Lab-grown Meat and Veganism Movements Surge in Response to Climate Change

Would you be willing to give up ice-cream and hamburgers if it saved the environment? Good news: lab-grown meat is set to hit shop floors this year, so you don’t have to. 

A 2017 study showed that if all Americans substituted beans for beef, the USA would come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas goals originally set by the Obama administration in 2009.

Perhaps spurred on by shocking polemical documentaries like Cowspiracy and the UN’s reportthat showed that processed meat is as carcinogenic as cigarettes, veganism is on the rise. Lately, veganism has risen from its grassroots origins and become a widespread form of eco-activism.

Believe it or not, the meat and dairy industries are starting to listen and lab-grown meat is set to become a reality.

The Dark Truth Behind the Veganism fad

Is veganism just another bandwagon? Or, do these almond-milking vegaholics know what they’re talking about?

“What’s so wrong with eating meat?”, you may ask.

As all of the current U.S. generations currently alive have enjoyed, we no longer have to go out and hunt for animals when we want to eat meat. In fact, we don’t even have to go to the grocery store. We can order 24 chicken nuggets from the driver seat or have groceries delivered by an Amazon contractor.

Our lifestyles have changed drastically, but we still claim that we need to eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The sheer numbers involved with keeping everyone fed on steak and cheese are causing a lot of problems behind the scenes.

The brutality of the meat and dairy industries have been exposed in documentaries you may have come across on Netflix. Vegecated, Forks Over Knives and Earthlings are cited as contributing factors by many vegan converts.

However, critics question the validity of the facts provided in these “life-changing” documentaries.

Perhaps it was because the revelations of what has become normal were so shocking or maybe because people aren’t ready to face the consequences of their lifestyles. But, Cowspiracy, in particular, got a bad rap for using questionable statistics in the original version.

Although such advocacy documentaries still have their value and are worth watching if you want to get informed, they should be taken with a pinch of salt.

A more reliable source of facts about veganism and the environment are reviewed research papers and official reports. Although these reports may not have the same drama, the facts are clear-cut. The environmental impact of animal agriculture and it’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water waste is extreme.

Here’s the impact that meat and dairy have on the environment explained in facts and figures:

  • Animal agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption.
  • In 2016 the UN reported that the livestock sector is one of the most significant contributors to environmental degradation, both locally and globally.
  • A UN report that followed this in 2010 warned that rising meat and dairy consumption combined with a population set to be 9.1 billion by 2050, meant a shift towards veganism was vital. It stated that only a major change in the human diet could save the world from climate catastrophe and major food shortages.
  • Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane gas a day. What most don’t realize is that this greenhouse gas’s alleged effect on climate change is much greater than C02 which usually steals the spotlight.
  • Numerous reports have claimed that methane is up to 100 times more harmful than C02.
  • 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk. That’s more than all transportation, including planes combined.
  • Raising livestock also uses 70% of all agricultural land, making it the leading cause of deforestation, water pollution and loss of biodiversity.
  • It’s estimated that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.
  • One-third of the world’s grain is now fed to animals.
  • Antibiotic use in animals is a major contributor to rising levels of antibiotic resistance in the human population
  • A 2017 study showed that meat manufacturers JBS, Cargill, and Tyson (All giants in the meat industry) emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of France.

What would Happen if we all Went Vegan?

study carried out by Dr. Marco Sprinmann at the University of Oxford attempted to estimate what the world would be like if we all went vegan in 2050.

The results are astonishing and show that in one single year greenhouse emissions would be cut by two thirds. $1.5 trillion would be saved in climate damages and healthcare expenditure. He also estimated that global mortality would be reduced by 10%, with 8 million fewer deaths caused by chronic disease.

Springmann also emphasized that these figures are probably an underestimation.

Could Lab Grown Meat Save the World?

Veganism doesn’t have to be all granola and lettuce.

As consumers become more aware of the extent of the current sustainability crisis, eating habits have begun to change. This move towards more plant-based diets has had repercussions in the food production industry. Big names have started to invest in meat and dairy alternatives.

We saw the first synthetic burger make its debut in 2013.  It quite literally took to the stage and was eaten in front of an amazing audience. T

he fact that humans could grow real meat without harming animals or the Earth left us in awe. Although the lab grown meat cost thousands to make at the time, now it can be produced cheaply on a commercial scale. Just five years later, the race is on to get it on the shelves.

Something that we wouldn’t have believed to be possible is fast becoming a reality. Could synthetic meat replace traditional meat completely?

A startup called Memphis Meats is currently developing “clean meat” with investors like Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Just For All is another major player in the synthetic meat industry who promises to launch their products in supermarkets by the end of the year. Even the some of the world’s biggest meat companies like Tyson and Kraft are attempting to reinvent carnivorous staples.

Real Meat Without Slaughtering Animals

Most successful lab grown meat products are created using cell proliferation.

Let’s say we want to create a cruelty-free, eco-friendly chicken nugget. No tempeh, no tofu–we want the real deal.

As chickens have an unlimited source of cells that are constantly regenerating and regrowing, the scientists figured that they could take a handful and continue to grow them infinitely. All that is needed from the animal is a cell sample. This could be a feather for example.

This feather is then taken to the lab where it is provided with plant-based nutrients. Just as the cells would grow in the animal, they multiply quickly in the lab turning into a high-density food source–a.k.a. meat.

And it’s not just chicken, any kind of animal protein can be grown from a single cell in the lab. Synthetic meat is estimated to be 10 times more efficient than the world’s highest volume slaughterhouse.

This cutting-edge technology that is used to re-create food is going to drastically change the meat and dairy industries. Just for all’s products range from cookie dough to mayonnaise. Other companies are producing scrambled “eggs” from mung beans and brewing cow’s milk from yeast.

In the current world we live in, it is unlikely that everyone will go vegan. Meat is the centerpiece of our plates and ingrained in most cultures. However, synthetic meat offers another solution to the major problems mass-production of meat and dairy pose.

A recent Ketchum survey shows signs of an optimistic response to lab grown meat. 62% of Americans are likely to try synthetic animal products, which rises to 71% among millennials.

Lab Grown Meat is Not a Miracle Fix

Synthetic meat is also seen as a threat to the animal agriculture industry. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation states that livestock supports the livelihoods and food security of almost a 1.3 billion people.

Farming still employs over 26% of workers globally. That’s not accounting for those working along with other parts of the meat-supply chain like in processing and packaging.

Additionally, synthetic meat is still meat. Although Lab-grown meat is dubbed “clean meat”, as it lowers the risk of microbial and antibiotic contamination.

