Green angle adds some meat to activist groups' campaigns

The idea that being an environmentalist means you should also denounce meat-eating has come into vogue lately.

The idea that being an environmentalist means you should also denounce meat-eating has come into vogue lately.

Animal rights activists have seized upon a report issued by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) last November stating that the livestock business produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all types of transportation combined.

While the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other environmental groups may have thought that the news would prompt many to jump aboard the pro-veggie bandwagon, people have seemed hardly affected by the report.

So the organizations are now mobilizing on their own in supporting a statement that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They are also working on ad campaigns promoting vegetarianism as the eco-friendly way to go.

Why does it matter?
"We've actually had some very heated debate on this topic," says Lisa Hymas, senior editor of Grist, an online environmental news and commentary magazine. A guest essay written in critique of PETA's anti-animal product message provoked a great number of reader comments, she adds.

The anti-meat efforts by PETA and the Humane Society come across as self-righteous and simplistic, Hymas says, "and have ticked off a lot of environmentalists" - including some who are already vegetarians. "Environmentalists already have unpleasant reputations for being nags," Hymas notes. "This adds to that, to some extent."

Still, she admits, the campaigns have been effective. "People who've never thought about the environmental impact of their diets are at least aware of the issue," Hymas says. "If it was a nice, friendly ad, we wouldn't be talking about it."

Five facts:
1. FAO research shows that animal agriculture generates 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - more than the 13.5% produced by all forms of transport combined.

2. PETA has written to more than 700 environmental groups, asking them to promote vegetarianism, Matt Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns at PETA, told The New York Times.

3. The organization is also planning to face Al Gore at the Colorado Convention Center on October 2 with billboards featuring a cartoon image of Gore eating a drumstick next to the tagline "Too Chicken to go Vegetarian?"

4. According to The Christian Science Monitor, American meat eaters are responsible for 1.5 more tons of carbon dioxide per person than vegetarians every year.

5. In its report "Livestock's long shadow," the FAO projected the doubling of global meat production to 465 million tons in 2050.


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