Bigger Threat to Global Warming – Cars or Cows?

“Now should be environmental vegetarianism’s big moment,” writes Ben Adler in the article “Are Cows Worse Than Cars,” found in The American Prospect. “Global Warming is the single biggest threat to the health of the planet, and meat consumption plays a bigger role in greenhouse gas emissions than even many environmentalists realize.”

Generally speaking, the environmentalist movement has largely downplayed, if not ignored, the impact that dietary choices have on global warming.

On the one hand, we can support cleaner energy, buy more efficient cars, and reduce our consumption of products derived from petroleum, and yet with our other hand, eat a burger that has a carbon footprint bigger than most SUVs.

Mike Tidwell, director Chesapeake Climate Action Network similarly has a negative view of environmentalists’ awareness of dietary impact. “I think it’s amazing that even the greenest of green liberal environment activists, the vast majority of them tend to consume meat at the same rate as people who think global warming is a hoax,” he says. “Meat consumption seems to be the last thing that progressive people address in their lifestyle. If I had a nickel for every global warming conference that had roast beef on the menu, I’d be rich.”

The beef industry is driven largely by corn subsidies (over 5 billion dollars last year alone). If feedlots had to pay the true cost of feeding the cows all of that corn, or if they had to offset all of the fuel and emissions produced from calf to slaughter, most of them would probably have been out of business long ago.

We’ve been bailing out the meat industry with subsidies and price supports for years, and for what? For greenhouse gas emissions that out-pace the levels from cars and other transportation.

Considering the large carbon footprint for animal agriculture, why is it that we’re so stubborn to give up meat?

Cutting meat out of the diet is not a very catchy campaign. Owning a hybrid vehicle with Sierra Club stickers on the back is way more sexy than cutting the flesh out of our diets.

“I don’t know of anyone in the environmental community that has taken a stance of ‘we support no meat consumption because of global warming,’” says Tim Greef of League of Conservation Voters.

Until the connection between CO2 emissions, global warming, and our diet is accepted, you can be sure that people will be rolling through the drive-thru for Big Mac, in the biodiesel or hybrid, feeling like they’re really making a difference.

Read the entire article by Ben Adler in American Prospect for more juicy tidbits on dietary choices, climate change, and global warming.

Check out how garlic is being used to cut methane gas emissions from livestock.

By Derek Markham, Green Options


Steve Hollingsworth

I am more likely to emit gas from eating vegetables.

Jux C.
Past Member 7 years ago

hm, i've heard many people say they aren't eating meat because of environmental reasons/greenhouse gas emissions.

Steve Hollingsworth

Not bad, thks for the insight.

Christine F.

The human body has historically evolved as eating both meat and plant produce.
It is possible that meat was a lesser part of the diet, asit depended on hunting.
But our guts etc have evolved to be omniverous, so stopping all meat intake would be contra-indicated.
However - the keeping of huge herds in smallish areas was never part of our physical evolution.
I agree with some other comments - it is more than time that all the subsidies should be stopped. Let producers sink or swim under their own efforts. BUT - also, let them be paid a fair price for their work and produce.
Re methane - there was a TV documentary about various rural areas in China, many years ago. Each home kept it's own pig, apparently, in one of the areas reported on. It lived in a pen down near the kitchen (I seem to recall, under the kitchen). The methane was piped into the kitchen for cooking purposes.
Surely small-holdings could do this, and put their excess into cannisters for local homes to use instead of the electricity or gas from the national grids.

Julia Tran
Past Member 7 years ago

If one does choose to eat beef and other red meats, eat them in small amounts and only once in a while ( once a month at the most! for both the environment and most importantly Health!! As for dairy it is best to avoid as much as possible,(you don't need this baby cow food to be healthy!!). Dairy production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions just as much as beef production. The beef and dairy industry convinces people that they need meat and milk to be healthy and strong, nothing could be further from the truth! Maybe it's about time to limit the cheeseburgers and milkshakes and walk more often for both your health and the Earth's.

Aoife O Mahony
Aoife O Mahony7 years ago

My chemistry teacher seemed a little shocked last year when she mentioned greenhouse gases and I immediately spouted more than she knew about them, especially methane, as I became vegetarian for the environment when I was 14 or 15....can't remember exactly.... But even I was shocked when she told us it has a greenhouse factor of 30, while CO2 has a factor of 1...making methane 30 times more damaging.
Thanks for the article =), and I'm glad to see that so many people here are willing to reduse their meat consumption so drastically =)

Steve Hollingsworth

I agree.

Diane Wayne
Past Member 7 years ago

And why should these greedy cow companies be bailed out financially when they have so much to do with poisoning the human population? AND, why, after more than 3 decades of knowledge of alternative fuels for cars are these fuels not being used in every area of automobile and factory emmissions? How can this world continue to read the news about this, and talk about these subjects for so long, without making any kinds of positive changes? Is it laziness, greed, or studpidity?

Steve Hollingsworth

If that car can taste as good as the cow (BBQ'd). I sure would eat it. have a good one

Janice P.
Janice P7 years ago

What next? Shall we start riding our cows and eating our cars?