Eating too much of it is still detrimental to human health. It increased our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Synthetic meat can ease the negative impact on the environment but at the end of the day, processed meat is still carcinogenic.

Read More: Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Eating Better

The power to reconsider what we consume is in our hands. This choice empowers us to choose what the future of our planet will be. We can choose to cut down our meat and dairy consumption, become a vegetarian or take the plunge and go vegan.

With the current state of our environment, we need to consider every option possible. Yes, food choices come down to personal circumstances. But, simply eating less meat and dairy could help us prevent negative environmental impacts to the Earth.

Would you eat lab-grown meat? 


Why would anyone want the “real” thing?

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Clearly, vegan sausage–just like any other type of meat (animal-death) replacement or “substitute”–is far healthier than the rotting flesh it replaces. So why do so many people still choose the “real” thing?

Perhaps there’s something else wrong with the majority of people, besides their outward appearance or cholesterol level. There’s certainly something wrong with the way they think if they would willingly ask that animals be caged and trucked to slaughterhouses because they imagine they taste better than some plant-based “imitation”.

Worse yet, they think it’s wierd that we care that:

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Plant-Based ‘Meat’ and ‘Fish’ May Be the Future. But How Do They Taste?

Starting today, White Castle will serve the vegan Impossible Burger in 140 locations. Cookbook author Alison Roman tried it out, along with ‘shrimp’ made from fungi, ‘salmon’ made from algae and more

When I was in high school, I made the bold and noble choice to become a vegetarian for the rest of my life (or as it happened, about three years). I loved vegetables, so a meatless diet wasn’t that daunting, with one unfortunate exception: the tacos at Jack in the Box.

Around this time, I caught wind of a rumor that the meat in those tacos was being cut—and possibly even replaced by vegetable protein. Imagine my teenage delight upon learning that my guilty pleasures were basically vegetarian.

Spoiler alert: They were not.

But that rumor was partially true: For years, Jack in the Box has added vegetable protein to its famous tacos (the company won’t say exactly how much), and meat-loving Americans still consume 554 million each year.

Turns out Jack in the Box was ahead of its time.

Today, 140 White Castle locations began serving the vegan Impossible Burger, part of a new wave of plant-based proteins that taste, cook and, in some cases, bleed like the animal version. Unlike tofu dogs and Boca Burgers, these products are aimed squarely at carnivores. The goal isn’t to placate your vegan cousin at family barbecues. The goal is to save the planet—or at least mitigate the damage that commercial fishing and cattle farming are doing to the environment. To persuade red-blooded Americans to pack their grills with pea protein, these plant-based substitutes will have to taste good—and I’m happy to report that many do. Some, however, are still in beta when it comes to flavor. Does “shrimp” made from algae taste better than shrimp? Not yet, but it’s still better than overfished oceans. I’ll take it. You should too.

The Product: Beyond Sausage

WHAT IT IS: Pea, fava and rice protein in an alginate (derived from algae) casing

WHAT IT’S IMITATING: Ground-pork sausage

WHERE TO FIND IT: Select grocery stores beginning in mid-April

Plant-Based ‘Meat’ and ‘Fish’ May Be the Future. But How Do They Taste?

THE VERDICT:If you’re like me, you have no idea what’s actually in your kielbasa or Italian hot links. And generally speaking, you’re OK with that. But Beyond Meat wants you to know how its sausage, pictured above, is made. The company spent a year and a half developing the world’s first plant-based version. The results? Pretty great. The pleasantly springy texture is spot on; the flavor is passably porky. The sausages come in Original Bratwurst, Sweet Italian and Hot Italian (my favorite); it turns out that both pork and pea protein taste better when seasoned with fennel seeds and chili flakes. Substitute these for some these some honest-to-God pork links, and add a smear of yellow mustard and a side of grilled onions. No one will be the wiser.

Pro Preparation Tip: The alginate casing tends to split if your skillet or grill is too hot, so rotate frequently to promote even browning and prevent breakage.

The taste and texture of shrimp are difficult to imitate. Fried panko bread crumbs, lemon and tartar sauce help complete the illusion.
The taste and texture of shrimp are difficult to imitate. Fried panko bread crumbs, lemon and tartar sauce help complete the illusion. PHOTO: AMANDA RINGSTAD FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; SET STYLIST: GOZDE EKER; FOOD STYLIST: MICHELLE GATTON/HELLO ARTISTS
The Product: New Wave Foods Shrimp

WHAT IT IS: Algae extract, micro algae and other plant-based protein

WHAT IT’S IMITATING: Frozen shrimp of the plain and fried variety

WHERE TO FIND IT: Select restaurants on the West Coast and in New York City

THE VERDICT: The taste of a shrimp is determined by that shrimp’s diet, generally a mix of sea plants and algae. So it stands to reason that “shrimp” synthesized from sea plants and algae should taste like the real thing, right? The answer is: sort of. New Wave offers its plant-based shellfish in two forms: Plain (think boiled and peeled) and Crispy (pictured here; think breaded and fried). The Crispy version—coated in delicious panko bread crumbs—tastes like delicious, salty bread crumbs. The Plain ones, however, have a way to go before they can pass as the genuine article. With their squishy texture and too-bright reddish-pink hue, they more closely resemble crawfish tails than shrimp. To their credit, they do taste faintly of the sea without being overly fishy, which is no easy feat.

Plant-Based ‘Meat’ and ‘Fish’ May Be the Future. But How Do They Taste?

A SHRIMP FOR THE MASSES: Commercially caught shrimp are as fraught as they are popular, thanks to environmentally devastating trawling practices and the slave-labor scandals plaguing the industry. “In addition to solving a sustainability problem,” says New Wave Foods co-founder Dominique Barnes, “we’re trying to make a shrimp that everyone can love.” While her product contains 100% less shrimp than the leading shrimp, Barnes hopes it will reach a wider audience, including people with shellfish allergies and high cholesterol, vegans and those keeping kosher.

This fluffy scramble never saw the inside of shell.
The Product: Just Scramble

WHAT IT IS: Mung bean protein

WHAT IT’S IMITATING: Raw, beaten eggs

WHERE TO FIND IT: Select San Francisco and Hong Kong restaurants; select grocery stores starting later in 2018

THE VERDICT: “Eggs” from a plastic bottle? Believe me, I fully expected to dislike this product. But in reality, it’s kind of good. Texturally speaking, Just Scramble is a dead ringer for the real thing when cooked properly (low and slow). But under the surprisingly eggy flavor is a faint and unfortunate sweetness. This comes from the mung beans, which are full of polysaccharides—a complex carbohydrate that reads sweet on our tongues. Ben Roche, the director of product development at Just and the developer of Just Scramble, is the first to admit that these “eggs” are a work in progress. “We are constantly tinkering, improving the flavors and textures,” says Roche, who also created the company’s sorghum-containing cookie dough. The sweetness of Just Scramble is hardly a deal breaker and is easily fixed with a few dashes of your preferred hot sauce.

The Product: Terramino Salmon

WHAT IT IS: Cultured fungi protein and algae for natural color and flavor

WHAT IT’S IMITATING: Salmon burgers and, later, fillets

WHERE TO FIND IT: Select restaurants and grocery stores in 2019

THE VERDICT: The “salmon” from Terramino Foods is still in beta, but in the year since the company launched, its co-founders—two 20-somethings fresh out of Berkeley—have managed to imitate the pale-pink color and flaky texture of America’s favorite fish. They’re still dialing in the flavor, exploring the fine line between something that tastes like fish and something that tastes fishy, but when it comes to sustainable seafood, this is a company to watch.

Plant-Based ‘Meat’ and ‘Fish’ May Be the Future. But How Do They Taste?

FISH MADE FROM FUNGI? Terramino Foods uses koji—a mold that’s a key ingredient in soy sauce, miso and other fermented foods—to culture its protein. “Unlike animal cells, fungal cells are able to synthesize their own protein out of really basic nutrients,” Terramino co-founder Josh Nixon says. “You have to feed an animal a lot of protein to get a small amount out.” The fungi generate protein from almost nothing, which is unquestionably more sustainable than fishing or even fish-farming.

Terramino Foods‚ the maker of this ‘salmon’ burger‚ recently completed the SOSV-funded accelerator program at IndieBio. SOSV‚ a venture-capital firm‚ has also mentored companies like New Wave Foods and Memphis Meats. The hearty, woodsy version of the Impossible Burger—with mushroom purée, sherry onions and truffle cream—is on the menu at Saxon & Parole in New York City.
Terramino Foods‚ the maker of this ‘salmon’ burger‚ recently completed the SOSV-funded accelerator program at IndieBio. SOSV‚ a venture-capital firm‚ has also mentored companies like New Wave Foods and Memphis Meats. The hearty, woodsy version of the Impossible Burger—with mushroom purée, sherry onions and truffle cream—is on the menu at Saxon & Parole in New York City. PHOTO: AMANDA RINGSTAD FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; SET STYLIST: GOZDE EKER; FOOD STYLIST: MICHELLE GATTON/HELLO ARTISTS
The Product: The Impossible Burger

WHAT IT IS: Wheat, soy and potato protein

WHAT IT’S IMITATING: The classic ground-beef patty

WHERE TO FIND IT: More than 1,000 U.S. restaurants, including national chains Bareburger, Umami Burger, Fatburger, White Castle and the Counter

THE VERDICT: This isn’t the only plant-based patty shipped raw and intended for cooking, but it’s the best known and the best by a mile. And don’t call it a veggie burger. Impossible Foods has imitated the true-blue look, smell, taste and texture of a ground-beef patty in a way that is almost unsettling in the uncanny-valley sense. Their secret is an oxygen-carrying compound called heme, which makes blood appear red and makes meat taste, well, meaty. It is heme that gives the burger that I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-beef flavor and bloodiness (yes, this patty even bleeds). All this flavor and bleeding comes at a price, which for now is on par with premium ground beef. And the burger is available only in restaurants where the kitchen has been trained to prepare it—not exactly a meal for the masses. But if and when the price comes down, this is the product to give ground beef a run for its money and cut the planet a break.

Plant-Based ‘Meat’ and ‘Fish’ May Be the Future. But How Do They Taste?

THE IMPOSSIBLE EFFECT: In February, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association filed a petition with the Department of Agriculture to limit “beef” products to those that “come from cattle that have been born, raised and harvested in the traditional manner.” Their proposed definition would keep the term off alternatives made from “plants, insects or other nonanimal components.” Pat yourself on the back, plant-based burger makers. When the cattlemen are panicking, you’re doing something right.


Plant-Based ‘Meat’ and ‘Fish’ May Be the Future. But How Do They Taste?

Just, the maker of Just Scramble, is growing a variety of test-tube meats. To do this, scientists extract stem cells from an animal—such as a pig or a cow—and cultivate them into muscle tissue in a lab. The result not only resembles pork or beef but is genetically identical to the stuff in your butcher’s case, with almost no environmental impact. But “clean meat” won’t catch on unless it can compete in taste and price with the conventional stuff, says Josh Tetrick, the CEO and co-founder of Just. Tetrick describes the current price per pound of his product as “unnecessarily high” and hopes to reduce it substantially before his company launches a ground lab-grown meat at the end of 2018. And the taste? To be determined. No samples were available at press time.


If McDonald’s is serious about reducing its carbon footprint, it may need to rethink the hamburger

The company has an ambitious-sounding plan to curb its emissions. But can it really take a meaningful stance on climate change while selling more Big Macs?


In late March, McDonald’s issued a bold press releaseannouncing major cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions—a plan that will require the company to rethink not only how it lights and fuels its restaurants, but also how it sources its beef, which the company says amounts to 29 percent of its carbon footprint.

The changes will “enable McDonald’s to grow as a business without growing its emissions” through 2030, according to the press release, which offers some dazzling figures: a 36 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from restaurants and offices, and a 31 percent reduction in “emissions intensity” from its supply chain (including  beef), which will prevent the release of 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gas.

But a closer look at the company’s “science-based” plan, which is completely voluntary and largely unverifiable, raises questions about how meaningful the emissions cuts will be.

McDonald’s has to contend with a body of science that suggests we need to reduce our beef consumption.

The company’s announcement, nevertheless, speaks to the company’s growing awareness of the economic challenges that climate change is expected to bring in the decades ahead.  Changing weather patterns will create more inconsistent agricultural conditions, while government regulators—in any of the 120 countrieswhere McDonald’s operates—could impose carbon taxes that also raise production costs.

The company is also thinking about consumers. As noted in its most recent annual report to investors: “the ongoing relevance of our brand may depend on the success of our sustainability initiatives, which require system-wide coordination and alignment.”

Given its burger-centric business model, McDonald’s may have a tough row to hoe trying to brand itself as a leader on climate change. Beef production emits more greenhouse gas than almost any other food we produce. And McDonald’s is one of the largest buyers in the world, last year reporting using 1.6 billion pounds of beef, a mountain of meat that casts an enormous carbon footprint.

When pressed for details about how it intends to reduce emissions from beef, McDonald’s would not offer many specifics.

