Journalist Joe Fassler wrote recently that five myths are used by the US beef industry to persuade the public that meat eating has a negligible impact on the planet – but these myths are themselves built on mythology. This week, Chris Smaje, author of Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future, unpicks the truth.
THE journalist Joe Fassler begins his article on what he calls the five climate myths pushed by the US beef industry by stating “if we’re serious about avoiding the worst scenarios of the climate crisis, people – particularly those who live in the wealthier nations – need to consume fewer animal products”.
I’m going to criticize Fassler’s article here, so I thought I’d start on a point of agreement by endorsing that opening headline. Yes, people in the wealthier nations probably do need to consume fewer animal products – but many of them also need to produce more animal products.
Isn’t that a contradiction? Only if you believe there are no economic options beyond a two-category world comprising consumers who buy things and industries that produce them.
An important missing element in Fassler’s account is the possibility that people, communities and regions needn’t just be the consumers of industrial products. They can be producers too.
Fassler’s investigations have revealed that existing industry organisations are amplifying the climate evidence that most suits their interests. It would surely be surprising if they didn’t. But where he errs is in belittling that evidence, rather than understanding how it points beyond the short-term behaviour of both industries and consumers towards a more ecological society which puts limits around the power of both.
I’ll come back to that ecological society at the end of this series – but first let’s consider each of Fassler’s five climate myths in turn – myths that Fassler says are pushed by the US beef industry – but which are based on some myths of their own.