Discussions of Greenpeace's meat and dairy consumption target

Discussions of Greenpeace's meat and dairy consumption target

Vegan Society of Canada News
August 10th 2018

As we were previously discussing our internal meat consumption metrics, we wanted both to congratulate and discuss Greenpeace’s announcement earlier this year about using meat consumption as a metric and their own target for 2050 in order to respect the Paris agreement of 1.5 degrees Celsius maximum. The Greenpeace target based on Roos et al. (2017) is too optimistic, here are the reason why

  • The paper they choose as the base of their model was published at the same time as the NASA funded research which shows that the FAO 2013 calculation underestimate the emissions of animal agriculture. Therefore, since they use the FAO 2013 as the estimate in their baseline model, their model as well is underestimating the impact. As we pointed out, this of course does not even address the issues raised by Goodland and Anhang.
  • Of all the mixed use models available they have chosen one which has the lowest estimate of mixed land use.
  • As the NASA research points out, economies of scale in animal agriculture while increasing profits and efficiencies tend to pollute more not less, as can be seen in new more profitable manure management techniques.
  • The Ecological Leftover model described in the paper only makes pigs and cows as an available meat source and does not even take into account poultry and eggs since

    Pigs were chosen over poultry since they can digest most of the byproducts not suitable for ruminants; poultry depend more on cereals and can only digest a limited quantity of byproducts (McDonald et al., 2011). Hence, the use of cropland to produce feed is minimized

    However the Greenpeace proposal for reduced consumption does not make mention of this. Therefore, the numbers presented in the paper for the emissions under that model cannot be used under a 50% reduction of all meat including poultry and eggs. Would the ratio of current meat and egg consumption be accounted for whatever could be produced under the Ecological Leftover scenario would be indubitably less then the papers original conclusion and therefore Greenpeace target of 16kg of meat per capita.
  • The underestimation of the FAO 2013 is crucial since in 2050 levels to limit our increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must remain below 13 gigatonnes. So clearly if Goodland and Anhang are even remotely accurate, animal agriculture alone could blow out our emissions budget. It would take emission figures to be 26% and not the FAO 2013 of 14.5% for animal agriculture to consume the entire 13 Gt emission budget in 2050. To put that in perspective Goodland and Anhang say it is 51% and even the updated research funded by NASA puts this at 15.32% +- 1.26%. Errors in the FAO 2013 have a large impact in the 2050 forecast.
  • Of all the levers that we have to adjust our global emission, what we eat has to be one of the easiest to adjust. If any of the other areas fall short because of the lack of technological innovation, lack of capital, lack of resources or any other reasons, one of the only place we can make up for it, is with our food consumption.

Therefore we view Greenpeace's target of

An estimated global consumption of 16 kg per capita per year. That relates to approximately 300 g per capita per week of all meat products (in carcass weight, meaning raw unprocessed products at the point of retail sale). Similarly, for dairy, the 50% reduction results in an estimated global consumption of dairy of 33 kg per capita per year in 2050, which results in 630 g per capita per week (a glass of milk is roughly 200 g).

As an upper bound if we ever want to achieve the Paris agreement of 1.5 Celsius limit increase. Not even including eggs this represent a reduction for Canadians in meat consumption of 84% by 2050. We will certainly not argue whether the reduction should be of 84%,89%,94%,98% or 100%. However, this should be clear to all interested in preventing climate change that at the very least a serious meat reduction is necessary to achieve those targets. We see no problem while we advocate for veganism to support, like we always did, those seeking to reduce their meat consumption. We applaud Greenpeace for realizing that without a serious reduction in meat reduction tackling climate change is not possible. We encourage other organizations interested in preventing climate change, and the mass extinction that we are currently heading towards, to join ourselves and Greenpeace in adopting at the very least strong meat reduction target. As we were already using meat consumption metrics internally to measure our progress we will continue to do so, the target of 16kg per capita translate to a Canadian reduction of meat consumption of 84% from 2017 levels by 2050.

However we would like all organizations who call on a serious reduction in meat consumption to reflect on the following: Adopting a vegan policy at the organizational level may be necessary. It seems logical that if we advocate for a consumption of 300 grams of meat per week, which is not only way less then people are now eating but even less then they eat in one sitting, it follows that most likely they would not use their allowance at a public event. Furthermore, in order to help everyone attaining those target it makes little sense to have a buffet with meat options where people can blow up their entire monthly intake in 1 meal. It seems essential to adopt a vegan policy at the organizational level when we advocate for such important reduction.

We will work together with all those interested in making this a reality. We have contacted Greenpeace so we can work together toward a 84% meat reduction in Canada by 2050 and 50% globally.

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