No one can accuse a pair of commentators given some prime Opinions page real estate in the Washington Post this week of pulling their punches. Here’s the lead to their column, titled “To fix the climate, take meat off the menu:”
“More than 50,000 U.N. officials, scientists, environmental advocates and a few heads of state will gather this coming week in Rio de Janeiro for a conference on sustainable development. They’re assembling 20 years after the first Earth Summit was held in the same city, and the goal now, as it was then, is to figure out how to cut dangerous greenhouse gases and help the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty. Or to put it more starkly, how we can live ethically without threatening the ability of future generations to live at all?
“That’s what’s on the agenda.
“But what we want to know is: What’s on the menu? Specifically, will this large gathering on climate change be serving meat—whose production and consumption are major contributors to climate change?”
Yes, that’s what we all want to know, whether a gathering of tens of thousands of people will be forced to eat veggie-only foods for a week. As if that’s the answer to climate change.
The commentators, Frances Kissling, a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University (who was profiled here last week) obviously believe it is. What’s troubling is that their simplistic anti-meat argument is likely to be swallowed by plenty of policymakers who don’t have a pro-vegetarian agenda that consumes and colors their thinking.
They acknowledged that, “No one really believes that the Rio+20 meeting will result in a new agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.” As the kids say, true dat.
But they go on to make their main point: “In that case, the best thing the conference could do for the climate is to remove meat from the menu—and to make a big deal about it. Everyone at that meeting should know that meat is a major contributor to climate change.Cutting out meat would do more to help combat climate change than any other action we could feasibly take in the next 20 years.”
I read proclamations like that, and I start channeling Elizabeth Barrett Browning, as in, “How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.”
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