Tag Archives: Vegetarianismo

Rich nations could see ‘double climate dividend’ by switching to plant-based foods (Carbon Brief)

carbonbrief.org

Ayesha Tandon

10.01.2022 | 4:00pm


Adopting a more plant-based diet could give rich countries a “double climate dividend” of lower emissions and more land for capturing carbon, a new study says.

Animal-based foods have higher carbon and land footprints than their plant-based alternatives, and are most commonly consumed in high-income countries. The study, published in Nature Food, investigates how the global food system would change if 54 high-income countries were to shift to a more plant-based diet.

High-income countries could cut their agricultural emissions by almost two-thirds through dietary change, the authors find. They add that moving away from animal-based foods could free up an area of land larger than the entire European Union.

If this land were all allowed to revert to its natural state, it would capture almost 100bn tonnes of carbon – equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions – the authors note. They add that this level of carbon capture “could potentially fulfil high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”.

The US, France, Australia and Germany would collectively see roughly half of the total carbon benefits, the study notes, because meat and dairy production and consumption are high in these countries.

‘Double climate dividend’

Feeding the world’s population of almost eight billion people is no small task. The global food system is responsible for around one-third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and half of the planet’s habitable land is used to produce food.

However, not all calories have an equal impact on the planet. On average, animal-based foods produce 10-50 times more emissions than plant-based foods. Meanwhile, livestock takes up nearly 80% of global agricultural land, despite producing less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories.

Individuals in high-income nations currently have the greatest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through their dietary choices, because their diets are usually the most meat-orientated. Animal-derived products drive 70% of food-system emissions in high-income countries but only 22% in low–middle-income countries.

(In 2019, Carbon Brief produced a week-long series of articles on food systems, including a discussion of the climate impacts of meat and dairy, and expert views on how changing diets are expected to affect the climate.)

The study explores how the carbon footprint of food production could change if 54 high-income countries were to adopt the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet. This is a mainly plant-based diet that is “flexible by providing guidelines to ranges of different food groups that together constitute an optimal diet for human health and environmental sustainability”. 

Dr Paul Behrens from Leiden University, an author on the paper, tells Carbon Brief that the diet varies between countries to account for their “local production and food cultures”.

The study investigates the immediate reduction in emissions from adopting the EAT-Lancet diet using a dataset from the 2010 Food and Agriculture Organization’s statistical Database, linked at the national level to the Food and Agriculture Biomass Input–Output dataset (FABIO).

The authors also determine how much land could be spared by a shift in diet. They use global crop and pasture maps – combined with soil carbon and vegetation maps – to quantify how much extra carbon could be drawn down by soil and vegetation if this surplus land were allowed to revert to its natural state of mixed native grassland and forest. 

As well as investigating changes in the 54 high-income countries, the study follows the trade of food between nations to see how dietary shifts in one country can affect the food-related land and carbon footprints around the world.

The analysis is performed for the 54 high-income countries available in FABIO. For example, Chile is considered a high-income country, while India is not.

The map below shows the drop in greenhouse gas emissions from global agriculture if the 54 high-income countries were to shift to the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet. Dark red shading indicates the largest reductions. Changes in lower-income countries are due to knock-on impacts for food trade.

According to the study, high-income nations could reduce their agricultural emissions by 62% by shifting to a more plant-based diet. Dr Sonja Vermeulen is the lead global food scientist at WWF, and is not involved in the study. She helped to put this figure into perspective:

“To put this in perspective, it’s about the same positive impact as all countries signing up to and implementing the COP26 declaration on the transition to 100% zero emission cars and vans globally by 2040.” 

Freeing up land

The study finds that moving away from animal-based foods could free an area of land larger than the entire European Union. If this area were allowed to revert to its natural state, it would capture around 100bn tonnes of carbon – equal to 14 years of global agricultural emissions from 2010 – by the end of the century, the authors find.  

The map below shows the potential carbon sequestration from surplus land if the 54 high-income countries were to shift to the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet, with dark green shading indicating the largest potential. Changes in lower-income countries are due to knock-on impacts for food trade. 

Approximately half of the carbon benefit from cutting emissions and increasing carbon sequestration could be seen collectively in the US, France, Australia and Germany, the study says.

The authors also highlight that, according to past research, limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels requires the 54 high-income countries in this analysis to achieve cumulative CO2 removals of 85-531bn tonnes of CO2 by the end of the century. This range comes from uncertainty in the amount of CO2 removal required, and in the amount that should be allocated to each country.

Based on these numbers, the study concludes that the 100bn carbon sequestration “could potentially fulfil high-income countries’ CO2 removal obligations needed to limit warming to 1.5C under equality sharing principles”.

The study finds that many low and mid-income countries – such as Brazil, India and Botswana – would export less food to high-income nations if they consumed less meat. This would reduce their own agricultural emissions and free up land for drawing down carbon, despite no dietary changes in their own countries, the researchers say. (The study does not assess the economic impact of this reduced trade.)

Around two-thirds of the carbon sequestration potential from dietary changes in high-income countries is domestic, the study finds. Meanwhile, almost a quarter is located in other high-income countries and around an eighth is from low and middle income countries.

