only 4% of the emissions required to produce the same quantity from beef cattle, while peas and nuts can both produce protein for less than 1% of emissions from beef cattle.

To meet the 2°C target, the EU is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050. There is now a solid body of evidence that says this cannot be done without a global shift away from meat. Yet the European Commission spent €252 million ($298 million) promoting meat and dairy products between 2016 and 2020, compared to €146 million advertising fruit and vegetables.

“If you support sustainable farming by choosing European beef, you are real beefatarians,” says the Proud of European Beef advertisement – but without offering any explanation of why European beef is sustainable. The announcement of the funding for the advertisements says: “The aim of this campaign is to incite the consumers not to have a stereotyped idea about red meat and to enable them to be again confident about their consumption decision.” Here, however, the “stereotyped idea” that is being combated is true, and the advertisement is inciting consumers to be confident about a consumption decision that should give them serious misgivings.

Not only climate targets are being undermined by the EU’s beef promotion. Its Beating Cancer Plan acknowledges that red and processed meats have been linked to higher risks of cancer. That view is shared by the World Health Organization, which lists processed meats, such as meats treated with salt, as Group 1 carcinogens, that is, products known to cause cancer, and red meat – beef, lamb, and pork – as Group 2A carcinogens, indicating that they probably cause cancer. In 2019 the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, an expert body set up by one of the world’s leading medical journals, recommended a diet that “largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils” with some seafood and poultry, but “no or a low quantity” of red or processed meat.

This month, the European Commission has said it “will review, and where necessary propose to revise, all relevant policy instruments to deliver the additional emission reductions.” An international group of more than 60 scientists, including Jane Goodall and Bill McKibben, has called on the Commission to align its promotion of agricultural products with the goals of avoiding catastrophic climate change and improving public health.

Arguably, beef advertising should go the same way as tobacco advertising. Before we get to that point, the least governments could do is avoid paying for it. But the EU is not alone in failing to stand up to the meat industry. Americans eat four times as much beef as the world average, and beef production alone is responsible for more than 3% of US GHG emissions. US beef, dairy, and pork producers are heavily subsidized, both directly and by agricultural support that makes animal feed extremely cheap.

As a candidate for the US presidency, Joe Biden called climate change “the number one issue facing humanity” and “the number one issue for me.” Within days of taking office, he appeared to live up to that statement by placing a moratorium on oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, scrapping the Keystone XL pipeline, and announcing that the US would rejoin the Paris agreement. But when it comes to reducing emissions from agriculture, Biden’s announced plans do not go beyond incentives for sequestering more carbon in the soil, and encouraging the use of additives to cattle feed to reduce methane emissions – a nice idea, but likely to take many years before it is used on a scale that would have a significant impact.

Eating meat is not just a personal preference. The way that the animals eaten are raised and killed has long made it a legitimate matter of public concern. Now that we can see that eating red meat affects the entire planet in a manner that none of us want, it is time for governments to end their support for it. 


Peter Singer is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Founder of the non-profit organization The Life You Can Save. His books include Animal LiberationPractical EthicsEthics in the Real World, and Why Vegan? 

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.
www.project-syndicate.org 

 


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Jul 9th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein. ..... if projected to 2050 [beef production], would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature."
Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
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May 25th 2021
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May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
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May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
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May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "