I’ve written several posts referring to the United Nations (U.N.) report revealing that the livestock sector is responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, SUVS, 18-wheelers, jumbo jets, ships, and trains in the world combined. I’ve cited research by Worldwatch Institute researchers who claim that raising animals for food causes 51 percent of harmful greenhouse gasses every year. I’ve noted the overwhelming evidence showing that meat production contributes to climate change and the litany of experts who urge people to go vegan, or at least eat less meat. And each time, I made no secret of that fact that I work for the PETA Foundation and that I advocate a vegan diet for ethical, as well as environmental reasons. But critics of the U.N report and other studies showing that meat production contributes to climate change tend to be about as transparent as a brick wall.
You may have read news reports about Frank Mitloehner, an associate professor and cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Davis, and the author of Clearing the Air: Livestock’s Contributions to Climate Change, a paper which criticizes the findings of the U.N. report.
I’m betting that the new reports did not mention that Mitloehner is a livestock industry consultant who has received big bucks from the meat industry.
A blogger with the Guardian in the U.K. apparently did a little digging and wrote an informative post pointing out Mitloehner’s ties to the beef industry. The whole blog is worth reading, but I think the excerpt from the press release put out by the university is particularly telling, especially this part:
“Writing the synthesis was supported by a $26,000 research grant from the Beef Checkoff Program, which funds research and other activities, including promotion and consumer education, through fees on beef producers in the US. Since 2002, Mitloehner has received $5m in research funding, with 5% of the total from agricultural commodities groups, such as beef producers.”
Why did that information not make it into media reports?
Mitloehner’s university disclosed it, so it’s not as if the press was kept in the dark. It’s pretty significant information too—while it doesn’t necessarily mean that Mitloehner’s arguments aren’t worth investigating further, it does cause you to question his motives and look closer at his claims. His calculations do not take into proper account the impact of methane and nitrous oxide, which are much more potent than carbon dioxide on a molecule-by-molecule basis. Since the livestock sector is a leading emitter of both these gases, it would seem that Mitloehner drastically underestimates the impact of the meat, egg, and dairy industries on climate change.
An objective look at the science leaves no doubt that going vegan is one of the best things you can do for the planet. Researchers have even found that switching from a meat-based diet to a vegan one will reduces one’s carbon footprint more than switching from a standard sedan to a hybrid car.
But our carbon footprints aren’t all we should be concerned about. If you factor in other pressing issues, including water and air pollution, deforestation, water scarcity, and, yes, animal suffering, you’ll probably agree that there’s just no defense for the meat industry.