“We are looking for ways to incorporate soil health initiatives into our supply chain sustainability programs through managed grazing practices and regenerative agricultural practices,” said Terri Hickey, McDonald’s senior manager of global corporate communications, in an email. She directed me toward materials that appear focused on the company’s previous beef sustainability goal, which was aimed at 2020.

McDonald’s overall carbon footprint may not change much, even if the company meets its proposed “reductions.”

As McDonald’s trumpets the “science” surrounding its greenhouse gas mitigation plan, the company increasingly has to contend with a body of science that suggests many of us need to reduce our beef consumption. This prescription is coming not just from public-health experts but also from climate scientists, who point to the high environmental costs of beef production.

Climate change doesn’t augur the end of red meat in our diets, or the collapse of McDonald’s, but it could mean significant dietary changes for many of us in the future.  While it seems unthinkable that the company would retire its iconic Big Mac and beefy Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, our changing climate is a good reason to wonder whether cheap beef will still be the centerpiece on McDonald’s menu in the decades ahead.

Beef’s big impacts

Animal agriculture, as a whole, contributes around 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with beef cattle being the largest emitters, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO). Because cows digest food via enteric fermentation, they produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in their burps. Cattle production’s carbon footprint also includes the greenhouse gases from growing and fertilizing feed corn, as well as manure-related emissions.

Cows also have high environmental impacts because they give birth to one calf at a time instead of producing litters like pigs, says Gidon Eshel, an environmental science professor at Bard College in New York.

This biological reality may be difficult to change, but Eshel says if McDonald’s is serious about making emissions reductions, there are a lot of little things the company’s beef suppliers could do to become “less inefficient.” Still, reducing emissions meaningfully also likely means reducing consumption, he says.

Beef cattle require 28 times more land and 11 times more water than other farm animals on average, and emit five times more greenhouse gas

“The real question one must ask first about any environmental choice is not how large it is, but how easy would it be to cut it by an order of magnitude,” Eshel says.

For example, Eshel says, a modern, fuel efficient vehicle might get three times more miles to the gallon than an old gas-guzzler, presenting as much as a three-fold reduction in emissions.  Even more significant emissions cuts might be gained by shifting agriculture from beef cattle to almost any other kind of food production, he says. (That being said, beef cattle can be raised on marginal lands where it is difficult to grow other foods).

2014 study Eshel co-authored reported that beef is the second most commonly consumed source of calories in the U.S., but, according to his estimates, beef cattle require 28 times more land, 11 times more water, and emit five times more greenhouse gas than other farm animals, on average.

According to Eshel’s estimates, the 1.6 billion pounds of beef that McDonald’s used last year would produce around 22 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s equivalent to the average emissions you’d see from 4.8 million cars in a given year. Or, viewed another way, it amounts to one-third of one percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, says Eshel.

Reducing emissions meaningfully would also mean reducing consumption.

“One product, served by a single company, is a third of a percent of the total,” Eshel says. “I think it’s worth pausing and absorbing this.”

Emissions estimates, however, are not an exact or settled science—and the actual footprint of McDonald’s beef could be much lower or higher than Eshel estimates. Scientists are always rethinking how to calculate emissions, but they are clear that current beef production has a larger carbon footprint than most other foods we eat.

A groundbreaking study published last year and funded by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System research initiative, found that methane emissions from livestock are probably higher than previously estimated—as much as 11 percent higher than prevailing estimates offered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2006. It’s a finding that should factor into McDonald’s greenhouse gas targets.

Ghassem Asrarone of the study’s co-authors and the director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, nevertheless, is sanguine about the “basket” of interventions livestock producers can draw on to reduce methane emissions, like better manure management.

Some of these interventions could increase the cost of production, however, which could also mean increasing the cost of burgers at McDonald’s, emblematic of the trade-offs that will work against the fast-food giant.

While Asrar thinks there are many ways the beef industry can and should reduce emissions, he is also clear that reducing consumption is part of the solution.

“That’s the general conclusion that the majority of published research reached,” says Asrar. “We have to manage our meat consumption if you want to reduce our footprint.”

The beef industry, citing its own science, sees things slightly differently.

Our changing climate is a good reason to wonder whether cheap beef will still be the centerpiece on McDonald’s menu in the decades ahead.

“Reducing consumption of beef, especially in the U.S. will do little towards mitigating climate change, and could cause significant sustainability issues with our entire system,” according to the U.S. Roundtable for Beef Sustainability, which hails U.S. beef as the “most efficient production system in the world.”

The Roundtable, citing its goal to “be the trusted global leader in environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef,” recently released a “sustainability framework” that addresses greenhouse gas emissions.  Its draft recommendations include things like the use of pharmaceuticals to promote faster animal growth.

Administered, in part, by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a beef lobby group, the Roundtable’s members include meatpackers like JBS and Tyson, as well as a host of other companies that feed into the beef production model—like seed and animal pharmaceutical companies—and whose business interests are threatened by dietary shifts away from beef. It also includes fast-food companies like McDonald’s.

Fact-checking McDonald’s science

McDonald’s press release used the word “science” seven times, noting that its “science-based” program will “prevent 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2030,” equal to taking “32 million passenger cars off the road for an entire year.”

But the science that informs the company’s emissions reduction program merits scrutiny.

McDonald’s annually reports data about its carbon footprint through a non-profit group called the CDP (previously the Carbon Disclosure Project). The CDP, however, charges companies an administrative fee to participate in its disclosure process, creating financial ties that erode the scientific independence of the project.

McDonald's quarter pounder with cheeseMcDonald’s

Avoiding the worst impacts of our changing climate means making major emission reductions—real, verifiable, science-based reductions—that may include Americans eating fewer burgers

Independence is paramount because carbon footprint calculations are subject to variations in how the data are measured, reported, and interpreted by regulatory bodies and accountability initiatives, as well as to political and economic influence.

For example, McDonald’s told me it has already “reassessed” its 2015 emissions data (it wouldn’t provide a copy), which will serve as a baseline for its planned emissions reductions through 2030. But how do we have confidence that McDonald’s data reporting and reassessments aren’t just clever accounting and paper trading?

“It’s a good method to get the most credits for your cuts: You inflate your baseline and then whatever cuts you make are much greater,” says Shefali Sharma, director of the European arm of an advocacy group called the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “Independent verification is key to understanding whether McDonald’s 2015 data is reliable.”

McDonald’s press release prominently notes that its emissions-reduction program has been “approved” by the “Science-Based Target Initiative,” which is managed by the World Resources Institute and the United Nations Global Compact—and also the World Wildlife Fund and CDP (both of which McDonald’s funds). In other words, it’s also not independent of McDonald’s.

