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A Letter to Laurie David
about Global Warming and the Cattle Industry

[You can view my article "Laurie David and Vegetarianism" here.]

May 3, 2007

Dear Laurie David,

I have seen "An Inconvenient Truth," read with interest your web site StopGlobalWarming.org, support your efforts to stop global warming, and have joined the "Virtual March to Stop Global Warming." Thank you!

I have a suggestion for the StopGlobalWarming.org web site. This web site lists 30 "simple things you can do in your everyday life" that can have an effect on the planet. One of those things should be eating low on the food chain, eating plant foods instead of animal foods. According to a recent report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent 18 percent than any other sector, including transport. The cattle industry is worse for global warming than driving cars.

Its good that one of the 30 things you list is to "buy organic food," which is also important. But "organic" cattle are only marginally better than conventional cattle in terms of global warming, because the main problem with cattle is their production of methane. Cattle are still going to produce methane whether it is organic or conventional feed that they are eating.

We can debate whether or not eating low on the food chain is more, or less, important than various of the other action items you mention -- low-flow showerheads, putting on a sweater in winter, or using a push mower. We can also debate the politically best term to describe this activity -- "going vegetarian," "eating less meat and dairy," or "eating low on the food chain." But surely it is beyond debate that eating low on the food chain should belong somewhere in any list of 30 actions an individual can take to help stop global warming.


Keith Akers

Note: I sent this letter to Laurie David via her web site.  I sent a similar letter to the StopGlobalWarming.org web site over a month ago and received only an automated response. I will keep you posted on any response I get.

UPDATE January 18, 2008:

Laurie David now uses the "V-word."

I received an e-mail today from Laurie David (addressed to the hundreds of thousands of people in the StopGlobalWarming.com "virtual march") which, among other things, specifically addresses meat-eating, and even uses the V-word.  I quote:

Recently I talked to ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney about vegetarianism and the environment, an important link he feels is being overlooked in the global warming discussion. He shared some shocking statistics from a 2006 UN report entitled "Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options."

The report found that 18 percent of global warming emissions come from raising cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys and other animals we eat. That's 40 percent more than all the world's cars, SUVs, airplanes, and other modes of fossil-based transportation, which combined account for 13 percent. For further comparison, every house, residential and office building in the world accounts for just 8 percent.

There's a trend in Europe called "Meat Reducers" where, along with recycling and not taking plastic bags, people are eating meat at least one day less a week. Become a "Meat Reducer." It is a simple thing everyone can do to lower their own carbon footprint.

I've sent her a note thanking her for doing this.  Of course one could then legitimately ask -- if eliminating meat and dairy one day a week "can make a big difference," then what about the difference that eliminating meat and dairy two, three, or even seven days a week could have?  But the important thing is that the subject of meat, and the word "vegetarianism," has now appeared in her discussion of global warming. 

The list of 30 "simple things you can do in your daily life" that I previously mentioned above has now been increased to 34, and one of them is "Be a Meat Reducer." O. K., it's at the bottom of the list, and this isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of veganism, but this really is a very positive development.  Thanks, Laurie.