Dr Nynke Schulp is an associate professor of land use, lifestyle and ecosystem change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and was not involved in the study. She tells Carbon Brief that existing studies “tend to work from the assumption that the whole world adopts a specific dietary change”, and so “this study’s focus on dietary change in high-income nations is an important nuance, both from a mitigation potential perspective and from a climate justice perspective”.

Capturing carbon

The study assumes that any land freed up by a change in diet would be allowed to revert to its natural state through a “natural climate solution” called passive restoration, in which land is allowed to revert to its past state. Behrens explains in a press release that this technique has a range of co-benefits, including “water quality, biodiversity, air pollution and access to nature, to name just a few”.

The study breaks down the carbon sequestration potential of passive restoration into three categories: aboveground biomass carbon (AGBC), belowground biomass carbon (BGBC) and soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks. These refer to carbon held in plant matter above the soil, plant matter below the soil, and the soil itself, respectively.

The plot below shows the total carbon sequestration (left) and emissions reductions (right) potentials from a range of different food types. The red lines on the left and right mark fixed values to make comparisons between the charts easier. Note that carbon sequestration is shown as a total over the 21st century, while the reduction in emissions is shown per year.

The plot shows that animal-based products – most notably beef – have high carbon and land footprints. The authors highlight that the US and Australia in particular would see benefits from reducing their beef intake, due to their high domestic production and consumption. 

Vermeulen tells Carbon Brief that changing diets in these countries could “transform” them:

“The term ‘food system transformation’ is perhaps often used too lightly – but there can be no doubt that the changes in these places would constitute total transformation of local economies, landscapes and cultures. Imagine the vast cattle ranches of the US and Australia replaced with equally vast rewilded or repurposed lands – would these be used for biomass and bioenergy, or conservation and biodiversity, and how would rural communities create new livelihoods for themselves?”

Dietary choices

High-income countries could see the largest per-capita carbon reductions by shifting to a planet-friendly diet, the study concludes. However, asking individuals to take charge of their personal carbon footprints can be a controversial area of discussion.

For example, the authors note that alcoholic beverages and “stimulants” including coffee, cocoa products and tea comprise 5.8% of dietary greenhouse gas emissions. These “luxury, low-nutrition crops” are predominantly consumed in high-income countries and present a “non-negligible” opportunity for cutting emissions and capturing carbon, according to the study. However, “sociological and policy complications” would make it difficult to reduce consumption of these products in practice, the authors say.

They also highlight that eating more offal – a co-product of meat production – could be a good way for individuals to reduce their meat-related carbon footprints. However, the authors say that offal is “not typically consumed in high-income nations due to convention and consumer preference”.

Dr Matthew Hayek is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at NYU arts and science, who was not involved in the study. He tells Carbon Brief how governments could incentivise individuals to eat more sustainably: 

“Folks in developed countries eat far more meat and dairy than the global average… Reducing emissions from food consumption in rich countries is critical. For consumers who have ample food choices, these choices play a sizable role in contributing to our climate goals. Our policies must reflect this by making healthy and sustainable food choices more prevalent, convenient, and inexpensive.”

And Behrens tells Carbon Brief that “the onus is on high-income nations to transform food systems”. In the press release, he adds:

“It will be vital that we redirect agricultural subsidies to farmers for biodiversity protection and carbon sequestration. We must look after farming communities to enable this in a just food transition. We don’t have to be purist about this, even just cutting animal intake would be helpful. Imagine if half of the public in richer regions cut half the animal products in their diets, you’re still talking about a massive opportunity in environmental outcomes and public health.”

Sun, Z. et al. (2022) Dietary change in high-income nations alone can lead to substantial double climate dividend, Nature Food, doi: 10.1038/s43016-021-00431-5

O fim do consumo de carne chegou (New York Times)

Se você se preocupa com os trabalhadores pobres, com a justiça racial e com as mudanças climáticas, precisa parar de comer animais.

Por Jonathan Safran Foer – 21 de maio de 2020

Pig farming symbol vector image | Public domain vectors

Algum pânico é mais primitivo do que aquele causado pela ideia de prateleiras vazias nos supermercados? Algum alívio é mais primitivo do que o reconforto fornecido pelas comidas com que temos relação afetiva?

Neste período de pandemia, quase todo mundo está cozinhando mais, postando fotos e vídeos de culinária e pensando em comida em geral. A combinação de escassez de carne e a decisão do presidente Trump de abrir abatedouros, apesar dos protestos de trabalhadores ameaçados, inspirou muitos americanos a considerar o quão essencial é a carne.

É mais essencial que a vida dos trabalhadores pobres que trabalham para produzi-lo? Assim parece. Um número surpreendente de seis em cada 10 municípios que a própria Casa Branca identificou como hot spots do coronavírus abriga os mesmos matadouros que o presidente ordenou a abertura.

Em Sioux Falls, S.D., a fábrica de suínos Smithfield, que produz cerca de 5% da carne suína do país, é um dos maiores centros de contaminação de coronavírus do país. Uma fábrica da Tyson em Perry, Iowa, tinha 730 casos de coronavírus – quase 60% de seus funcionários. Em outra fábrica da Tyson, em Waterloo, Iowa, foram registrados 1.031 casos entre cerca de 2.800 trabalhadores.