Alberto Pineda, director of the initiative (and also associated with the World Wildlife Fund and CDP), says conflicts of interest are managed in a few ways, including through a “consensus” process where all of the initiative’s partners have to agree on emissions targets.

How do we have confidence that McDonald’s data reporting and reassessments aren’t just clever accounting and paper trading?

Pineda also clarifies that McDonalds’ supply chain emissions—the large bulk of the company’s carbon footprint, including its beef supply—are expected to “flatline” through 2030. That means McDonalds’ overall carbon footprint may not change much, even if the company meets its proposed “reductions.” Rather than reducing emissions, it may be more accurate to say the company’s plans are focused on not increasing emissions. If you squint at the press release, and look past the impressive-sounding 36 percent cuts in emissions, you’ll see that the company notes that its plan will “enable McDonald’s to grow as a business without growing its emissions.”

But avoiding the worst impacts of our changing climate doesn’t just mean not growing emissions; it means making major emission reductions—real, verifiable, science-based reductions. And that may include Americans eating fewer burgers.

“Coming up with proxy targets for companies that volunteer to do so on a self-reporting basis does not get us there,” notes Sharma, who is skeptical of industry taking the lead on climate change. “Moreover, it actually has the potential of deceiving consumers that indulging in this company’s products is helping the planet, when in effect, it may actually be increasing the company’s absolute emissions.”

The economic threat of climate change

As early as 2009, McDonald’s began advising investors about the potential liabilities the company faces related to climate change. In the most recent annual report it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company notes “there is a possibility that governmental initiatives, or actual or perceived effects of changes in weather patterns, climate, or water resources, could have a direct impact on the operations of the System in ways which we cannot predict at this time.”

While beef remains cheap and abundant, McDonald’s may quietly be rethinking its burger-as-usual business model.

Climate change is expected to manifest increasingly volatile weather, like droughts and rising temperatures, that could interfere with feed grain (corn) production, the building blocks of beef in the current U.S. feedlot production model. At the same time, as McDonald’s hints, “governmental initiatives“ could start asking the agricultural sector to pay the greenhouse-gas costs associated with all the manure that beef cattle produce, the methane they belch, and the fertilizers used to grow the corn that feeds them. This would almost certainly raise the price of beef, possibly substantially.

Government initiatives could also target McDonald’s customers, like publishing nutritional guidelines recommending reduced beef consumption. China, a major growth market for the Golden Arches, recently revised its national dietary guidelines in an effort to reduce meat consumption by 50 percent, a prescription widely cited as having both public health and environmental import. Similar guidelines were underway in the U.S., but were foiled by an intense lobby effort from the meat industry.

As these pressures loom over the company, beef remains cheap and abundant, for the moment, in places like the U.S. Still, McDonald’s may quietly be rethinking its burger-as-usual business model.

Just before McDonald’s announced its greenhouse emissions plan, the company shared a major marketing initiative to promote sales of chicken—a meat that Americans eat far more of than beef, and that, in current production models, has a far smaller carbon footprint than beef. A veggie burger on the menu could reduce emissions even further.

“I would be quite surprised if, in the short-term, McDonald’s or other burger joints abandoned beef altogether, and I don’t really think that is necessary for meeting either their targets or societal [climate] targets,” says Martin Heller, a researcher in the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan. “It may mean offering menu options with smaller beef portions, and/or discontinuing large portion options. It likely will also mean introducing more non-beef options including (one would hope) plant-based alternatives.”

Climate change is expected to manifest increasingly volatile weather, like droughts and rising temperatures, that could interfere with feed grain (corn) production, the building blocks of beef in the current U.S. feedlot production model

In this regard, McDonald’s appears decidedly behind the curve, as many of its competitors have already begun expanding menus in this direction. This year, the drive-in fast-food chain Sonic introduced a new burger made from 25 percent mushrooms, marketed not only as environmentally friendly but also healthier than an all-beef patty. Burger King has long had a veggie burger on its menu; Carl’s Jr. has a meatless sandwich called the “Veg it Guacamole Thickburger;” and White Castle sells a veggie-patty version of its famous sliders.

McDonald’s is still in the courtship phase with veggie burgers in different markets. After a short test run in Finland last fall with a new, soy-based McVegan burger, the company made it a permanent menu option last December—but only in Finland and Sweden. “As the main ingredient is plant-based, the McVegan is considered to have a smaller climate impact,” a McDonald’s spokesperson told reporters.

As Heller suggests, another option fast-food restaurants could pursue to reduce beef-related emissions is simply shrinking the size of their burgers. That would reduce costs for the companies, and presumably make it easier to keep cheap burgers at the center of their menus going forward.

Right now, McDonald’s menu seems to focus on getting customers to buy more burger, not less. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese, fries, and a drink comes in just under $7 at my local McDonald’s. You can add another quarter-pound patty (making the burger a half-pounder) for only about a dollar more.

A grass-fed Big Mac?

Though McDonald’s has yet to publicize specific details about how it will reduce emissions from its beef supply, the company has pledged a $4.5 million grant to Arizona State University to study the climate benefits of Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing.

All cattle in the U.S. spend the first part of their lives grazing on pasture, but the vast majority are “finished” on crowded feedlots where they are fattened with corn. A recent study published in the journal Agricultural Systems found that keeping cattle on pasture their entire lives, and intensively rotating them across grasslands in the AMP model, could lead to major reductions in the carbon footprint of beef.

“It is hard to imagine that the very powerful commodity crop and beef organizations would back any beef/climate related policy.”

The study challenges previous research showing that feedlot cattle have a smaller carbon footprint than those finished on pasture. But even if AMP finishing is widely adopted and can deliver emissions reductions, it comes with a major tradeoff; it produces far less beef than feedlots.

I asked the lead author of the new AMP grazing study how much of the current volume of beef production could be sustained if finishing moved from the dominant feedlot model to AMP grazing.

“It’s safe to say that more than half could be produced,” says Paige Stanley, an environmental science graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, who acknowledges the political and economic implications of slashing production by close to half.

“There are many actors and driving forces that will determine the future of beef production,” Stanley told me later via email. “It is hard to imagine that the very powerful commodity crop and beef organizations would back any beef/climate related policy.”

These powerful interests are some of McDonald’s closest partners in its work on beef sustainability (see herehere, and here), and these groups are unlikely to allow the highly productive corn-fed feedlot beef model go quietly into the night. Under current U.S. agricultural policy, feedlot beef is inexpensive and plentiful, which feeds McDonald’s business model and the customers who buy from its dollar menu.

