Of course, meat eating isn’t the largest producer of greenhouse gases, (burning fossil fuels for electricity wins that crown) but it sure makes a good headline, doesn’t it?
Last month, according to an article in Salon by Liz Galst entitled, “Earth to PETA,” PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) members tried to bring attention to their assertion that global warming was caused primarily by meat eating in Washington DC by not only donning chicken costumes and passing out fliers with the ever so alienating message, “Think you can be a meat-eating environmentalist?” Think again!,” but also by draping a banner with their incorrect assertions across a gas-guzzling Humvee and driving it around downtown traffic.
This is an example of why I really dislike PETA as an organization, even if I agree with some of their goals. (If you count the reduction of animal suffering in the world as one of their goals.)
My first objection to their tactics in this instance is that, once again, PETA is engaging in obfuscation of facts, or in this case, outright lying, to present their viewpoint, which is that meat-eating is immoral and unethical. In this case, they are trying to guilt the environmentally conscious among us into not eating meat, not because it is immoral or unethical, but because it is supposedly the biggest cause of global warming.
I agree that confined animal feeding operations (henceforth to be known as CAFOs for short) degrade the environment horribly and not only contribute to some extent to global warming, but even worse, create groundwater contamination and adversely affect air quality, but I don’t feel the need to lie about it in order to get my point across. I also agree that the conditions under which animals are raised in CAFOs is inhumane and unhealthy, not only to the animals but to the people who work with them, and ultimately, to the people who eat those animals. That is why I take great care to avoid all products–meat, poultry, eggs and dairy–from CAFOs.
But again, I see no reason to embellish the facts about CAFOs by adding untruths to my statements in support of my argument that they promote unsustainable, unethical forms of animal husbandry. The truths about CAFOs are damning in and of themselves.
But back to PETA.
If eating animals is immoral or unethical, what is lying? Perfectly okay?
What kind of morality or system of ethics does lying promote?
And what the hell is up with driving a Hummer, one of the most fuel inefficient vehicles around, with PETA’s (incorrect) message that meat eating is the main cause of global warming around and around in DC traffic? Is this meant to be ironic? Is it meant to show that PETA vegans can drive whatever they want because they are not eating meat? Is it that PETA’s publicity stunt coordinators really are that clueless?
Or, is it just a plain old ugly show of the sort of hypocritical behavior that keeps me from openly supporting PETA even when I agree with them in principle? (Because, the truth is, I agree with them that animals should be treated with respect, dignity and decency. Of course, that means to them that they should never be eaten–to me, it means that if they are eaten, they should be treated well while they are alive, killed quickly and humanely, and then eaten.) Putting your lie about global warming on a Hummer and driving it through traffic tells me, and probably a lot of other people, that PETA doesn’t really give a damned about global warming. They just want people to stop eating meat, by whatever means necessary.
My feeling about this latest chapter of PETA’s ever-devolving attention-getting antics is this: if you are going to claim moral superiority in your positions, then you had best act in a moral fashion. That means that you shouldn’t lie. Most people think that lying is not a particularly moral or ethical way to communicate with the world. Lying to people does not enhance one’s standing in society, nor does it make people trust one. It is a thing.
Not only is lying a problem, but trying to make a point about global warming while driving around a vehicle that very much contributes to the problem of global warming is just plain stupid. People are going to laugh at you at best, or scoff and ignore you, or at worst, completely discount everything that you say now and in the future when it comes to environmental concerns. Doing stuff like that discredits PETA and their message. (Which, since, in this case, their message is completely bogus–maybe isn’t such a bad thing.)
Now that I have gotten all of that off of my chest, I want you to go read the Salon article–Galst makes some good points, though I think that quite a bit of her data is off.
The crux of her argument is that while PETA is incorrect in its exact statement, the sentiment is correct: eating CAFO meat is contributing to global warming and environmental decline. So, we should eat less of it. Galst’s article specifically states that chicken eating creates less of a carbon imprint than beef eating or pork eating, so if we are going to eat meat, we should eat chicken. If you look at her argument from a completely environmental standpoint, she is mostly correct, although I quibble with her when it comes to grazing animals on non-arable land. (That means that grazers and browsers, like cattle, bison, goats, sheep and hogs can efficiently turn rocky, scrubby grasslands, hills and marginal lands which are completely unsuitable for crop production into milk and meat that humans can consume by eating that which we cannot eat: grass.)
Of course, as the commentors on the article pointed out, both the author and PETA seem to have ignored the root cause of global warming which is not fossil fuels, industrialization or meat eating, but human overpopulation. We simply have too many people using too many resources in an unsustainable fashion for the earth to support us. That is a fact. We produce enough food to feed everyone now (of course, because of political reasons not everyone gets the food we produce for them–starvation, at this point is largely caused by human greed and corruption, not by lack of resources), but if population growth continues at present rates, we will no longer be able to support everyone in fifty or a hundred years.
Population is the reason we have so much fossil fuel dependent industry, transportation and agricultural systems–all of which contribute mightily to global warming.
What do I propose to stop this rampant population growth? Education of women, support of birth control and in extreme cases, governmental family size caps. (The latter I think should only be used in times of extreme need, as the current experiment in governmental population control in China has resulted in a lot of problems and civil rights abuses.) However, it has been shown throughout the world, that in countries where women are educated, and given economic opportunities, and access to birth control, not only does the standard of living for women and children in that country rise, the per capita birthrate drops.
So, what do I suggest that we do as individuals to help slow down global warming?
Number one, walk (or bike) more and drive less. Or, when you can, use public transportation. And if you drive, get as fuel-efficient a car as you can afford and keep it in good working order.
Two, eat las much ocal food that is sustainably produced as you can. Eat less meat, and more vegetables, and what meat you eat, try to get from non-CAFO sources. Vote with your shopping cart for sustainable agricultural practices as much as you possibly can, as often as you possibly can. Try not to eat fast food, if you can. Go vegan if you like, but if you do, don’t be so insufferable as to believe and spout to all the world that it is the only way a person can be a true environmentalist or the only diet that an ethical human can eat in order to save the planet. All you will do with that is make yourself and other vegans look like twits. And I know for a fact that most vegans are very nice, ethical people who do not deserve the twitty reputation that has been slapped upon them by PETA’s (and an obnoxious and vocal vegan minority’s) antics.
Three: try not to have a bazillion babies. Support adoption programs, including open adoption in the US. Support birth control use and education both here and abroad. Support the education of women here and abroad. Support workers rights so that folks can support the children they do have.
Four: try to grow some of your own food. Support community gardening programs. Support the harvest of rainwater, and community composting efforts to keep biomass out of the landfills where all it will do is contribute to CO2 emissions. Support green fuels, green electricity (solar and wind power, for example) and recycle. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, (they are really nice, not like those old flickery tubes they lit up our schools with back in the day–we use them here and I love them) and don’t use your air conditioners or heat pumps as much.
Oh, and don’t give money to PETA. They’ll probably spend it on a Hummer and some chicken suits.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.