September 17, 2007
It’s OK, Al Gore: You Can Eat Meat and Still Be an Environmentalist
Poor Al Gore. The man can’t catch a break from anybody.
latest broadside against him was launched by animal rights activists who
want him to stop eating meat. They say consumption of meat is the chief
cause of global warming. A representative from PETA took it a step
further. You can’t be an environmentalist and eat meat, the guy said.
This probably sounds a bit strange coming from PETA, since PETA concerns
itself with the rights of animals (a noble, yet only circuitously
linked, line of thinking) and not the environment. In fact, the animal
rights movement has much more in common with the human rights movement
than it does with environmentalism.
we live in strange times, and it’s not unusual to see a group that
espouses one thing try to hijack a different issue for the sole purpose
of promoting its agenda. This, in fact, has served the gun rights
movement well the last 20 years, and today it is commonly argued that if
the government bans guns designed primarily for combat that the next
step is putting an end to deer season.
question is whether PETA, in this case, has a point. Well, it’s a very
strained one, which makes sense since the organization promotes sound
ethics when it comes to treating animals (your first clue to this is the
group’s name) and not environmental sustainability.
report published by the United Nations last year said that livestock
operations contribute more to global warming than do all of the world’s
cars and all of the world’s industrial activity. It does this because
livestock produce a great deal of methane, which happens to be a
greenhouse gas that is much more potent than carbon dioxide, which
itself is linked to automobiles and electrical generation.
also so happens that more people are eating more meat these days. That
means more cows, pigs and chickens, and raising a cow requires a great
deal more land and water than does raising a field of wheat.
There was a small problem. Right around the same time that the U.N.
report was released, another set of figures was released. They said that
atmospheric concentrations of methane had leveled out, completing a
trend over the last decade in which their increase had slowed. That
means that even though more people were eating more methane-generating
livestock, the amount of methane in the atmosphere had stopped
increasing. There were a number of explanations for this, much of which
is related to our ability to capture what was leaking out from
Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, continues to increase.
This doesn’t mean methane as a greenhouse gas shouldn’t be taken
seriously. It should, as should environmental issues unrelated to global
warming but linked to factory farms. They promote the spread of noxious
odors and drug-resistant bacteria, and pollute streams and creeks.
that’s not PETA’s game. They’re after the whole enchilada. Eat meat and
you hate Mother Earth. Also, you make baby seals cry.
you’re for treating animals properly, there’s probably something to
this. I don’t know that you could call yourself an animal rights
advocate and still eat meat (unless your notion of good ethics is
killing animals through the age-old-and-right-honorable tradition of
But, when it comes to the environment, you can probably be an
environmentalist and eat meat. And by probably, what is meant is
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