Friday, March 26, 2021
Cancel Culture on Beef
“Cancel Culture” is coming after production agriculture and specifically animal agriculture-beef, dairy, swine and poultry. In this paper, I will deal only with beef cattle. The effort to reduce or eliminate beef cattle on western ranges has been in full mode since about the time cowboys and Indian western movies popularity declined at the box office and on TV.
It was first noticed with an International Day Without Meat celebrated for the first time on March 20, 1985. Additional support was garnered with the “Meatless Mondays” campaign. The environmental slogan’s goal “Cattle Free by 93” was to eliminate cattle grazing on federal rangelands. The Sierra Club has a policy of advocating the removal and reducing beef cattle on federal grazing allotments which continues today, adds to the framework.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio signed on as an investor and advocate of Beyond Meat, a plant based protein company. “Livestock production is a major contributor to carbon emissions,” he said. “Shifting from animal meat to the plant-based meats developed by Beyond Meat is one of the most powerful measures someone can take to reduce their impact on our Climate.”
Most recently has been the addition of synthetic beef sandwiches to the menu of fast food enterprises. Bill Gates joined in the parade with his statement on February 16, 2021, in the New York Post, “I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef” as a way to reduce methane emissions in dealing with climate change.
A push on the perceived urgency to deal with climate change is being promoted by John F. Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, in an interview with “CBS This Morning,” February 19, 2021. He said “the scientists told us three years ago that we had 12 years to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis. We are now three years gone, so we have nine years left.”
With climate change being the 800-pound gorilla in the room, one of the drum beats is to reduce animal agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gases (GHG) by reducing the numbers of beef cattle. The Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit environmental conservation group founded in 1993, is an advocate for a reduction in beef consumption in our diets. The reduced beef consumption would require fewer acres of land devoted to producing food and fiber for beef cattle. However, much of the land devoted to grazing is utilizing a resource that humans cannot consume (grasses).
The rhetoric of blaming beef cattle for major contributions GHGs simply does not hold water.
Let’s examine some facts. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported in 2016 the following sectors and their contribution to GHGs: transportation -28%, energy- 28%, industry – 22%, Agriculture-9%, commercial -6%, residential -5%. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science authored by Professors Robin White and Mary Beth Hall demonstrated in 2017 that eliminating all animal protein in our diets would only reduce a mere 2.6% of GHGs in the United States. Furthermore, subscribing to Meatless Monday would only bring about a 0.3 percent decrease in GHG emissions.
Emissions of beef cattle methane by flatulating has been a humorous but misleading accusation. About one half of the emissions of GHG by beef cattle is from methane whose half-life is about 10 years. Whereas, Carbon Dioxide life in the atmosphere is pretty much forever. Focusing on methane production as a major culprit is not a useful solution to the GHG problem.
Waving the banner of reducing beef cattle and meat consumption is not the silver bullet many would lead you to believe. The focus should be on transportation and energy production, not taking away my “Big Mac” with slick promotions from Hollywood, social media and environmental organizations.