Beefatarians Not Wanted
The way that livestock is raised and killed has long made it a legitimate matter of public concern. Now that we can see that eating red meat affects the entire planet in a manner that none of us want, it is time for governments to end their support for it.
MELBOURNE – “If the sound of beef sizzling on the grill brings tears to your eyes, you’re a real beefatarian.” That’s the opening line of a TV ad produced by a European advertising campaign called Proud of European Beef. Just more advertising silliness? No, because the European Union is paying 80% of the cost of it.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2013 report Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock states that beef contributes 41% of the greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions from the entire livestock sector, and also has the highest emissions intensity – that is, the highest GHG emissions per unit of protein – of any animal products. That is largely because ruminants belch and fart methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. As a result, rearing beef cattle brings about, on average, six times the contribution to global warming as non-ruminant animals (for example, pigs) producing the same quantity of protein.
Since that report, the case against beef has strengthened. In 2015, a report from London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs pointed out that worldwide, meat and dairy consumption are rising at a rate that, if projected to 2050, would use 87% of the total quantity of emissions that is compatible with the Paris climate agreement’s objective of staying below a 2° Celsius increase in temperature. A study published in Science in 2018 indicates that producing protein from soybeans in the form of tofu creates only 4% of the emissions required to produce the same quantity from beef cattle, while peas and nuts can both produce protein for less than 1% of emissions from beef cattle.