That may be why McDonald’s research funding is limited to comparing the benefits of AMP grazing to other grazing models. Reconsidering feedlot finishing, project lead Peter Byck of Arizona State University tells me, is off the table.

Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-Species Social Justice

*Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns*

This new book of challenging essays by scholars and activists includes my
analysis of “The Disengagement of Journalistic Discourse about Nonhuman
Animals,” published online as Disengaged Journalism & The Disparagement &
Disappearance of Animals
The book’s Introduction provides the following
synopsis of my chapter to which I’ve taken the liberty of incorporating some
modifications of my own for emphasis:

Prominent activist Karen Davis draws on her long experience of defending
animal rights to consider how animals and animal rights issues have been
represented in mainstream media. In spite of the fact that mainstream
journalism has given more attention in recent years to these spaces of
abuse, Davis notes, “In my 30-plus years in the animal advocacy movement
has been virtually no analysis or critique of the coverage given to farmed
animals by the mainstream media.”

Karen’s analysis demonstrates that a particular type of ethical blindness
persists in which exploitation and violence are, paradoxically, “visible,
unperceived.” In a model of engaged scholarship, Davis exposes the
and rhetorical strategies that are used in media coverage of animal
such as the use of euphemisms like “humane” and “euthanasia” to describe
brutal and sordid violence in the service of profit. *She notes the
* criticisms of specific abuses that exist together with a ready
endorsement of*
* the broad system in which all these cruelties are conducted*. She argues
what some animal advocates consider strong critiques of animal abuse
operate to leave readers powerless and ineffective.

For example, even in cases where cruelties are noted, a jokey style that
comments on how “tasty” animals are serves to undermine any real critique
to condone the system that allows those cruelties to occur. [*New York
columnists Nicholas Kristof and Mark Bittman epitomize this method of
disengagement toward farmed animals, always reassuring readers that no
how much the animals suffer, “we” love our hamburgers and chicken nuggets
more than we care about them.]

Citing a number of cases, Davis analyzes how these rhetorical practices
operate not only in media reports but also in other types of texts and
act to
depoliticize animal abuse, disempower activists, and reinforce mainstream
complacency. Within this model of analysis, liberal opinion – in this
case, a
flaccid concern for “humane treatment” linked with fawning plugs for
“conscientious” omnivorism – plays an important gatekeeper role in
the system, as it acts to constitute the outer limits of acceptable ideas


Please join our campaign against the outer limits of “acceptable” ideas and
attitudes! Open the floodgates!

*International Respect for Chickens Day May 4 *

*Please do an ACTION for Chickens in May!*

*Stick Up For Chickens!*

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.

View this article online

Animals rights groups scent blood as fashion labels go fur-free

NEW YORK, April 3 — Is this the beginning of the end for fur?

With more and more fashion houses going fur-free, San Francisco banning fur
sales in the city and British MPs considering outlawing all imports of
pelts after Brexit, the signs do not seem good for the industry.

After decades of hard-hitting campaigning against fur, animal rights
activists believe they scent victory.

Last week Donna Karan and DKNY became the latest in a flood of luxury
brands to say they were planning to go fur free, following similar
announcements by Gucci, Versace, Furla, Michael Kors, Armani and Hugo Boss
in recent months.

US-based animal rights group Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals), which is famous for its spectacular anti-fur protests, declared
that “2018 is the year that everyone is saying goodbye to fur”.

“Times are changing and the end of fur farming is within reach!” it told
its 687,000 Instagram followers.

The British-based Humane Society International said the tide turned when
Gucci declared it was going fur-free in October. Another hammer blow came
this month when Donatella Versace said that “I don’t want to kill animals
to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.”

“Such influential brands turning their backs on cruel fur makes the few
designers like Fendi and Burberry who are still peddling fur look
increasingly out of touch and isolated,” said the society’s president Kitty

Fendi’s Karl Lagerfeld shows little sign of second thoughts, however, and
has said he will use real fur as long as “people eat meat and wear leather”.

*‘Leather is next’*

But Peta, which also campaigns for veganism, has warned the leather
industry that is also in its sights, saying “You are next…”

And Professor Nathalie Ruelle, of the French Fashion Institute, told AFP
that it was telling that the new fur-free brands “did not say anything
about exotic leathers (such as crocodile, lizard and snakeskin).”

Of the big designers, Stella McCartney, a vegetarian and animal rights
activist herself, has pushed the ethical envelope the furthest, refusing to
use fur, leather or feathers.

But vegans want to go further still, with a ban on all animal products,
which for some also means wool.

But the fur industry is not taking this lying down and has become much more
vocal in its bid to counter animal rights groups’ social media campaigns.

The International Fur Federation (IFF) took Gucci to task when it went
fur-free, asking if it “really wanted to choke the world with fake plastic

Philippe Beaulieu, of the French fur federation claimed fur-free was a
marketing gimmick “trying to surf on emotion” to please millennials.

Fake fur, he said, was the real danger to the environment. “Brands who stop
fur push synthetic fur which comes from plastic, a byproduct of the petrol
industry, with all the pollution and harm to the planet that that entails.”

*China’s passion for fur*

In contrast, fur is natural and more and more durable and traceable, he

Arnaud Brunois, of the Faux Fur Institute, which he set up to counter the
IFF, disputes this.

He insisted that “from an ecological point of view it was better to use a
waste product from oil… than farm 150 million of animals then skin them
and finally treat the pelts with chemicals.”

“It is part of the real fur industry’s marketing campaign to denigrate faux
fur,” he added.

These days imitation can sometimes pass for the real thing as the British
designer Clare Waight Keller proved in her fake fur-heavy Givenchy show at
Paris fashion week earlier this month.

Luxury brand expert Serge Carreira at Sciences Po university in Paris said
“fur was marginal for most of the fashion houses who have stopped using it.”

For instance, it only accounted for ‎€10 million (RM47.6) of Gucci’s
six-billion turnover in 2017, or 0.16 per cent.

While fur coats are now rarer on the streets of cities in the West, coats
with fur collars — either fake or real, and sometimes a mixture of both,
activists claim — are everywhere.

In China, however, the picture is very different.

Fur sales grew “phenomenally” there over the last decade, said IFF CEO Mark
Oaten, and despite levelling off still dwarfs all those elsewhere combined.

The world’s biggest fur consumer is now also far by its it largest producer
in a industry worth US$30 billion (RM116 billion) globally in 2017. — AFP

*If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they
went. (Will Rogers)*

*the wild, cruel beast is not behind the bars of the cage. he is in front
of it – axel munthe*

Killing the myth of hunting as conservation

by Fran Silverman, FOA Friends of Animals
March 2018

The Trump administration is making it easier for Americans to go to Africa, shoot elephants and lions and bring their body parts home as trophies to mount on walls – all in the name of conservation….

