A Letter to Laurie David
about Global Warming and the Cattle Industry
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
It’s 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
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,
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.