It put a smile on my face to read about the recent study from Carnegie Mellon University in the US, which found that eating lettuce is ‘over three times worse’ in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon. I have been at this game too long to believe every isolated study that makes headlines, but this one provided a refreshing counterpoint to the glib anti-meat narrative.
“We must all eat less meat”, articulated with the sanctimonious evangelism of the repenting sinner, has become a familiar chant, yet I find it deeply counterintuitive. For a kick-off, most Britons I come across already eat less, not more, red meat than the generations before them. Where are all these people in the UK who gorge on it?
And while I have no difficulty believing that US-style excessive consumption of intensive factory farmed animals stuffed on grain and soya is environmentally disastrous, the vociferous anti-meat case goes much further. It’s generic: against all meat irrespective of how the animals are reared. It’s global: all the tortuous arithmetic that apparently evidences the dossier against meat is broad brush. So the carbon footprint of the Welsh organic sheep farm gets lumped in with the Texan feedlot.
It’s ideological, too. The anti-meat lobby jumps upon every weak diet study that can be offered as “evidence” that all red meat is also unhealthy. But as Surgeon Captain Peter Cleave, the scientist who first researched the negative health effects of refined carbs, wrote: “For a modern disease [obesity, Type 2 diabetes etc] to be related to an old-fashioned food is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever heard.”
Of course, we all play the “evidence-based science” game, cherrypicking research to fit, but I’d like to see those who condemn all meat, irrespective of its method of production or processing, explain how the nutrients we need to live, the essential fats, complete protein, vitamins and minerals meat contains, can possibly be killing us. How come the human race has survived the past three-and-a-half million years eating an omnivorous, often heavily carnivorous diet? Why would Mother Nature design a food to shorten the lives of people and the planet?
Joanna Blythman is a journalist and author of Swallow This