The planet on our plate
The subject of meat is dividing people more than ever this summer. While some countries like Germany are considering meat taxation, a prestigious university in England, Goldsmiths University of London, has decided to ban beef on its territory. Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report suggesting less meat, which is part of the anti-meat movement.
The e bigotry and harassment against meat, especially beef, seem to be gaining ground. Of course, animal ethical treatment is a common argument used to encourage consumers to eat less meat. But the connection created between the contents of our plates and climate change is attracting attention these days. The IPCC report suggests a shift to a plant-based daily diet. The group recommends to the citizens of the world to reduce their consumption of red meat by 75%.
For us Canadians, the group wants a major reduction in red meat consumption of 85%. In other words, to become an environmentally responsible citizen, each of us should be satisfied with a single meat meal a week.
A powerful message, highly publicized. A recent Angus Reid Global survey tells us that people under 35 would be more receptive to this kind of message. But the role of the IPCC is not to make recommendations. Its role lies rather in the establishment of findings. However, the IPCC has a reputation as a controversial alarmist, which has drawn its share of criticism in the past. The confusion of the IPCC’s mandate stems from the fact that the group is composed of scientific experts, solicited to answer questions of a political nature. His publications are not peer-reviewed anonymously as current practice requires for peer-reviewed journals. Although his reports invite us to reflect on how we consume our food, the impact of these messages is measured only in the very long term. But for the average person, the IPCC and its work do not change much. Consumers will continue to make their choices as they see fit.
Nevertheless, some food preferences leave a larger carbon footprint than others. The report states that half of methane emissions in agriculture come from ruminants. But the report also mentions how much food waste is a major problem. Moreover, the GHGs resulting from food waste in Canada are four times larger than the emanations generated by our consumption of beef. If there is one thing we need to do, it is to put priority on reducing waste.
These reports are written for an international audience, whose ability to minimize the effects of climate change differs from region to region. Developing countries are becoming interested in meat, so the IPCC message is timely. For us, in the West, the report lists the most “polluting” meats. Lamb and beef are among the least environmentally friendly meats, while pork is on the IPCC’s list. The production of one kilo of beef can generate 32.5 kg of CO2 and the lamb produces 33 kg. Pork, on the other hand, is 12.9 kg. For vegetable proteins and vegetables, the whole is below the 2 kg mark. Contrast, but at least the IPCC relativizes our animal protein choices in an extremely educational way.
It is up to each of us to do our part, especially to minimize food waste. As for the consumption of meat, the subject remains delicate. But respect for our culture and our eating habits remains at the heart of what divides us, and the anti-meat movement sometimes goes a little too far. The choice of Goldsmiths University in England to ban beef on campus is an affront to the traditions and customs of a higher education institution. Universities remain sacred places of learning that should give free rein to all debates. The choice of Goldsmith forecloses any possibility of discussing the subject of beef consumption.
And what about the taxation of meat in Germany? Imposing an additional tax on unprocessed foods is a matter of food security and cultural discrimination. Although we must help our planet, the application of new solutions without insulting anyone is necessary.