Trabalhadores doentes significam o fechamento de fábricas, o que levou ao acúmulo de animais. Alguns criadores estão induzindo abortos em porcas grávidas. Outros são forçados a sacrificar seus animais, muitas vezes com gás ou atirando neles. A situação ficou tão ruim a ponto do senador Chuck Grassley, um republicano de Iowa, pedir ao governo Trump que forneça recursos de saúde mental para os produtores de suínos.

Apesar dessa terrível realidade – e dos efeitos amplamente divulgados das fazendas industriais nas terras, comunidades, animais e saúde humana dos Estados Unidos muito antes dessa pandemia – apenas cerca de metade dos americanos diz que está tentando reduzir o consumo de carne. A carne está incorporada em nossa cultura e histórias pessoais de maneiras muito importantes, desde o peru do Dia de Ação de Graças até o cachorro-quente. A carne vem com cheiros e gostos tão maravilhosos que a satisfação sentida quase se mistura com a sensação do próprio lar. E o que mais é essencial, se não o sentimento provocado pelo lar?

E, no entanto, um número crescente de pessoas sente a inevitabilidade de mudanças iminentes.

A agricultura animal agora é reconhecida como uma das principais causas do aquecimento global. De acordo com a revista The Economist, um quarto dos americanos entre 25 e 34 anos diz ser vegetariano ou vegano, o que talvez seja uma das razões pelas quais as vendas de “carnes” à base de plantas dispararam, com Impossible e Beyond Burgers disponíveis em todos os lugares, da Whole Foods a White Castle.

Nossa mão está se esticando em direção à maçaneta da porta das mudanças nos últimos anos. O Covid-19 acabou por arrombá-la.

No mínimo, nos forçou a encarar o problema. Quando se trata de um assunto tão inconveniente quanto a carne, é tentador fingir que ciência inequívoca é ativismo, encontrar consolo em exceções que não representam o panorama da indústria e falar sobre nosso mundo como se fosse teórico.

Algumas das pessoas mais conscientes que conheço encontram maneiras de não pensar nos problemas da pecuária, da mesma forma como eu encontro maneiras de evitar pensar em mudanças climáticas e desigualdade de renda, ou nos paradoxos dos meus próprios hábitos alimentares. Um dos efeitos colaterais inesperados desses meses de isolamento é que é difícil não pensar nas coisas que são essenciais para quem somos.

Não podemos proteger nosso meio ambiente enquanto continuamos a comer carne regularmente. Esta não é uma perspectiva refutável, mas um fato incontestável. Quer se tornem Whoppers ou bifes alimentados com capim, as vacas produzem uma quantidade enorme de gases de efeito estufa. Se as vacas fossem um país, elas seriam o terceiro maior emissor de gases de efeito estufa do mundo.

De acordo com o diretor de pesquisa do Projeto Drawdown – uma organização sem fins lucrativos dedicada a criar soluções para lidar com as mudanças climáticas – comer uma dieta baseada em vegetais é “a contribuição mais importante que todo indivíduo pode dar para reverter o aquecimento global”.

Os americanos de maneira geral aceitam a ciência das mudanças climáticas. A maioria dos republicanos e democratas diz que os Estados Unidos deveriam ter permanecido no acordo climático de Paris. Não precisamos de novas informações e não precisamos de novos valores. Nós só precisamos atravessar a porta das mudanças, que está aberta.

Não podemos afirmar que nos preocupamos com o tratamento dado aos animais enquanto continuamos a comer carne regularmente. O sistema agrícola em que confiamos é tecido com miséria. As galinhas modernas foram tão geneticamente modificadas que seus próprios corpos se tornaram prisões de dor, mesmo que as libertássemos de suas gaiolas. Os perus são criados para serem tão obesos que são incapazes de se reproduzir sem inseminação artificial. As vacas mães têm seus bezerros arrancados antes do desmame, resultando em sofrimento agudo que podemos ouvir em seus gemidos e medir empiricamente através do cortisol em seus corpos.

Nenhuma etiqueta ou certificação pode evitar esse tipo de crueldade. Não precisamos de nenhum ativista dos direitos dos animais apontando um dedo para nós. Não precisamos nos convencer de nada que já não saibamos. Precisamos ouvir a nós mesmos.

Não podemos proteger-nos contra pandemias enquanto continuamos a comer carne regularmente. Muita atenção foi dada aos mercados de animais silvestres, mas as fazendas industriais, especificamente as de aves, são um campo de geração de pandemias ainda mais importante. Além disso, o C.D.C. relata que três em cada quatro doenças infecciosas novas ou emergentes são zoonóticas – o resultado de nosso relacionamento ruim com animais.

É óbvio que queremos estar seguros. Nós sabemos como nos tornar mais seguros. Mas querer e conhecer não são suficientes.

Essas não são opiniões minhas ou de quem quer que seja, apesar da tendência de publicar essas informações nas seções de opinião. E as respostas para as questões mais comuns levantadas por qualquer questionamento sério da agricultura animal não são opiniões.

Não é fato que precisamos de proteína animal? Não.

Podemos viver uma vida mais longa e saudável sem ela. A maioria dos adultos americanos come aproximadamente o dobro da ingestão recomendada de proteínas – incluindo vegetarianos, que consomem 70% a mais do que precisam. Pessoas que comem dietas ricas em proteínas animais têm maior probabilidade de morrer de doenças cardíacas, diabetes e insuficiência renal. Obviamente, carne, como bolo, pode fazer parte de uma dieta saudável. Mas nenhum nutricionista recomendaria comer bolo com muita frequência.

