According to a new report put together by the British think tank Chatham House, our chances of limiting climate change depend on limiting our consumption of meat. But fears of a backlash against trying to change people’s eating habits prevents environmentalists from making the case.
The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined, but a worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming.
“Preventing catastrophic warming is dependent on tackling meat and dairy consumption, but the world is doing very little,” said Rob Bailey, the report’s lead author. “A lot is being done on deforestation and transport, but there is a huge gap on the livestock sector. There is a deep reluctance to engage because of the received wisdom that it is not the place of governments or civil society to intrude into people’s lives and tell them what to eat.”
Indeed it is enormously difficult to get people to radically change their eating habits. The solution is to encourage small changes to our diet, the cumulative effect of which would significantly reduce the carbon footprint of meat production.
My personal approach is to adopt “tremendomeatatarianism”, a term that I believe first appeared in this comic strip. I eat meat only when I think it will be really good—when I want to make a special recipe or I’m eating at a restaurant that I expect will do an excellent job.
When you think about it, much of the meat we eat is just ordinary—a fast food burger, a diner steak, a humdrum cut from the supermarket, indifferently prepared for convenient, quick consumption. There is nothing special about preserving and perpetuating that experience, even if you really like meat. Surely it is not a sacrifice to give up such an undistinguished experience. And it opens up a whole new world of wonderful vegetables to eat.
Turning toward quality and getting rid of the run-of-the-mill in our lives can make a big difference, personally and globally.
And I would really be down with Unicorn Meat. Do you know anyone who sells it? I’m in San Francisco at the moment. I understand you can get anything you want here.