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Down on the farm with Lord Stern


Lord Stern, who authored the UK report “The Economics of Climate Change” in 2006 and has long been a climate change stalwart in that country, is upset about the coverage his latest remarks have received.

The Times is running a story under the headline “Climate chief Lord Stern: give up meat to save the planet” . Stern was interviewed by the Times and said some things about meat that those pesky reporters decided was the best quote going, and slapped on their front page. “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases,” he says. In future people will treat eating meat differently, more like smoking or drinking, the article continues. And of course, the point has been picked up in the Brit press (Evening Standard, Spectator, Telegraph).

Farmers are cross. Jonathan Scurlock, stepped up from the National Farmers Union. “Farmers in this country are interested in evidence-based policymaking. We don’t have a methane-free cow or pig available to us,” he says in the same piece.

It seems that Stern was trying to make the point that there is poor understanding of the real consequences of not changing behaviour to try and mitigate climate change. And he might have a point. Stern this morning issued a press release saying that his remarks about meat were given “undue prominence”.

“The debate about climate change should not be dumbed down to a single slogan, such as ‘give up meat to save the planet’. Climate change has broad and profound implications for us and we need a sensible public discussion about the choices and decisions we face,” the statement continues. Stern has arranged a symposium in parliament this afternoon for MPs and members of the House of Lords to “discuss these issues and to encourage them to engage the public about them.”

It does seem, from reading the rest of the interview with Stern later in the paper, that he said a whole lot more than a few comments about meat. Such as calling for president Obama to attend the Copenhagen climate summit in December. But perhaps Stern was naive to think that any threat to the British Sunday roast would be allowed to pass without a furore.

Image: Getty


  1. Report this comment

    Richard Blaber said:

    It might have been naïve of Lord Stern to argue against a meat diet, but The Times was very clearly mischief-making, or the NFU spokesman wouldn’t have got the idea that Stern was calling for pigs and cattle to be methane-free!

    I am beginning to wonder if it possible to have a rational debate about climate change in the UK, or any other country for that matter, when there are so many vested interests hell-bent on ensuring that we maintain the status quo until it is far too late for anyone to prevent the ensuing catastrophe.

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    Patty said:

    Meat consumption is wasteful of resources including water, land, and secondary considerations like the increased medical costs associated with a meat-based diet. We’d all be better off giving it up!

    There are entire cultures representing millions of people who have lived and thrived for centuries without meat, which is enough evidence that humans do not “need” it to satisy their taste buds or to survive and thrive.

    In fact, the evidence weighs heavily in the other direction: the hazards of a meat and dairy diet and the benefits of a vegan diet are well known in the medical and scientific community. Health, animal cruelty, and environmental issues could be alleviated if everyone ate a vegan diet.

    • U.N. scientists have determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, SUVs, trucks, and planes in the world combined.
    • Researchers at the University of Chicago determined that switching to a vegan diet is more effective in countering climate change than switching from a standard car to a Toyota Prius.
    • According to Environmental Defense, if every American substituted vegetarian foods for chicken at just one meal per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads.

    And it’s just plain barbaric to breed, confine, and slaughter animals for food. Go vegan for health, for animals, and for the environment!

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    sunnystrobe said:

    Holy Cow! We still act like Neanderthalers when it comes to our dearly beloved meat- eating habits. To quote Dr. Neal Barnard: ‘The meat industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your ideal of “real food for real people” you’d better live real close to a real good hospital.’

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    Chicago Translation said:

    Thanks for this post. I used to eat red meat many times a week. Not only do I get tired easily and feel depressed, I also feel very heavy. I hate stairs, I don’t like long walk and most especially I don’t run. Somebody advised me to change my eating habit. It was not easy, but I did it anyways. I now eat white meat, more veggies and fruits and lots of drinking water. And then, there was a change, I’m happy, I’m smaller, I can go through the stairs, though I still prefer the elevator if there’s any, I can run and I can do long walk. Most of all, I’m healthier. I’m doing this for my health and not for global warming. And if I am contributing to save the earth, then the more I should eat veggies.

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