Se deixarmos o sistema de fazendas industriais entrar em colapso, os agricultores não sofrerão? Não.

As empresas que falam em nome dos agricultores na verdade os exploram. Hoje há menos agricultores americanos do que durante a Guerra Civil, apesar da população americana ser quase 11 vezes maior. Isso não é um acidente, mas um modelo de negócios. O sonho final do complexo industrial de agricultura animal é que as “fazendas” sejam totalmente automatizadas. A transição para alimentos à base de plantas e práticas agrícolas sustentáveis ​​criaria muito mais empregos do que extinguiria.

Não aceite minha palavra. Pergunte a um agricultor se ele ou ela ficaria feliz em ver o fim da agricultura industrial.

O movimento vegetariano não é elitista? Não.

Um estudo de 2015 descobriu que uma dieta vegetariana é US $ 750 por ano mais barata que uma dieta à base de carne. Minorias raciais são desproporcionalmente vegetarianas, e são desproporcionalmente vítimas da brutalidade da agricultura industrial. Os funcionários do matadouro atualmente colocados em situação de risco devido à pandemia, para satisfazer nosso gosto por carne, são predominantemente negros. Sugerir que um modo de agricultura mais barato, mais saudável e menos explorador seja elitista é de fato uma propaganda da indústria.

Não podemos trabalhar com empresas agrícolas para melhorar o sistema alimentar? Não.

A menos que você acredite que aqueles que se tornaram poderosos através da exploração destruirão voluntariamente os veículos que lhes deram uma riqueza espetacular. A agricultura industrial é para a agricultura real o que são os monopólios criminais para o empreendedorismo. Se por um único ano o governo removesse seus US$ 38 bilhões em subsídios e auxílios e exigisse que as empresas de carne e laticínios seguissem as regras capitalistas normais, isso as destruiria para sempre. A indústria não poderia sobreviver no mercado livre.

Talvez mais do que qualquer outro alimento, a carne inspire conforto e desconforto. Isso pode dificultar a ação sobre o que sabemos e queremos. Podemos realmente deslocar a carne do centro de nossos pratos? Essa é a questão que nos leva ao limiar do impossível. Por outro lado, é inevitável.

Com o horror da pandemia nos pressionando, e o questionamento do que é, de fato, essencial, agora podemos ver a porta que sempre esteve lá. Como em um sonho em que nossas casas têm quartos desconhecidos para nós mesmos, podemos sentir que há uma maneira melhor de comer, uma vida mais próxima de nossos valores. Por outro lado, não há algo novo, mas algo que nos chama do próprio passado – um mundo em que os agricultores não eram mitos, corpos torturados não eram comida e o planeta não era a conta no final da refeição.

Uma refeição depois da outra, é hora de cruzar o limiar. Do outro lado estaremos, efetivamente, no nosso lar.

Jonathan Safran Foer é o autor de “Eating Animals” e “We Are the Weather”.

The End of Meat Is Here (New York Times)

If you care about the working poor, about racial justice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals.

By Jonathan Safran Foer – May 21, 2020

Credit: Jun Cen

Is any panic more primitive than the one prompted by the thought of empty grocery store shelves? Is any relief more primitive than the one provided by comfort food?

Most everyone has been doing more cooking these days, more documenting of the cooking, and more thinking about food in general. The combination of meat shortages and President Trump’s decision to order slaughterhouses open despite the protestations of endangered workers has inspired many Americans to consider just how essential meat is.

Is it more essential than the lives of the working poor who labor to produce it? It seems so. An astonishing six out of 10 counties that the White House itself identified as coronavirus hot spots are home to the very slaughterhouses the president ordered open.

In Sioux Falls, S.D., the Smithfield pork plant, which produces some 5 percent of the country’s pork, is one of the largest hot spots in the nation. A Tyson plant in Perry, Iowa, had 730 cases of the coronavirus — nearly 60 percent of its employees. At another Tyson plant, in Waterloo, Iowa, there were 1,031 reported cases among about 2,800 workers.

Sick workers mean plant shutdowns, which has led to a backlog of animals. Some farmers are injecting pregnant sows to cause abortions. Others are forced to euthanize their animals, often by gassing or shooting them. It’s gotten bad enough that Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has asked the Trump administration to provide mental health resources to hog farmers.

Despite this grisly reality — and the widely reported effects of the factory-farm industry on America’s lands, communities, animals and human health long before this pandemic hit — only around half of Americans say they are trying to reduce their meat consumption. Meat is embedded in our culture and personal histories in ways that matter too much, from the Thanksgiving turkey to the ballpark hot dog. Meat comes with uniquely wonderful smells and tastes, with satisfactions that can almost feel like home itself. And what, if not the feeling of home, is essential?

And yet, an increasing number of people sense the inevitability of impending change.

Animal agriculture is now recognized as a leading cause of global warming. According to The Economist, a quarter of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are vegetarians or vegans, which is perhaps one reason sales of plant-based “meats” have skyrocketed, with Impossible and Beyond Burgers available everywhere from Whole Foods to White Castle.

Our hand has been reaching for the doorknob for the last few years. Covid-19 has kicked open the door.

