Monday, May 17, 2010

Meatless Monday - Still A Good Idea?

Mom was reading me an article on The Huffington Post Green this morning and it really got me thinking. Good thoughts of course. But it also made me mad because some people just don't get it.

Dad started doing Meatless Mondays last year and then stopped when he got sick in October. Since then he has gone back to eating meat on Mondays, much to Mom's dismay. Mom and others are convinced that eliminating meat from your diet just once a week is a great way to help address the global climate crisis because cows are a huge source of methane, a greenhouse gas. If everyone took small steps to change their actions we could change the course we're on, right? I mean everyone knows there are things we can do each and every day, from turning off the lights when you leave a room to carpooling but changing your food habits seems way too hard for some people. Why is that?

The thought of not eating meat for 24 hours is akin to cutting off a finger - just plain wrong. Painful as it may seem to some, not eating meat not only feels good because it gives the body a break from the heavy job of digesting animals, but it also provides the soul with a breather from eating those we hold close to our hearts - our animal friends. I was going to do a post on the book "Eating Animals" a couple of months ago but I thought the subject was a little too risque. The author of the book starts out by asking what the difference is between eating meat and eating dogs. Yikes! When Mom read this to me I put my paws over my ears and begged her to stop. Eat dogs? Who would do such a thing? It turns out that many people in certain parts of the world do in fact in dogs. But we eat cows, pigs, lamb, etc. so what's the difference?

Back to the article from today. Written by Ellen Kanner, the article is about an article written for Cattlenetwork, the online source for cattle news, decrying Meatless Monday. Cattlenetwork? Yes it seems there is such a website, just when we all thought the written word was dead. Hail to cattle!

Here's the article in its entirety. Please leave me your comments because I'm curious what you have to say on the subject. Do you believe that eating less meat is a good way to help the planet? Do you believe that eating meat is not really a problem in terms of the global climate crisis? Are factory farms to blame? Should we just leave the corporate powers that be so they can continue to ruin our soil, water supply, and air with their CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations)? What's the solution? And is there a viable solution for all people, not just yourself?


Meatless Monday: The Meat People Hit Back

by Ellen Kanner

You know you're doing something right when you piss off the beef and pork people. The editor of Pork magazine recently decried the Meatless Monday effort on (wait for it) Cattlenetwork.

The pork and beef lobbies have a lot more power and money behind them than environmental organizations and health nonprofits like Meatless Monday, and the fact the editor saw fit to comment shows the plant-based effort has some punch. She's worried we're ganging up on her.

Her beef? She claims a Meatless Monday video likens working together to go meatless to supporting the war effort in World War II thus equating patriotism with being plant-based. What the video really says is what plant-based proponents of all stripes and flavors have been saying all along -- cutting back, cutting out meat once a week can only help the environment by conserving the natural resources used in animal farming. It can only improve our health by reducing our risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes,three major health threats linked to meat consumption. Most Americans eat 45% more meat than the USDA recommends. Hey, it's only the truth.

The truth, though, can be dangerous turf. A decade ago, the Cattlemen's Association tried to bring Oprah -- Oprah -- to her knees. They sued her for defamation for a show in which she made claims linking mad cow disease to beef. The only reason the suit didn't stick is, she was right. She explained 10 people had died eating tainted beef. It isn't libel if it's true.

The animal industry is looking for meatless pushback and they have found Paul McCartney and the UN International Panel on Climate Change. In his paper "Clearing the Air," presented to the American Chemical Society, UC Davis air quality professor Frank Mitloehner says Sir Paul can't go selling meatlessness as a solution to global warming. No one can.

The heart of his argument is the way greenhouse gas emissions were calculated "Livestock's Long Shadow," the seminal 2006 UN report which links animal production to global warming. Co-author Gidon Eshel, a Bard applied mathematician, stands by his findings. "The basic analysis we did is so simple and relies purely and completely on uncontested information."

The problem is what some, in their zeal, have done with that information. "PETA did some kind of in-house analysis and reached high numbers of emissions that I thought were inflated."

The data went viral and the meat folks of the world seized on it as ammunition to dismiss our role in climate change. Mitloehner says the answer to global warming isn't less meat and milk, it's more. By way of factory farming. "The developed world should focus on increasing efficient meat production in developing countries, we should adopt more efficient Western-styled farming practices to make more food with less greenhouse gas production."

Eshel feels Mitloehner presenting his paper before the American Chemical Society is a little like the Pork editor ranting about the meatless movement to the beef folks. "It's more than enough to disqualify a person from engaging in an honest discussion about this, The pharmaceutical companies are the ones making a lot of money from supplying 65% of all antibiotics to healthy animals for weight gain and milk production."

Mitloehner's study also had $5 million in underwriting, five percent of which came from the beef industry. "Livestock's Long Shadow" was underwritten by "nobody whatsoever," says Eshel. "I am not beholden to anybody, financially, morally or otherwise."

He pulls out studies, graphs and charts which all add up to one thing -- "When you eat meat, you exert three times as much pressure on land demand and reactive nitrogen as you do with a plant-based diet."

Although plant-based himself, "I'm not an advocate of veganism or a plant-based diet," says Eshel "I'm a researcher whose findings always lead away from animal-based foods, environmentally speaking."

Mitloehner did not respond to requests for an interview.

