Meat eating and the flexitarianism

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    The meat industry lobby hits back at vegans

    Meat industry targets militant vegans and ‘food fake news’

    “I’m sure you’ve heard and read it all: for instance, eating less red meat will somehow save the planet,” he said, challenging the idea that decreasing meat consumption will help slash carbon emissions.

    “Well, here are the real facts. Wales has 1.8 million hectares of agricultural land. 89% of that is permanent pasture and much of this land is unsuitable for other food production. Producing quality meat the ‘Welsh Way’ – by non-intensive, mixed grazing – enables a vibrant, bio-diverse and beautiful landscape.”

    Although his arguments were made on behalf of the entire meat industry, Mr Roberts had a particular bug bear with what he called “sensationalist” and “misleading” health claims lobbied at red meat.

    “The real facts and the latest science are inconvenient for the radical wings of the vegetarian and vegan lobbies. They cobble together assumptions based on often partial research and blend incompatible statistical correlation with meat consumption figures that are often far higher than the average UK intake.”




    Farmer Roberts makes a couple of good points against the vegan lobby: hill farming in Wales (renowned for sheep) and health scares about meat as such (not as adulterated under capitalism). They are on a sticky wicket there as there are also health issues about a vegan diet, especially for cats:

    The only justification for veganism is an ethical one but that doesn’t give them the right to impose their ethics on others. As here:

    No wonder they are so unpopular. People don’t like holier-than-thou types.

    Self-righteousness (also called sanctimoniousness, sententiousness, and holier-than-thou attitudes) is a feeling or display of (usually smug) moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person. Self-righteous individuals are often intolerant of the opinions and behaviours of others.

    How would they like it if a gang of meat-eaters barged into a vegan restaurant eating hamburgers?

    Anyway, haven’t we discussed this enough? It’s got nothing to do with socialism. We are just providing a platform for food faddism.



    You can choose to unclick notification and cease contributing to the thread, alb.

    As for being a “health scare”. Are we cherry-picking the advice of science when it comes to the carcinogenic nature of red and processed meat and trusting a representative of the business responsible? Maybe i should have believed the tobacco companies lobby. (what makes you think Roberts is or has been a farmer or ex-farmer and not a PR appointee)

    Red meat, processed meat and cancer

    These aren’t health scares but genuine medical concern with evidence  provided.

    I still happen to think speculation on diet is indeed relevant to a future socialist society as have other members in the past.

    “… One reason for this is that we are materialists and recognise that humans are material beings who depend entirely for their survival on what they get from their material environment, particularly food. Without being so simplistic as those 19th century German materialists who declared “man ist wass man isst”, (“one is what one eats”) and who attempted to explain human behaviour in terms of what people ate — of course, it is social factors that are the most important ones involved in human behaviour — many Socialist Party members realised that what you ate was bound to have some effect on your health, and so were concerned about the chemical pollution of food. Many became vegetarians or food reformers of one kind or another. One (Horace Jarvis) wrote a book Food Faking Exposed that was published in 1958….”

    I wonder who was reminding us of this interest by party members  😛

    As for providing a platform for food-faddists  …if only….this forum is moribund except for a half-dozen posters.



    Sorry ALB but that’s not right. Ethical considerations for veganism, but also health. A meat and dairy based diet has been evidenced again and again to be unhealthy when practised as we do in the west. Dairy is unnatural anyway, we are the ONLY creature on the planet to drink milk from another mammal – its weird and the process is cruel and unhealthy for both humans and animals.

    Meat if ethically raised and humanely killed is maybe OK in small amounts but as an adaptable being we really have no need to get our nutrients this way. But you know as well as I do that under capitalism meat is not reared cleanly neither is it dispatched humanely despite the protests of the farming community. You cannot have meat on an industrial scale without resorting to inhumane slaughter.

    It is true that some vegan/animal rights folk border on the hysterical, and I speak as a non-hysterical vegan, but that is the same for any community or group. There are hysterical socialists, hysterical neo nazis as there are animal rights activist and meat eaters (eating live fish anyone (Japan)? Burning live bulls for cultural pleasure anyone (Spain)?) The meat industry is currently under attack for its ethics, poor practices and poor treatment of its workers and it is obvious and noticeable that its current media defence, really being pushed this week, is that vegans are forcing their opinions on people. What a lot of tosh! I have to watch/listen to endless ads for McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and all sorts of meat and dairy produce everywhere, all day every day. It is the cultural norm. If anything, meat and dairy is the ‘forced’ option as it is almost impossible to avoid with taking a conscious decision and all this kind of social crap that comes with making a personal food choice. If this level of vitriol was levelled at a religious group or sexual orientation, there would have been riots by now. For a revolutionary party we seem to have a lot of urge to not change anything and to re-enforce the current capitalist cultural norms……

    So it does have a lot to do with socialism as our current diet of meat and dairy has developed and been industrialised out of all recognition by capitalism in quests for profits as the expense of human health and well-being, let alone animal welfare. Surely you agree with that?

    And as an aside can we make it a forum rule NOT to quote anything from The Sun – I’d rather get my news from a cereal carton than that filthy rag…..



    Another report advocating cutting down on meat for the sake of the planet.

    “…no expert in this area is saying the world should be vegan or even vegetarian.”

    The global food system is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all emissions from transport, heating, lighting and air conditioning combined. The global warming this is causing is now damaging food production through extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.  Reducing meat and dairy consumption is the single biggest way individuals can lessen their impact on the planet, according to recent research. And tackling dangerous global warming is considered impossible without massive reductions in meat consumption.Research published in the journal Climate Policy shows that at the present rate, cattle and other livestock will be responsible for half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and that to prevent this will require “substantial reductions, far beyond what are planned or realistic, from other sectors”.



    The annual greenhouse gas bulletin issued by the World Meteorological Organization reports a new high in CO2 levels of 405.5 parts per million reached in 2017; it is 46 percent higher than preindustrial levels.  The rising trend continues for on May 14, 2018, another high of 412.60 ppm was recorded.

    The enthusiastic consumption of meat in industrialized countries is one cause.  The worst culprits are lamb, mutton and beef because sheep, goats and cattle are ruminants and their digestive systems release methane mostly through belching rather than the other end.  Cattle emit so much greenhouse gas that if they were a country they “would be the planet’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.”  They produce an astounding 270,000 tonnes of emissions over their agricultural life cycle per tonne of protein, multiple times more than pork or poultry or eggs.  Transferring our carnivorous instincts from beef to poultry reduces so much emissions as to be near as good as being vegetarian although not quite.

    Another way of imagining the effect is to translate a kilo of food sources into the number of car miles driven to produce the same emissions.  A kilo of beef equates to 63 miles.  Eating chicken reduces this by 47 miles, rice by another 10, lentils by 4 more.

    Meat and Consequences:  More Bad News for Climate Change



    That sort of article, whether intentionally or not, diverts the blame for global warming from the capitalist profit-seeking economic system on to individuals. If only they would eat less meat or ride a bicycle instead of driving a car. As the (second) article linked to actually puts it:

    When people ask, ‘but what can I do about climate change?’ we have an answer, ‘eat less beef.’  We can also drive less by cutting unnecessary trips — for example, grocery shopping only once a week.  Turning down the thermostat in winter and up in summer to reduce energy consumption (and lower gas and electricity bills), walking or bicycling instead of driving short distances for better health and for our environment are suggestions we have heard before.  It’s time we complied.

    Smug people telling us what to do again. Well, we can guilt-trip them in return by pointing out that they are prolonging the problem by not working to get rid of capitalism.

