In America, we have abdicated our personal responsibility regarding food to the government. With FDA and USDA we are guided by bans, subsidies, and taxes, lest we be rudderless about how to eat breakfast. Our parameters are food pyramids and nutritional guidelines and IARC warnings and activist groups promoting scary agrichemical stories and newspapers touting miracle vegetables.
But evidence? That's lacking.
In 2008, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told us if we ate less meat global warming would be halted. Meat was 18 percent of human-induced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, he solemnly noted for the audience at Compassion in World Farming conference, and IPCC figured that would double by 2050. Dozens of other groups had repeated the same thing and there were thousands of articles lamenting that carnivores were dooming the planet.
There was just one problem. It was made up. The number was taken from a UN Food and Agriculture Organization publication in 2006 called "Livestock's Long Shadow", which I debunked in 2007. It was so shockingly flawed I couldn't believe anyone accepted it.
Instead of being a serious analysis of the real cost of food production, their suspect math bizarrely led us to believe it is better for the environment if we drive a gas-powered car to the grocery store rather than walk - if we ate meat.
"Livestock's Long Shadow" was not the origin of that claim. In true activist playbook fashion, it first got attention in a press release which became a clever hook in a book that got popular attention (in this case, "it takes a gallon of gas to grow a pound of beef" and the book was "Beyond Beef by famed activist Jeremy Rifkin) and then they got sympathetic scholars to say it's true. This has happened time and again. You may never have heard of "virtual water" because you exist in the real world, but it drives water policy in a lot of countries. That the Nile would be drained for all of 2018 by the end of this week if virtual water existed, and there would be wars across the mideast over water every month, gets thrown by the logical wayside. Even today, environmentalists raise money claiming it takes 40 gallons of virtual water to make a cup of coffee - and it works. (1) Or even 120 gallons of water for a chicken egg. (2)
The UN was forced to admit "Livestock's Long Shadow" was fundamentally wrong (3), so why is this still coming up? That's what activists do. Repeat a lie often enough and get it retweeted and published in Mother Jones and it becomes truth for people who major in Confirmation Bias at Google University. That can be the only explanation for why Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), which is basically an anti-meat investment group, released a new executive summary hoping that regulators were going to put a "sin" tax on meat.
The sins they accuse meat-eaters of committing are:
1) Enormous greenhouse gas emissions; they cite the debunked 18 percent of total emissions rubbish from "Livestock's Long Shadow" that the UN had to retract.
2) Global obesity; Big Sugar will be happy they are off the hook for this one.
3) Antibiotic resistance; who are these ranchers wasting their money on unnecessary antibiotics and bribing veterinarians to risk losing their license to prescribe them unnecessarily? I can't find any. In the real world of agriculture, if a railroad car full of steers has any animal with detectable antibiotics, the whole car is rejected. Since activists insist all non-organic farmers are evil capitalists who only care about money, why are they throwing away their wealth like that?
4) Water. Ta-da, virtual water somehow still survives also, and with it threats to global security.
It's rare that activists can be wrong on every single point but Number 5 deserves a special mention. Deforestation isn't happening in any countries where western environmentalists tell poor brown people to conserve more. And where it does still happen, albeit not much, environmentalists are the reason, because they block the modern world in those countries. If the rest of the world adopted American agricultural science, farmland equivalent to the entire country of India could revert to nature. Not land, farm land. Back to nature. Just like that.
What are activists vehemently opposed to? Agricultural science.
What do they support? Excommunication for people who won't subscribe to their food beliefs, and sin taxes to force heretics to comply.
(1) So start rationing. If their claim is true we only have 9,588,235,294,117,647 cups of coffee left before all the water is gone. Unless someone pees because then that water gets recycled.
(2) Actual farmers disagree. It takes about 1 ounce of water per egg so 120 gallons would also have to virtually include all of the water consumed to grow the grain eaten by the chickens in its lineage back to dinosaur days. Or at least the 1800s. Whenever activists stopped learning science and math.
(3) They created a virtual chain of emissions related to meat production but then just used direct emissions for transportation. All of those smart academics - experts who have consulted for industry are not allowed - didn't see that fundamental flaw yet everyone outside the UN did. It almost makes you wonder if they created a conclusion and then wrote a paper to match it.