The meat folks can take on Oprah, they can take on Paul McCartney, they can take on an applied mathematician or even a 97-pound vegan like me. But the meatless movement is gaining traction because the truth is still the truth.


THE PUGLET said...

Uhm, I kinda didn't make it to the end of the article. But I don't think skipping a day of meat is like cutting of a toe. I eat a carrot every day and enjoy eating cowpies (made of grass - not cows).

My human was a veggie for like 15 years. She wasn't a very good one though and got sick from not eating right. It took 15 YEARS and 100% veggieness to cause a problem so I don't think skipping meat on Mondays will hurt anyone.

We now have meat once a week at our house. Because we don't eat much meat, we can afford to buy the good (kinda expensive) grass-fed stuff. It's better for you than the 'cheap meat', the animals it comes from are treated waaaaaaay better, and it's much easier on the environment.

Rachel said...

Well, my comment is this: (first of all, let me say I was a vegetarian - or pescatarian,technically, through college, but now am a meat eating woman again) - we only eat grass fed, free range, hormone and antibiotic free meats. Period. I would never buy meats that were produced in a CAFO for numerous reasons including animal cruelty, the nutrition of the meat, the environmental impact and just the whole darned system that CAFOs have created.
I don't do meat free Mondays, although we do have at least 2-3 meat free dishes a week in our house (or if not "meat" free - then a sustainable seafood dish).

I think mostly people just don't realize the impact CAFOs have. Or even that what they're eating is not, in fact, meat - but a mostly corn-based, genetically modified, antibiotic laden industrialized product.

There is so much ignorance when it comes to the most important thing we purchase on a daily basis (not to mention the thing that we put in our bodies and expect to sustain us): FOOD!

I've thought about making my Foodie Friday posts more in tune with this subject and you may have just convinced me that it's finally time.

Thanks, as always, for the enlightening post, Stubby!

Tweedles -- that's me said...

I think meatless Mondays, or one day a week is something everyone can do.
Why not? It it helps the planet,,,
why not? Of course it helps lots of other things too- like animals.
Thank you for making us think again about things that really matter.

Hank said...

Michelle, honey.....I say a day without meat is like a day without sunshine.

But mom says I'm a "neanderthal"...whutever the heck THAT is!

Pee S from Hank's mom: I'm with you. If nothing else, maybe we'd all be thinner and stop dying of heart attacks and colon cancer.

Stubby said...

Hi Puglet! Why didn't you make it to the end of the article? It wasn't really that bad, not like that animal eating book.

I totally agree that not eating meat once a week is not going to hurt anypug. I was doing it when Dad was and I lived through it. I guess maybe we'll try it again in the future but Dad doesn't read my blog so for now I've got nothing to worry about!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Rachel! CAFOs are the worst things ever. I agree that most people don't even realize the impact CAFOs have on the animals and on themselves. Most people just blindly eat food without giving thought to where and how it was produced. This is a problem.

Mom has been a vegetarian for almost 6 years and a semi-vegan for almost a year. She doesn't eat animals for most of the reasons you listed and can't imagine ever eating meat again no matter how it was raised.

I think focusing Foodie Fridays on more sustainable food is a great idea. I started Tasty Tuesday with just that purpose in mind.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! One day a week without meat really isn't that bad. A whole week without meat, like when Dad is out of town, is very painful!

Not eating a lot of meat does help the planet and hopefully the animals. You are so wise my little Tweedles.

I hope you're feeling better. I know your owie is starting to heal and so is your heart. Much love to you sweet Tweedles.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Hank! I totally agree with you but our moms are right. I mean lots of people do it and live through it so how hard can it be?

Mom tells me that there's still meat in her colon from when she used to eat it over 6 years ago. YUK! Why did she have to tell me that? The mental picture is killing me!

Stubby xoxo

Apollo said...

When I told my Mommy about this post, she told me that she was a vegetarian for 9 years. Unfortunately she didn't have good eating habits and ate mainly vegetables and grains. This caused health problems that have had lasting effects. She still doesn't like the taste of most meats and WON'T eat any ground meats. She only eats filet, ham, chicken, and seafood. I think she does seafood about five days a week. And I don't eat beef at all. Mommy feeds me the Fromm brand of food, choosing proteins like salmon, whitefish, duck, and pork. The treats I eat are mainly composed of peanut butter, pumpkin, carob, cheese, or venison. Ultimately, we both feel pretty good about the meat we eat and where it comes from, especially since our city (Bloomington, IN) is big on sustainability, in all areas, so there are very good locally owned stores and restaurants that sell and serve food that not only uses eco-friendly and humane farming, but also supports the local community.

Stubby said...

Hi Apollo! It sounds like you eat really good! I wish I could say the same for me but unfortunately I don't eat as good as I could. I'm old now and it's hard to teach an old dog, you know?

You are lucky to live where sustainable food is readily available. Your mom is also smart to know what she should and shouldn't eat.

Mom is very curious about the long lasting health effects your mom suffers from as a result of her vegetarian diet. I'll have Mom email your mom to find out more.

Stubby xoxo

Anonymous said...

We do our best to buy the best meat we can here, i think our standards are much higher then they are in the states and because of that I make sure i don't buy american meat (and the same with veggies and fruits) or dairy products.

I do try my best to mix it up and not eat meat all the time but my husband likes his meat. Thankfully I am getting alot more fish in our diet which is always good.

Meat industry essentially is equal to the tobacco industry :p