    The reason cows, sheep and goats emit methane is that they consume so much fibre in their diet. Humans, too, emit methane and, because they eat more fibre, vegetarians and vegans more than the rest of us. Put crudely, they fart more. In any event, the logic of the anti-cow argument is not that we should become non-meat-eaters but equally that we could eat different types of meat, birds and fish and pigs and horses instead.

    But there’s another problem, methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas but does not work the same as carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere while CH4 is broken down fairly rapidly and recycled at a given level. I don’t understand why the WMO seems to be including methane as a “long-lived greenhouse gas”.  We (including me) are getting out of our depth here but maybe Dave Bsc can explain.

    In any event, CO2 is the main culprit and it’s emissions of that that have to be reduced. Once they have been, then methane emissions shouldn’t be a problem. Don’t forget that we need some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to avoid Earth cooling to -18 degrees centigrade.



    “Transferring our carnivorous instincts from beef to poultry reduces so much emissions as to be near as good as being vegetarian although not quite.”

    But yet another confirmation that flexitarianism offers a moreorless practical alternative to veganism/vegetarianism.


    Dave Chesham

    “But there’s another problem, methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas but does not work the same as carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere while CH4 is broken down fairly rapidly and recycled at a given level. I don’t understand why the WMO seems to be including methane as a “long-lived greenhouse gas”.”

    While it is true that methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat.

    In the first two decades after its release, methane is around 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide!



    In the first two decades after its release, methane is around 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide!

    That claim is all over the internet but I can’t find its origin. It is contradicted by other statements that methane only lasts in the atmosphere for about 12 years (compared with hundreds of years for some CO2). For instance:

    The lifetime in the air of CO2, the most significant man-made greenhouse gas, is probably the most difficult to determine, because there are several processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Between 65% and 80% of CO2 released into the air dissolves into the ocean over a period of 20–200 years. The rest is removed by slower processes that take up to several hundreds of thousands of years, including chemical weathering and rock formation. This means that once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can continue to affect climate for thousands of years.

    Methane, by contrast, is mostly removed from the atmosphere by chemical reaction, persisting for about 12 years. Thus although methane is a potent greenhouse gas, its effect is relatively short-lived. ( )

    Help, Dave BSc !




    Dave Chesham

    “That claim is all over the internet but I can’t find its origin.”

    “Methane is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential over 100 years of 23.

    This means that when averaged over 100 years each kg of CH4 warms the Earth 23 times as much as the same mass of CO2.  The Earth’s crust contains huge amounts of methane.”

    “In 2010, methane levels in the Arctic were measured at 1850 nmol/mol. This level is over twice as high as at any time in the last 400,000 years. Historic methane concentrations in the world’s atmosphere have ranged between 300 and 400 nmol/mol during glacial periods commonly known as ice ages, and between 600 and 700 nmol/mol during the warm interglacial periods. The Earth’s oceans are a potential important source of Arctic methane.

    Methane is an important greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 34 compared to CO2 over a 100-year period, and 72 over a 20-year period.

    The Earth’s atmospheric methane concentration has increased by about 150% since 1750, and it accounts for 20% of the total radiative forcing from all of the long-lived and globally mixed greenhouse gases (these gases don’t include water vapor which is by far the largest component of the greenhouse effect).”


    <p id=”first” class=”lead”>”While carbon dioxide is typically painted as the bad boy of greenhouse gases, methane is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. New research in the journal Nature indicates that for each degree that  Earth’s temperature rises, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere from microorganisms dwelling in lake sediment and freshwater wetlands — the primary sources of the gas — will increase several times. As temperatures rise, the relative increase of methane emissions will outpace that of carbon dioxide from these sources, the researchers report.”</p>
    But perhaps we are getting into the area of what is it better to die of, cholera or typhus ..



    I think I am beginning to understand what the statement that “In the first two decades after its release, methane is around 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide” means.

    It doesn’t mean that methane lasts decades in the atmosphere after it is emitted. It is a measure of how much more heating a given amount of methane creates compared to the same amount of CO2. For various chemical reasons CH4 absorbs more heat than CO2 and so is a more “potent” greenhouse gas. How much more depends on over what period you measure the extra warming effect.