At the very least it has forced us to look. When it comes to a subject as inconvenient as meat, it is tempting to pretend unambiguous science is advocacy, to find solace in exceptions that could never be scaled and to speak about our world as if it were theoretical.

Some of the most thoughtful people I know find ways not to give the problems of animal agriculture any thought, just as I find ways to avoid thinking about climate change and income inequality, not to mention the paradoxes in my own eating life. One of the unexpected side effects of these months of sheltering in place is that it’s hard not to think about the things that are essential to who we are.

Credit: Jun Cen

We cannot protect our environment while continuing to eat meat regularly. This is not a refutable perspective, but a banal truism. Whether they become Whoppers or boutique grass-fed steaks, cows produce an enormous amount of greenhouse gas. If cows were a country, they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

According to the research director of Project Drawdown — a nonprofit organization dedicated to modeling solutions to address climate change — eating a plant-based diet is “the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.”

Americans overwhelmingly accept the science of climate change. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats say that the United States should have remained in the Paris climate accord. We don’t need new information, and we don’t need new values. We only need to walk through the open door.

We cannot claim to care about the humane treatment of animals while continuing to eat meat regularly. The farming system we rely on is woven through with misery. Modern chickens have been so genetically modified that their very bodies have become prisons of pain even if we open their cages. Turkeys are bred to be so obese that they are incapable of reproducing without artificial insemination. Mother cows have their calves ripped from them before weaning, resulting in acute distress we can hear in their wails and empirically measure through the cortisol in their bodies.

No label or certification can avoid these kinds of cruelty. We don’t need any animal rights activist waving a finger at us. We don’t need to be convinced of anything we don’t already know. We need to listen to ourselves.

We cannot protect against pandemics while continuing to eat meat regularly. Much attention has been paid to wet markets, but factory farms, specifically poultry farms, are a more important breeding ground for pandemics. Further, the C.D.C. reports that three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic — the result of our broken relationship with animals.

It goes without saying that we want to be safe. We know how to make ourselves safer. But wanting and knowing are not enough.

These are not my or anyone’s opinions, despite a tendency to publish this information in opinion sections. And the answers to the most common responses raised by any serious questioning of animal agriculture aren’t opinions.

Don’t we need animal protein? No.

We can live longer, healthier lives without it. Most American adults eat roughly twice the recommended intake of protein — including vegetarians, who consume 70 percent more than they need. People who eat diets high in animal protein are more likely to die of heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure. Of course, meat, like cake, can be part of a healthy diet. But no sound nutritionist would recommend eating cake too often.

If we let the factory-farm system collapse, won’t farmers suffer? No.

The corporations that speak in their name while exploiting them will. There are fewer American farmers today than there were during the Civil War, despite America’s population being nearly 11 times greater. This is not an accident, but a business model. The ultimate dream of the animal-agriculture industrial complex is for “farms” to be fully automated. Transitioning toward plant-based foods and sustainable farming practices would create many more jobs than it would end.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask a farmer if he or she would be happy to see the end of factory farming.

Isn’t a movement away from meat elitist? No.

A 2015 study found that a vegetarian diet is $750 a year cheaper than a meat-based diet. People of color disproportionately self-identify as vegetarian and disproportionately are victims of factory farming’s brutality. The slaughterhouse employees currently being put at risk to satisfy our taste for meat are overwhelmingly brown and black. Suggesting that a cheaper, healthier, less exploitative way of farming is elitist is in fact a piece of industry propaganda.

Can’t we work with factory-farming corporations to improve the food system? No.

Well, unless you believe that those made powerful through exploitation will voluntarily destroy the vehicles that have granted them spectacular wealth. Factory farming is to actual farming what criminal monopolies are to entrepreneurship. If for a single year the government removed its $38-billion-plus in props and bailouts, and required meat and dairy corporations to play by normal capitalist rules, it would destroy them forever. The industry could not survive in the free market.

Perhaps more than any other food, meat inspires both comfort and discomfort. That can make it difficult to act on what we know and want. Can we really displace meat from the center of our plates? This is the question that brings us to the threshold of the impossible. On the other side is the inevitable.

With the horror of pandemic pressing from behind, and the new questioning of what is essential, we can now see the door that was always there. As in a dream where our homes have rooms unknown to our waking selves, we can sense there is a better way of eating, a life closer to our values. On the other side is not something new, but something that calls from the past — a world in which farmers were not myths, tortured bodies were not food and the planet was not the bill at the end of the meal.

One meal in front of the other, it’s time to cross the threshold. On the other side is home.

Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of “Eating Animals” and “We Are the Weather.”

James Cameron wants you to fight global warming by changing what you eat (Washington Post)

 November 18

James Cameron speaking during a forum at the 2012 Beijing Film Academy. AFP/Getty Images)

There are few films more environmentally infused than the highest grossing one in history, “Avatar” — in which a highly militarized mining company seeks to exploit the resources of the rich forest world of Pandora. But less known is how the film’s director, James Cameron, has also used some of the money made from “Avatar” to champion an array of green causes, even as he’s also using clean energy to power the film’s three planned sequels.

“We put in a 1 megawatt solar array on the roof of the soundstages where we’re doing the ‘Avatar’ sequels, so we’ll be net energy neutral there,” Cameron told The Washington Post recently. “We’ll sell back to the grid and it will balance back over the time when we’re working and when we’re not working.”

