Yesterday, the NYTimes published an inevitable article entitled Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change, burying it in the Media & Advertising quadrant of the Business section. The piece was basically about how vegetarian/vegan and animal rights groups are now using the environmental unfriendliness of carnivorism to advance their agenda. The article points out that “livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined,” but goes on to emphasize the extent to which this is really a fringe effort on the part of these activists.
But something important is implied and never stated, and we want to correct that omission. Namely, the reason why this is so fringe, and will remain so no matter how trendy the Green Revolution gets, is that people would ultimately rather have civilization cease to exist than to give up meat. It’s true, even though you could probably never get anyone to admit it. Meat-eating is pretty central to most of the world’s population, and the marginal benefit of giving up meat for environmental reasons is far too slight, even for people who have a grasp of the issues, to overcome our lust for flesh. The only way humanity would ever give up meat is if there were a catastrophic animal die-off directly caused by environmental degradation, and even then, only maybe.
We don’t even think organic gets you off the hook in this case, because it still takes a hell of a lot more resources to raise a calorie of organic animal than a calorie of organic vegetable.
That said, as the costs of husbandry increase due to land values, transport costs, feed prices and the like, market forces will probably decrease global meat consumption. But we can’t see this happening any other way.
Do you think we have too dim a view of human nature? Are we ignoring the virtues of sustainable agriculture? Write in and let the world know.