The Plant-Based Workplace   by Gigi Carter


Creating Doubt Breed Inaction

Previously, I’ve written blog articles about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and why a plant-based diet is more sustainable. Since those articles were published, the EAT Lancet Commission—a group of 30 leading global experts—published a portrait of an “ideal” diet to support human health and stay within the boundaries of planetary viability. The authors conclude: “Feeding a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050 with a healthy and sustainable diet will be impossible without transforming eating habits, improving food production, and reducing food waste.”

One particular change the report recommends was met with backlash from animal agriculture interest groups and organizations: the commission states that we need to reduce meat and dairy consumption by at least 50%. For example, the average person should not exceed 1 to 1.5 eggs per week and 3.5 ounces of red meat monthly.

Advocacy groups with an economic interest in the status quo have made comments that aim to create doubt. The American Society of Animal Science stated in a blog article, “the actual recommendations are not based on sound science.” They go on to take jabs at the experts and question the report’s legitimacy: “The authors’ credentials are called dubious by many dietitians, food groups, livestock organizations, and others.” The National Pork Producer’s Council said the report “is based on dubious science and is irresponsible.” These discrediting tactics were used by the tobacco industry for decades, but eventually, the truth prevailed, and tobacco use dropped from over 40% in the mid-1960s down to 14% today.

While I’m not dismissing efforts by the animal agriculture industry to lower their environmental footprint, no adjustment in meat production will make meat-eating compatible with the world’s food needs, given the global population growth. This critical variable is often overlooked by those trying to defend the industry. People who eat locally sourced meat and dairy from a farm where cows are happily raised on lots of acreage over-emphasize the soil benefits that small amounts of manure generate. That manure is in no way capable of compensating for the need to clear vast amounts of land (and we’re talking about the Amazon Rainforest) to graze enough cows to satisfy our current consumption of meat and dairy. Clear-cutting releases all the sequestered carbon in the trees ends in soil erosion and desertification, and destroys habitats for other animals and native peoples. And that’s not even getting into the environmental effect of the methane generated from farm animals.

When you look at the big picture—from a world population point of view—the only solution is to reduce the consumption of animal products. Logically, changing your diet to be more plant-forward is practically the easiest thing anyone can do because you can choose to eat plant-based for your next meal. However, it seems also to be the hardest thing to do because most people don’t do it. Why is that?


American Society of Animal Science blog creating doubt

Ag Web Farm Journal newsletter taking jabs at the authors

Farm Journal’s Pork newsletter creating doubt

Tobacco use in the mid-1960s versus today.

Cover photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels