May 24, 2019 | 60° F

PETRUCCI: Meat, dairy excluded in climate discourse

Opinions Column: The Annoying Vegan Millennial

Unlike Mother’s Day where you can avoid your mother or Thanksgiving where you can be ungrateful and ungiving like every other day of the year, Earth Day is the one holiday you are implicit in celebrating just by merely existing. 

According to the Working Groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014 report, firstly, global warming does in fact exist. Second, climate change is the result of human-induced “greenhouse effects,” where gases released in the atmosphere trap heat and re-emit it toward Earth’s surface and the lower atmosphere.  

The Earth Day Network dedicated the 2018 holiday to specifically ending plastic pollution understanding the stark correlation between plastic production and climate change. 

The intersection of plastic and climate change lay in the swampy territory of fossil fuels. Plastics are made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, which release toxic emissions when extracted from the earth.

Burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide and methane gas, two primary greenhouse gases responsible for Earth’s warming, according to NASA’s climate research. 

While plastics production is implicit in the crime of greenhouse gas release and global warming, the Earth Day Network and the mainstream discourse about climate change excludes one key culprit.

You guessed it: the meat and dairy industry. 

According to a 2017 report which employed the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) methodology, livestock production now contributes nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the fossil fuel-laden transportation sector. 

Three of the largest meat producers, “JBS, Cargill and Tyson — emitted more greenhouse gases last year than all of France and nearly as much as some of the biggest oil companies like Exxon, BP and Shell,” according to the report. 

If plastic production is associated with greenhouse gas emissions and greenhouse gas emissions are linked to global warming, why are we avoiding the meat and dairy industry’s role as the world’s largest emitter of methane and nitrous oxide and a major emitter of carbon dioxide? 

This year’s Earth Day discourse is similar to those stupid Little Tikes Cozy Coupe cars, filled with blind spots, constructed of plastic and heavily focused on the automobile. 

The Chatham House, an international affairs policy institute based in London, released a report regarding the “awareness gap” of how much meat and dairy industries relate to global climate change. 

Survey results found that 83 percent of respondents understand climate change as a result of human activity. 

Yet, the blind spot is clear when researchers compared the perceived contribution versus the actual contribution of climate change, the results were stark. The report read, “Over twice as many respondents identified direct transport emissions as a major contributor as identified meat and dairy production (64 per cent vs 29 per cent), even though the contribution to overall emissions is almost equal between the two sectors.”

Meat and dairy industries wield tremendous power in preventing these issues from entering our view.

Private-sector resistance is giant investment in our own regulatory bodies: government officials and agencies. 

Unlike the NRA, which channels its funding to primarily Republican candidates, the meat and dairy industry does not discriminate! An aggregate of the meat processing and products shows that most contributions to a 2018 senate candidate actually went to Democratic nominee Bill Nelson of Florida, according to OpenSecrets.

In California, Senate Bill No. 1383 proposed to reduce methane emissions by 40 percent. Who helped thwart the passage of this type of this legislation for nearly a decade? Powerful industry interest groups like California’s Milk Producers Council and Dairy Cares, according to 

While plastics do cause incredible harm, it is necessary to glean a holistic understanding of the threats which face the globe. 

It might not be fair to encourage everyone to become an 'annoying vegan,' but maybe we could all afford to just be a little more annoying. Annoy industries, annoy those you elect to protect the Earth and shake up the mainstream discourse which frames a pick-up truck and a Poland Spring bottle as the brand ambassadors to climate change. 

Francesca Petrucci is a School of Arts and Sciences junior double majoring in journalism and media studies and political science and minoring in Spanish. Her column, "The Annoying Vegan Millennial," runs on alternate Tuesdays. 


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Francesca Petrucci

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