It’s just one of the many green initiatives the director has undertaken. Heck, he even designed his own solar sunflowers, and they’re pretty cool looking.

(He’s also a noted underwater explorer: In 2012 Cameron undertook a historic dive 35,787 feet deep into the Mariana Trench.)

Cameron spoke Wednesday morning in Washington at Greenbuild, a major conference on green buildings sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. Projected population growth means there will be massive construction in new cities around the world, Cameron told The Post. “If all those buildings are constructed the way we’ve traditionally constructed buildings it will be an enormous spike in greenhouse gas emissions,” he adds.

But one of his most unique recent environmental causes has focused on what we eat — meat and dairy, particularly — and how it relates to climate change. This topic has long been a kind of elephant in the room of environmental discussions – and now Cameron is pointing straight at the elephant.

“When you add it all up, it comes up to about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas comes from the animal agriculture sector,” Cameron says. “That’s bigger than all transportation combined.”

Granted, the gases aren’t just carbon dioxide — the leading, long-lived atmospheric greenhouse gas. They also include methane, which is harder hitting but dissipates much faster — and in this context chiefly comes from so-called “enteric fermentation” (digestion and subsequent burps) in cows and other livestock — and nitrous oxide, emitted by fertilizers and manure. The 14.5 percent figure was affirmed by Chatham House, a London-based think tank, which also calculated that livestock drives 39 percent of human-caused global methane emissions and 65 percent of human induced nitrous oxide emissions.

You can’t fix global warming without fixing carbon dioxide — it has a longer atmospheric residence time than these other gases, and is the dominant greenhouse gas in general. But Cameron observes that because agriculture is so closely tied to deforestation — in many places around the globe, forests are being cleared for cattle and other agricultural activities — it’s also in effect a major source of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Moreover, given global goals to keep global warming between 2 degrees Celsius, it has often been observed that taking action on non-CO2 gases with greater immediate warming consequences, like methane, can buy us some time.

There have been proposed techno-fixes to the problem of agricultural emissions — including the intriguing idea of changing the chemistry going on in cows’ rumens (one chamber of their stomachs)  by feeding them a “methane inhibitor” powder, which has been proved in published research to work. DSM, the Dutch life-sciences company, is developing this product.

[Meet the ‘clean cow’ technology that could help fight climate change]

But there’s also changing what we consume and, in effect, driving market-based changes on a global scale. On the latter front, Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, founded the Food Choice Taskforce, seeking to change our diets, and thereby, lessen climate change and other environmental impacts. “It’s a viable choice, it’s essentially a thermostat that’s being handed to us that we can use to turn down climate change,” Cameron says.

The group is supported in part by the private Avatar Alliance Foundation, which Cameron endowed with some of the film’s proceeds. The foundation has also supported Chatham House’s research on agriculture and the environment.

According to Chatham House, international negotiations to address climate change naturally target the energy and transportation sectors, and the forest and land use sector — but for a complex set of reasons, they have just as traditionally overlooked agriculture. The report contended that “dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed two degrees Celsius – the stated objective of the international community.”

“I think they’re basically unachievable goals if we don’t embrace the way we eat as well as part of it. But nobody’s talking about it,” says Cameron.

Granted, there are signs of momentum lately. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, for instance, recently made major waves when it included environmental concerns to its assessment of our diets. “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use,” the report noted, compared with more plant-based diets. Meanwhile,   the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently declared processed meats a carcinogen.

When it comes to the U.S. dietary guidelines committee — a group of scientists who provide advice, but do not set official policy, it seems a particularly auspicious sign. “For the first time, the issue that I’ve been screaming about has been codified as advice to the government,” says Cameron.

More general, Cameron — who is just as much a wonk  about climate change and ocean science as one presumes that he is about the technical aspects of filmmaking — thinks the tide is turning.

“It feels like climate denialism is starting to look like it’s really on the wrong side of history for a greater majority every day,” says Cameron. “Momentum is building in a great direction.”

In India, The World’s First Vegetarian City (World Crunch)

After monks went on a hunger strike to push for a citywide ban on animal slaughter, the local government declared Palitana a meat-free zone. But the city’s Muslims are not happy.

Article illustrative imageA cityscape of Palitana

PALITANA — Jainism is one of the oldest religions in the world and preaches a path of non-violence towards all living beings. In India, about 5 million people practice it.

“Everyone in this world — whether animal or human being or a very small creature — has all been given the right to live by God,” says Virat Sagar Maharaj, a Jain monk. “So who are we to take away that right from them? This has been written in the holy books of every religion, particularly in Jainism.”

The mountainous town of Palitana in the state of Gujarat is home to one of Jain’s holiest sites, and many residents don’t want any kind of killing happening here. Recently, 200 Jain monks began a hunger strike, threatening to fast until death until the town was declared an entirely vegetarian zone.

The Jain monks on hunger strike — Photo: Shuriah Niazi

“Meat has always been easily available in this city, but it’s against the teaching of our religion,” says Sadhar Sagar, a Jain believer. “We always wanted a complete ban on non-vegetarian food in this holy site.”

They have gotten their wish. On Aug. 14, the Gujarat government declared Palitana a “meat-free zone.” They instituted a complete ban on the sale of meat and eggs and have also outlawed the slaughter of animals within the town’s limits.

