Response to Professor Mitloehner

Dear Professor Mitloehner,

I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post.  What you wrote was informative, but your response also raised additional questions for me.  I will lay them out here and you are welcome to respond again.

From your response:

“I did not write the press releases and feel that a lot of the recent reporting has been a line-up of catchy sound bites.”

I have spoken to researchers here at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and they report being highly involved in the creation of press releases and in making sure the documents are not only accurate, but difficult to misrepresent.  The UC Davis press release contains the following text:

“…it is simply not true that consuming less meat and dairy products will help stop climate change, says a University of California authority on farming and greenhouse gases.”

And these direct quotes:

“Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries.”

“We certainly can reduce our greenhouse-gas production, but not by consuming less meat and milk.”

As I stated before, those statements are not backed up by “Clearing the Air.”  Based on the report, examples of supported statements include: (1) Livestock’s Long Shadow used flawed methods when they compared global GHG emissions from animal agriculture and transportation, and (2) due to differences between developing and developed countries, some country-level and regional analyses are significantly different than a global comparison of livestock and transportation GHG emissions.  The “catchy sound bites” in the media follow directly from the UC Davis press release (and the subsequent ACS press release).  Do the press releases accurately represent your statements?

“This key statement in LLS’s executive summary – “The Livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18% of GHG emissions measured in CO2e. This is a higher share than transport.” – has been quoted extensively over the last few years by animal welfare and food activists, leading to Meatless Monday and other social policy initiatives. This statement has now lost its validity (see BBC report http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8583308.stm), which is regretted by many who advocate for meatless nutrition. That’s what happens when a social or political agenda tries to use science as its sword.”

Even though a new comparison of GHGs from livestock and transportation is in the works at the UN, this does not mean eating less meat has no impact on GHGs.  To make that claim, research would need to compare GHG amounts linked to diets with different amounts of animal products and find no difference.  Again, I have not seen any such research.  Also, stating that the Meatless Monday Campaign was created in response to Livestock’s Long Shadow (or livestock GHGs in general) is incorrect.  It was created in 2003 in association with the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to prevent disease by decreasing saturated fat intake.   The campaign incorporated the environmental benefits of decreased meat consumption (including GHG reduction) in its messages in 2009.  It is a public health campaign strongly rooted in scientific evidence, and twenty schools of public health have supported it for many years.

“We should not relax on any issue concerning our society’s mass consumption and what it takes to make these products available. My personal approach is to purchase to the greatest extent possible food that is produced locally and sustainably, and that includes meat and dairy products, which we purchase from producers at our local food co-op and farmer’s market. My scientific objective, however, is to find real solutions for society at large that support a reduction in greenhouse gases and other pollutants.” Read More >