    If one considers a long time frame, then the longer-lived gases will appear stronger, and vice-versa if one considers a short time frame. This is why the values for methane appear to be all over the map. Methane sticks around for only about a dozen years, so it does its warming early on. Carbon dioxide, in contrast, can persist for thousands of years, steadily warming that whole time. As a result, methane’s potency is much higher if evaluated over 20 years rather than 100. ( )

    The figure of 80 times more is based on a 20-year period (hence the “first two decades” in the quote). Over a 100-year period it’s about 30 times more. The measure is called “Global Warming Potential” (GWP). (As the standard, CO2’s GWP is 1 over any time period.)

    For all this focus on methane’s potency, though, it’s useful to remember that methane is still a smaller overall contributor to climate change than CO2. As we’ve written before, CO2 is the main driver. Other gases, such as methane, are important, but they’re far less abundant. According to the IPCC, “carbon dioxide is the largest single contributor to radiative forcing over 1750–2011 and its trend since 1970.” By itself, CO2 accounted for 76 percent of all human-made greenhouse gases in 2010. Methane ranks as the second-largest single contributor, responsible for 16 percent of the same total if using the older GWP100 values, or 20 percent if using the newer ones. Go ahead, and take your pick.

    To complete the picture:

    in the U.S., 31 percent of methane emissions due to human activity come from the oil and gas industry; 26 percent come from livestock, such as cows; and another 16 percent come from landfills. Methane also has many natural sources, including wetlands and termites.

    Natural gas, which when burned releases CO2, is methane. Also, as the last post from Alan points out, global warming results in more methane being released from natural sources.

    By the time this discussion is over we’ll all be experts in global warming, hopefully inoculated against accepting claims without checking them !




    Not sure how relevant but we have methane emissions from land-fill, leakage from fracking and the thawing of the tundra. So it is not all burps and farts.

    Methane is not all negative – it can be captured and use as a green energy sourcce



    The new report, launched at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, follows other major scientific analyses showing that huge reductions in meat-eating are “essential” to avoid dangerous climate change. Another found that avoiding meat and dairy products was the single biggest way to reduce an individual’s environmental impact on the planet, from slowing the annihilation of wildlife to healing dead zones in the oceans.

    More than 50% more food will be needed by 2050, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI) report, but greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture will have to fall by two-thirds at the same time. The extra food will have to be produced without creating new farmland, it says, otherwise the world’s remaining forests face destruction.

    Tim Searchinger, of the WRI and Princeton University, said: “If we tried to produce all the food needed in 2050 using today’s production systems, the world would have to convert most of its remaining forest, and agriculture alone would produce almost twice the emissions allowable from all human activities.”

    Meat and dairy production use 83% of farmland and produce 60% of agriculture’s emissions. After increased productivity, the WRI report focuses on meat from ruminant animals. The digestion of cattle and sheep produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Beef provided 3% of the calories in the diet of US citizens but was responsible for half the emissions, the WRI said.

    Increasing the amount of food produced per hectare was the most critical step, the experts said, followed by cutting meat-eating and putting a stop to the wasting of one-third of food produced.

    “We have to change how we produce and consume food, not just for environmental reasons, but because this is an existential issue for humans,” said Janet Ranganathan, vice-president for science and research at the WRI.

    The report recommends that 2 billion people across countries including the US, Russia and Brazil cut their beef and lamb consumption by 40%, limiting it to 1.5 servings a week on average. Most of the world’s citizens would continue to eat relatively little beef in the WRI scenario.

     Searchinger said: “The world’s poor people are entitled to consume at least a little more.” The 40% reduction is a smaller cut than in other studies. “We think that is a realistic goal,” he said. “In the US and Europe, beef consumption has already reduced by one-third from the 1960s until today.”

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