Hunter supporters use unscientific bear sightings to inflate numbers and livestock conflicts to scare the public to justify bear hunting.

elephant and calf
Image from Memories of Elephants

If it sounds ridiculous, it likely is. So say this out loud and tell me how it sounds.

Shooting endangered and threatened species will help save them.

Here’s another one.

Hunters are helping keep you safe by killing black bears.

In honor of National Wildlife Week, let’s parse these statements.

Supporters of black bear hunts assert that the bears are a nuisance at best and a safety hazard at their worst. They point to unscientific bear sightings to inflate numbers and livestock conflicts to scare the public. Killing them will solve this, they say. And the hunters then get to take home the bears to mount or use as rugs. Nice reward for saving all of us.

On a national level, the Trump administration is making it easier for Americans to go to Africa, shoot elephants and lions and bring their body parts home as trophies to mount on walls – all in the name of conservation.

The thing is, the science doesn’t back any of this up. This month a new study published in Science Advances found issues with the science cited in the “North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” which guides hunting policies. The study found that what counts for science is rarely defined. In fact, a majority of the science in management plans surveyed — 60 percent — contained fewer than half of criteria for the fundamental hallmarks of science, which include measurable objectives, evidence, transparency and independent review. The report reviewed 62 U.S. state and Canadian provincial and territorial agencies across 667 species management systems.

“These results raise doubt about the purported scientific basis of hunt management across the U.S. and Canada,’’ it concluded.

The claims of hunting as conservation of endangered and threatened species also don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. There aren’t any documented, peer-reviewed studies that show that lawful hunting does not overall disadvantage the species being hunted. Emerging studies, in fact, indicate that legal hunting can increase demand, promote black-market trade of sport-hunted animals and reduce the stigma associated with killing wildlife.

The African elephant population has plummeted by 30 percent in seven years, with just 350,000 left in the world where once there were millions. The population of lions has declined by 42 percent, with just about 20,000 left. Additionally, a new study by Duke University found that poaching and habitat loss have reduced forest elephant populations in Central Africa by 63 percent since 2001.

Yet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was lifting a ban on trophies from several African nations and will allow them on a case-by-case basis. This action, coupled with the Department of Interior’s creation of an International Wildlife Conservation Council comprised of hunting industry representatives whose stated goal is to advise the agency on the benefits of international hunting, removing barriers to the importation of trophy-hunted animals, and reverse suspensions and bans on trade of wildlife, sends the message that the only way to save these majestic creatures is to make sure it’s easier to shoot them to death.

On a local level, here in my home state of Connecticut where FoA is headquartered, I listened intently as supporters of a bill to kill 5 percent of the black bear population in the lovely Litchfield County region insisted it was necessary to prevent bear-human conflict. Bears are killing livestock! Bears are getting into garbage cans! Knocking over bird feeders! Scaring hikers on trails! Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

I’m not making light of a bear encounter. They are formidable. But the science and the math for a shoot-first approach doesn’t add up. First, bears are shy and attacks are more associated with human behavior than the population of bears, studies show. To ward them off if you are a hiker, wear bear bells, carry bear spray. Worried about your backyard farm animals? Install an electric fence. Certainly, don’t feed bears, keep your doors shut and remove bird feeders in the spring.

The truth is black bear attacks are super rare. In the past 20 years, there’s been 12 fatal black bear attacks in the U.S, yet thousands of black bears have been slaughtered in legal hunts. More than 4,000 bears were killed in New Jersey alone since bear hunts were legalized there under Governor’s Christie’s reign before the new governor halted them. In New York, more than 1,000 black bears were killed in hunts last year.

Yet, along with that news in New York about the success of its 2017 bear hunt, there was this item buried in a press release from the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation: 19 humans were injured by hunters last year and one was fatality shot, a woman who was just walking her dogs in the woods by her house. In fact, between 2011-2017, there’s been 14 humans killed by hunters and 131 injured in New York. In Connecticut, hunters have killed one human and injured 13 between 2011-2016. The number of bear fatalities in both these states? Zero.

The more I dug into fatal black bear attacks verses fatal hunting incidents, the more alarmed I became. In just six states I reviewed where bear hunting is allowed or being considered, there have been 500 humans injured by hunters and 63 killed. The stories are sad. People who were fishing when they got shot by an errant hunter’s bullet. Hunters shooting each other and themselves. And there was Rosemary Billquist, a 43-year-old hospice volunteer who was the woman from upstate New York shot dead last fall by her neighbor.

When FoA testified against a black bear hunt in Connecticut, pointing out the hundreds of injuries and startling number of humans killed by hunters, dispelling the myth that bear sightings at all indicate bear populations and showing there is a weak correlation between the number of bears in a region and bear-human conflict, the majority of lawmakers on the state’s environment committee saw the light and voted down the hunt.

But black bear hunts are still legal in a majority of states. It’s estimated that 40,000-50,000 black bears have been killed in hunts. But the fact is the number of fatal black bear attacks are rare.

Human hunting related deaths and injuries – not so rare.

The number of U.S. residents who hunt is dwindling every year. Yet, the damage they are doing to wildlife and other humans is astounding.

Elephants are becoming rare. So are lions. Shooting them to hang on walls doesn’t conserve them.

The math is the math and the science is the science.

Friends of Animals’ Communications Director Fran Silverman oversees FoA’s public affairs and publications. Her previous experience includes editor of a national nonprofit consumer advocacy site, staff writer and editor positions and contributing writer for The New York Times.

Return to Animal Rights Articles

“Clean Meat”? – Two Animal Rights Advocates Say “NO”

[This mirrors my views on the subject.]

*Why “growing meat without animals” is NOT a solution: two views*

On Jan. 10, we published “Slaughter-Free Flesh for Humanity
which drew fire
from some animal rights advocates including Joan Harrison, whose letter,
Even ‘Clean Meat’ Isn’t Clean Enough,” appeared in *The Wall Street Journal*
January 13, 2018, as follows:

Regarding Matthew Scully’s review of Paul Shapiro’s “Clean Meat” (Books,
6): I’m afraid I cannot agree with my fellow activists’ enthusiasm about
so-called clean meat. The new technology may relieve animal suffering to
extent in the short term by using donor herds, which would suffer and be
enslaved to provide cells out of which meat is then laboratory grown.
this may end factory farming, which would be a blessing, it will do
nothing to
end the public’s identification of animals with food. Indeed, it will
confirm this.