It’s a victory for vegetarians, but bad for business for others. Fishermen such as Nishit Mehru have had to stop working entirely. “We have been stopped from selling anything in Palitana,” he says. “They shouldn’t have taken this one-sided decision. How will we survive if we are not allowed to sell fish? The government should not make decisions under pressure.”

On behalf of other fishermen, Valjibhai Mithapura took the issue to the state’s high court, which has called on the state government to explain the ban put in place locally. It will then make a decision about whether this regulation is legal. Gujarat is ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP party, whose leader is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The population of Palitana is 65,000 and about 25% of them are Muslim. Local Muslim religious scholar Syed Jehangir Miyan disagrees with the ban. “There are so many people living in this city, and the majority of them are non-vegetarian,” he says. “Stopping them from eating a non-vegetarian diet is a violation of their rights. We have been living in this city for decades. It is wrong to suddenly put a ban on the whole city now.”

Read the full article: In India, The World’s First Vegetarian City
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What’s the Beef? (Slate)

No, “Meatless Monday” is not an evil vegetarian plot to deprive our children of precious steak, pork, and chicken.

Photo by Debbi Morello/Getty Images

First-grader Christina Muse, pictured on Oct. 15, 2002, at North Hampton School in New Hampshire, taunts the meat industry by eating cheese pizza. Photo by Debbi Morello/Getty Images

The meat industry has a serious case of the Mondays. A growing number of school districts, including ones in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Miami, are committing to keep meat off the menu for one day a week to combat childhood obesity. These “Meatless Monday” initiatives have drawn the ire of America’s beef, poultry, and pork interests, which see them as the first, flesh-free volley in a war against America’s meat peddlers. The less-meat movement has also proved to be a flashpoint for elected officials, namely those from farm states, who seem to be placing the economic interests of their home-state industries above the health and wellbeing of their states’ populaces.

This story played out somewhat quietly on the national stage several years ago, when a few grandstanding politicians caught wind of an interoffice newsletter at the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggesting employees consider eating less meat. Now, it’s getting more attention at the local level. This week Todd Staples, the head of Texas’ Agriculture Department, unleashed a blistering—if largely fact-free—jeremiad against the Meatless Monday movement after learning that it had been enacted by elementary schools in Dripping Springs, an Austin suburb. (He was apparently unaware that several schools in Houston have been experimenting with the idea for some time.) “Restricting children’s meal choice to not include meat is irresponsible and has no place in our schools,” Staples wrote inan op-ed published by the Austin American-Statesman. “This activist movement called ‘Meatless Monday’ is a carefully orchestrated campaign that seeks to eliminate meat from Americans’ diets seven days a week—starting with Mondays.” Dun dun DUN!

An elected official like Staples can, of course, stake out a position that aligns with a particular industry without simply being a mouthpiece for it. But the agriculture commissioner’s overblown rhetoric echoes the official company line of the meat industry, which has filled his campaign coffers with at least $116,000 since 2010, according to public records. It’s hard to fault meat producers for wanting people to eat more meat. It’s a different story, though, when someone like Staples spouts such talking points at a time when the nation is battling both an obesity epidemic and a global climate crisis—two problems driven, at least in part, by resource-intensive meat production.

In some corners of the country, neither of those concerns is seen as much of a reason to impose mandates from above. The irony here is that the Dripping Springs initiative is a local one—the very type of decision that small-government advocates say is under attack from the national school-lunch standards championed by Michelle Obama. “Are we having a war on meat in Dripping Springs? Definitely not,” John Crowley, the head of nutrition services for the school district, told a local CBS affiliate this week. “We’re trying to think outside the box, and we serve a lot of Texas beef on our menus. We’ve had requests for more vegetarian options, and I thought, ‘Why don’t I give it a try and see how it’s received by kids?’ ”

This is a message that kids should be receiving. According to the 2011 National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly one-third of American kids are either overweight or obese, a classification linked to Type 2 diabetes and myriad other health problems. The meat industry, meanwhile, is one of the top contributors to climate change, with the United Nations estimating that it directly or indirectly produces about 14.5 percent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone from the American Heart Association to the Norwegian military has touted the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat.

Such endorsements mean little to Staples and his meat-minded allies, who either downplay or downright deny the benefits of curbing meat consumption. But their dire warnings of The End of Meat aside, their argument also fails on a smaller scale. Opponents routinely overlook the fact that meatless meals are not by definition protein-free, a claim at the heart of Staples’ op-ed. “It is important to remember that for many underprivileged children the meals they eat at school often represents their best meals of the day,” the Republican commissioner wrote. “To deprive them of a meat-based protein during school lunch is most likely depriving them of their only source of protein for the day.”

That makes no sense given that Meatless Monday menus include items like bean-and-cheese burritos and cheese pizza, meals that come with a hefty serving of protein—and, thanks to dairy, animal protein at that. Meanwhile, the national school lunch program requires schools to offer a weekly menu that meets a minimum threshold for protein, so a Dripping Springs student who goes meatless on Monday is in little danger of being protein-deprived come Friday. Kids who want a ham sandwich, meanwhile, are still welcome to bring one from home—and there are obviously no restrictions on what a child can eat outside school. The participating cafeterias, meanwhile, continue to serve up a variety of meats the rest of the week.

