When a talking point demonizing an aspect of our modern lifestyles becomes part of the so-called “conventional wisdom,” it becomes a problem for the affected industry.
Such is the case with the notion that “eating less meat helps control climate change.” There are several ways to phrase the idea, but they all end up at the same place: Every time a person skips the meat, the Earth gets a little cooler.
Serious scientists have underscored the idea that meat production involves a globally significant carbon footprint, although transportation, manufacturing and other aspects of agriculture (deforestation, principally) contribute as much or more to the overall production of greenhouse gases—with arguably less direct benefit. Anti-animal ag activists, of course, love the commotion created over climate change, because it gives them a powerful mantra to repeat at every opportunity: Eat less meat; save the planet.
That such an utterly simplistic approach to an incredibly complex issue can gain widespread traction is worrisome, and not just for the future viability of the meat and poultry industries but for the validity of science itself.
And when you start to see the less meat = cooler climate slogan popping up in places such as Singapore, you know it’s a serious problem.
Singapore, for those unfamiliar, is an island city-state at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with more than 5 million citizens shoe-horned into only 274 square miles. By comparison, Rhode Island, our smallest state, is five times the size of Singapore, with only one-fifth the population. Along with its notorious justice system—which authorizes caning for vandalism or public indecency—Singapore, like Hong Kong, exists solely as a financial service center (and one of the world’s biggest casino destinations, as well).
Yet despite its near-total dependence on imported food, energy and virtually every other necessity, the country is embarking on an aggressive program to educate its citizens on the threat of climate change. That’s understandable for an island country that would be severely impacted if ocean levels were to rise significantly, as many climate scientists predict. But the approach being used is troubling.
For instance, Singapore’s National Climate Change Secretariat has launched a campaign to mitigate climate change. And guess what’s right up at the top of the list? Eat less meat.
The official NCCS position noted that, “Meat production contributes some 14% to 22% of global emissions,” and that information should be incorporated into the country’s primary and secondary school geography and science curricula.