Who is going to defend meat?

Redwood Comment
Published:  23 January, 2019
Dr Mike Redwood

This is the week of Davos when the great and the good attend the World Economic Forum to resolve the world’s problems in the luxurious Swiss setting. There are a few to sort out.

Their idea had been to talk about globalisation, but the absence of nearly all the world’s leaders has turned it into more of a fireside chat that would be better held in Manchester, Addis Ababa or Chengdu than a frosty elitist Alpine village. And when they ran a survey on the topics at top of mind among stakeholders, they discovered that it was not trade and tariffs at all, but climate change.

For leather this is significant as it comes with a rise in attacks on the leather trade and its suppliers. The recent EAT Lancet study underlines this as it involves a major offensive against global meat eating that has gathered big press attention despite being riddled with mistakes that will lead to unhealthier citizens, increased food waste, more diabetes and unbalanced diets.

Who is going to correct these inaccuracies?

It argues that we should only eat a tiny slither of read meat a week based on unproven health grounds and incorrect greenhouse gas data. One concern we must have is who is going to correct these inaccuracies. The leather industry moves to define leather as not involved in livestock’s carbon footprint because of our by-product status sidelines us to a degree. On the other hand, the meat and livestock industries are quite fragmented, especially when we look at the grain-fed versus grass-fed branches of cattle farming. Merely writing blogs among ourselves, however satisfying achieves very little.

This is important since it is increasingly clear that the campaigners against meat, many of whom slide over into an anti-leather position with ease, are a well organised lobby. EAT was founded in 2013 by Norwegian Gunhild Stordalen, whose husband Petter is an immensely rich hotel owner. It is understood that she is an animal rights activist with the Norwegian Animal Welfare Alliance. EAT uses her huge wealth effectively to build alliances – with food groups pushing vegan dishes and vegan celebrities such as Bill Clinton, whom they reportedly paid some US$400,000 for a speech at one of their conferences. Celebrity endorsement can still catch the headlines in some instances.

Hysterical anti-meat language

Anyone reading all the reports coming from organisations supported by these bodies will be struck by the unscientific, almost hysterical, anti-meat language being used. Meat eaters are compared with smokers and meat is blamed for endless early deaths (using quotes about “killing people” from supposedly objective scientists who should know better), since the work of EAT is supposedly about researching and promoting good science.

On the other hand, we know well that over thousands of years a balanced diet, including meat has served humankind well. Just as we know that our ruminant livestock graze intermediate land not suited for growing crops, eating almost totally material unsuited for anything else – and converting it to protein. On long-term grassland well managed by grazing, biodiversity is increased and carbon sequestered benefitting the planet. Finally, instead of repeating historic inaccuracies it should be recognised that current figures show that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says greenhouse gas from beef cattle only represents 2% of emissions in the U.S. whereas transportation accounts for 27% of emissions, representing a far more impactful opportunity for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What would really benefit the planet more would be if Gunhild Stordalen spent less time flying with her friends around the world on her private jet and more time working on good, honest science. Otherwise all this looks like a plot to open up our diets to big business lobbies cleverly linked to animal rights fanatics.

One ugly part of globalisation that Davos needs to think hard about.

Dr Mike Redwood

January 23, 2019.

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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