Following Staples’ logic will take you to an absurd place. If a lunch menu is an edict from on high as he suggests, then when a cafeteria serves a hamburger but not a hot dog, it is “forcing” kids to eat beef while “denying” them pork—or any number of food items not on that particular day’s menu, for that matter, be it chicken, fish, or atarragon shallot egg salad sandwich with a side of butternut squash soup with chestnuts.

As commissioner, Staples oversees the agency that administers the school lunch programs in his state. There appears to be little he can do, at least formally, to stop the cafeterias’ Meatless Mondays from spreading their steak-free sentiments across the rest of Texas. “As long as [the schools] follow the requirements of the National School Lunch Program, they can serve anything they want,” says Humane Society of the United States food policy director Eddie Garza, who worked with the Dripping Springs cafeterias to implement the program. “Staples doesn’t have any real weight on this other than writing op-eds.”

While Staples’ formal power may be limited, his industry allies have managed to score meaty victories in the past. Last summer they managed to squash a small-scale Meatless Monday program in Capitol Hill cafeterias in a matter of days by branding it “an acknowledged tool of animal rights and environmental organizations who seek to publicly denigrate U.S. livestock and poultry production.”

One of their more notable wins came in 2012, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture published that interoffice newsletter. It read, in part: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.” The backlash from the industry—and the backtracking from the agency that followed—was strong and instantaneous. Almost immediately after the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association publicly voiced its anger, farm-state lawmakers like Iowa Republicans Chuck Grassley and Steve King scrambled to fall in line. Sen. Grassley tweeted, “I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation [about] a meatless Monday.” Rep. King was even more specific with his plan, promising to stage his own “double rib-eye Mondays” in protest. “With extreme drought conditions plaguing much of the United States, the USDA should be more concerned about helping drought-stricken producers rather than demonizing an industry reeling from the lack of rain,” Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statementthat appeared all the more short-sighted given the realities of climate change.

Before the day was out, the newsletter was taken offline, and the USDA issued a statement saying that it “does not endorse Meatless Monday.” The newsletter—which also offered a variety of other small-scale energy-efficiency tips for agency employees—“was posted without proper clearance,” according to the department.

Unwilling to forgive and forget, Staples chimed in by calling for the employee who wrote the newsletter to be fired, calling the very suggestion that people eat less meat “treasonous.” “Last I checked,” Staples said then, “USDA had a very specific duty to promote and champion American agriculture. Imagine Ford or Chevy discouraging the purchase of their pickup trucks. Anyone else see the absurdity? How about the betrayal?”

That type of twisted logic only works in a world where agriculture officials serve the food industry and not the American public. Unfortunately, that feels like it’s the case all too often.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.

Stem cells as future source for eco-friendly meat (Science Daily)

Date: May 20, 2014

Source: Cell Press

Summary: The scientific progress that has made it possible to dream of a future in which faulty organs could be regrown from stem cells also holds potential as an ethical and greener source for meat. So say scientists who suggest that every town or village could one day have its very own small-scale, cultured meat factory.

Pigs on a farm (stock image). The rising demand for meat around the world is unsustainable in terms of environmental pollution and energy consumption, not to mention the animal suffering associated with factory farming, the authors note. Credit: © goory / Fotolia

The scientific progress that has made it possible to dream of a future in which faulty organs could be regrown from stem cells also holds potential as an ethical and greener source for meat. So say scientists who suggest in the Cell Press journal Trends in Biotechnology that every town or village could one day have its very own small-scale, cultured meat factory.

“We believe that cultured meat is part of the future,” said Cor van der Weele of Wageningen University in The Netherlands. “Other parts of the future are partly substituting meat with vegetarian products, keeping fewer animals in better circumstances, perhaps eating insects, etc. This discussion is certainly part of the future in that it is part of the search for a ‘protein transition.’ It is highly effective in stimulating a growing awareness and discussion of the problems of meat production and consumption.”

van der Weele and coauthor Johannes Tramper point out that the rising demand for meat around the world is unsustainable in terms of environmental pollution and energy consumption, not to mention the animal suffering associated with factory farming.

van der Weele said she first heard about cultured meat in 2004, when frog steaks were served at a French museum while the donor frog watched on (http://tcaproject.org/projects/victimless/cuisine). Tramper has studied the cultivation of animal cells—insect cells mostly—in the lab for almost 30 years. In 2007, he published a paper suggesting that insect cells might be useful as a food source.

It is already possible to make meat from stem cells. To prove it, Mark Post, a professor of tissue engineering at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, presented the first lab-grown hamburger in 2013.

In the new Science & Society paper, van der Weele and Tramper outline a potential meat manufacturing process, starting with a vial of cells taken from a cell bank and ending with a pressed cake of minced meat. But there will be challenges when it comes to maintaining a continuous stem cell line and producing cultured meat that’s cheaper than meat obtained in the usual way. Most likely, the price of “normal” meat would first have to rise considerably.

Still, the promise is too great to ignore.

“Cultured meat has great moral promise,” write van der Weele and Tramper. “Worries about its unnaturalness might be met through small-scale production methods that allow close contact with cell-donor animals, thereby reversing feelings of alienation. From a technological perspective, ‘village-scale’ production is also a promising option.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Cor van der Weele, Johannes Tramper. Cultured meat: every village its own factory? Trends in Biotechnology, 2014; 32 (6): 294 DOI:10.1016/j.tibtech.2014.04.009