After chuckling (or worse) at a truly awful video appeal from anti-meat activist Paul McCartney, it’s important to recognize the significance of the message he’s peddling to his supporters.
Do you snicker, or do you just feel sorry for an aging superstar who’s clearly losing his sense of what constitutes artistic quality and what’s merely an embarrassing cameo fans would prefer to forget?
I ask that question because Paul McCartney, the former composer-singer-songwriter extraordinaire — forget about his midlife conversion to rabid veganism; I’m talking 50 years ago when as one of the Fab Four he led a British Invasion that transformed American pop music — has just recorded what is possibly the worst snippet of attempted “rapping,” maybe ever.
Vanilla Ice notwithstanding.
Sir Paul’s nails-on-chalkboard-painful video clip was made in an effort (of course) to persuade people to support the Meatless Mondays campaign, known in Britain as Meat-free Mondays.
In a truly cringe-worthy appeal, the ex-Beatle, whom many music critics consider to be one of the greatest living songwriters, asks viewers to pledge going veggie once a week, a plea timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Summit 2014 taking place this week in New York City.
OMG. You have to watch this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA4P6htAGDE) to believe it. It’s really bad — we’re talking Kirk Douglas-at-the-Oscars bad. He starts out with the typical entitled superstar appeal: “I need your help,” followed by, “All I want you to do is just log in on pledge.meatfreemondays.com and pledge your support to the idea of meat-free Mondays. Please do it. We'll send all these pledges to the politicians, and then they’ll do something about it.”
First of all, “signing” an online pledge has even less leverage with actual politicians than those next-to-worthless emails that all kinds of groups urge you to click-and-send to your Member of Congress as proof of your “deep concern” over __________ [fill in the blank with the outrage du jour].
People — groups that solicit your support are just trying to build up their database of contributors. They know full well some rookie intern on staff at the congressional office in question is going to dutifully count up how many canned emails were received on a particular topic, then spend half an hour that afternoon deleting them off the member’s server.
End of campaign.
McCartney, like every other activist, knows exactly what politicians do with a slew of pre-packaged email messages, and since he’s not in need of any fundraising, I can only assume he made this video as an ego-booster, a way to demonstrate that he’s still got the kind of clout with the public that his younger Mop Top self used to command just by leaning out of a hotel window or waving from the back seat of a limo as it sped through toward some concert venue.
The pseudo-rap that concludes his video is described by the usually simpatico The Guardian newspaper as, “A short rap in a somewhat affected accent, accompanied by animated hand gestures, finger-clicks and hand claps.”
That’s like saying that Carl Lewis “Did a pretty fair job of imitating a two-year-old toddler” when his ceremonial first pitch at a Seattle Mariners baseball game in Safeco Field in 2003 traveled exactly three feet before landing with a thud in front of the mound and rolling in the dirt not even halfway to home plate.
Latching onto the message
The more serious issue with McCartney and his fellow celebrities who’ve jumped onboard the Good Ship Meatless, however, is that the anti-industry, pro-veganism crowd has firmly latched onto an eco-message as its preferred line of attack. Forget about the specter of microbial contamination, about heart attacks, strokes and cancer or even the horrors of animal abuse on factory farms meat is supposed to cause (although that last one never goes away).
Now, it’s all in on the environment, with the guilt trip being less about “You’re causing sentient beings to suffer every time you bite into a hamburger,” and more about “You’re destroying the entire planet if you callously eat that piece of steak.”
As The Guardian phrased it in an article touting McCartney’s appeal, “Meat production creates harmful greenhouse gases and requires increasingly unsustainable levels of precious resources including land, water and energy. It is a major contributor towards global environmental degradation and climate change.”
The talking point from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s controversial “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report that animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions has been repeated ad nauseum. Although the methodology used to arrive at that figure is highly suspect, a number of environmental and activist groups have been working overtime selling the notion that the estimate is actually much higher.
That’s troubling because the rise in the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and the consequent increase in severe weather disasters as a result is deadly serious business. It will take substantial changes in the production of energy, the means of transportation and the distribution of both food and durable goods to begin to reverse what has been a centuries-long trend.
But as people become more convinced the threat is serious, their motivation to take positive steps to impact the problem becomes equally serious.
That’s why McCartney and his ilk have shrewdly seized on the global climate change/destruction of the environment mantra to motivate the partisans they hope to recruit to their vegetarianism campaign. The rationale goes like this: “There is a huge, monumentally serious problem affecting us all. On your own, you can’t affect the mega-factors causing climate change. But if you just lay off the beef once a week, you can feel good about yourself and contribute to solving the greatest crisis humanity’s ever faced.”
Who says no to that?
Problem is, meat gets bad-mouthed, producers get demonized and industry’s image suffers in the process — and since raising livestock in modern, high-efficiency production systems doesn’t cause anywhere near 14.5 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, the goal of reducing humanity’s overall carbon footprint isn’t really advanced.
Then again, Sir Paul’s latest video isn’t going to advance his musical career, either.
He’s no Ludacris, although his performance certainly is ludicrous.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.