The object is not to end factory farming; the object is to end animal
as such. The promoting of meat of this sort is thus a pernicious
of animal liberation. According to psychology professor and animal
Bill Crain, experiments show that people eating the flesh of animals
perceive animals in a negative light in contrast to people who don’t. Is
something we really wish to encourage? What about flesh emerging from a
bioreactor? Why not promote Monsanto’s GMOs? And what about developing
from human cells? If the latter is repulsive to you, and clean meat from
pigs, chickens and lambs nevertheless seems okay, you are still under the
of speciesism, the evils of which are well known. A simpler solution is
available, though it’ll take some time, one that is consistent with and
facilitate the liberating of animals both nonhuman and human: adopting a
plant-based diet. It’s already happening.

Joan Harrison
New York


*On Jan. 25, UPC President Karen Davis asked Philosophy Professor, John Sanbonmatsu – who will be speaking at our March 10, 2018 Conscious Eating*
*Conference in Berkeley, CA – what he thinks of “clean meat.” He wrote

John Sanbonmatsu, PhD:

RE: “Clean Meat,” I think it is folly, for several reasons:

* I think too many vegans are thinking of this as the Holy Grail, which may
subtly be taking pressure and urgency off of other modes of action and

* The framing of the discourse as “clean” vs. “unclean” meat aestheticizes
which is already an aestheticized commodity. The reality is, one form of
“meat” is based on genocidal violence, exploitation, and injustice, and
other isn’t. So it should be framed as a choice between violence and
nonviolence, not “cleanliness” in either an aesthetic or “morally
sense (as in, I have a “clean conscience”). One of the cafes here in
[MA] is called “Clear Conscience Cafe,” and naturally they serve grassfed
Angus beef, etc.

* I think it’s a terrible mistake to confuse the issue in consumers’ already
confused minds between “good” and “bad” forms of animal products. I was
in NYC
over the weekend, and one of the grocery stores had organic turkey and pig
sausages literally mixed in with the vegan “meat” products. So the
is, “This is where you get the ‘alternative’ and ‘healthy’ stuff, take
pick.” The last thing we need is to have ontological meat (i.e. flesh)
sold to consumers as more “ethical” meat.

* Most higher-end consumers will continue to choose “organic” and “local”
flesh over synthetic, lab-grown meats. Why? Because they are figured as
“authentic.” Michael Pollan sneers when the topic of syn-meat comes up:
who would want THAT? Just think about how educated Americans have been
steering away from “processed” and “artificial” foods for a generation.
now we want them to eat burgers made with lab-grown cow cells? No way. The
meat industry will turn right around and promote authentic meat even more
heavily than they do now.

* The whole synthetic meat movement is perpetuating the lie that the only
reason, or main reason, we can’t have universal veganism and an end to
agriculture is because there are no “good” alternatives. That, and the lie
that the reason people “can’t” (or won’t) give up eating animals is
animals just taste TOO GOOD. Well, I don’t believe that. Yes, there are
undoubtedly some people so hooked on the exact specific taste of bacon or
whatever that they will cling to it until Doomsday. But I don’t think that
accounts for most or even a big part of resistance to Animal Rights or to
veganism specifically.

* What’s going to happen with this stuff is precisely what happened to Whole
Foods and the whole “humane meat” industry: synthetic meats will not be
competing with cheaper meat commodities; this industry will be competing
the chi-chi market for specialized foods. So the price point is going to
set high, because that’s where the market is going to be most lucrative
(because this is capitalism). Meanwhile, as I said, if the typical
consumer is
faced with a menu of “real” chicken and “synthetic real” chicken, he/she
going to choose the real chicken most of the time, or so I believe.

* If humans think so little of the dignity or suffering of animals that they
can’t or won’t countenance giving up farmed animal flesh until and unless
there is an exact, one-to-one replacement, in taste, texture,
etc., then what are the odds that they will make any concerted effort to
switch to synthetic meats at all?

* Against the odds, somehow, we need to smash speciesism as an idea and a
set of
institutions and beliefs and interpellated identities. If we don’t
that, if we can’t undermine it, I think it’s going to continue to be Game
for animals, and all of the synthetic meats in the world won’t amount to

John Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Department of Humanities and Arts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, MA 01609


Register NOW for UPC’s Seventh Annual Conscious Eating Conference:

*What are the Most Compassionate Choices? *

Berkeley, CA, March 10, 2018.
Information & Registration

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.

View this article online


Animal rights group hopes to appeal decision against judicial review of Wildlife Act

The fight is not over.

A year after the shooting of a baby bear, that’s what a group of animal advocates says after losing an attempt in court for a judicial review of the Wildlife Act.

The Fur-Bearers spokesperson, Lesley Fox, says the group is raising questions about Section 79, which states, “An officer may kill an animal, other than a domestic animal, that is at large and is likely to harm persons, property, wildlife or wildlife habitat.”

 Fox says while the group understands that a conservation officer has the authority to euthanize an animal if it poses a threat to public safety, they’re raising the question – what about when the animal is not posing a threat?

She explains, for example, an orphaned cub that was killed in Dawson Creek by a conservation officer last year because it was found to be malnourished, even while a rehabilitation centre was waiting to take it in.

“If lethal action isn’t necessary, and we argue specifically in this case with the little cub, there shouldn’t be lethal action and in fact, it should be the opposite. That every effort should be made to get these animals into care, to be evaluated by experts.”

READ MORE: Neighbourhood series: Being bear aware in the Tri Cities

“Certainly having an animal examined by an expert, or a veterinarian, who specializes in wildlife is a huge asset and let them determine whether or not it’s appropriate to rehab this animal. I think that decision needs to be taken out of the conservation officer service, and I think there needs to be sort of an independent third party expert or specialist.”

She says those wild animals should have every opportunity to be rehabbed and released back into the wild.

Fox says they’re investigating how to appeal the decision.

In a statement, the Ministry of Environment says that a conservation officer does not relish the thought of putting an animal down –  and that euthanization is a last resort.

It says conservation officers are guided by provincial wildlife policy, as well as their experience and expertise, to make decisions in the field every day; it adds the court decision affirms its understanding of the authorities granted to them under the Wildlife Act.

What Trophy Hunting Does to the Elephants It Leaves Behind

The legal African hunting programs that the Trump administration is reviewing affect more than population numbers.

Elephants play against a hazy sky.
Elephants play in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
If you were an elephant, you might be puzzling over human behavior this week. On Monday, the animal-rights attorney Steven Wise filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of three privately owned Asian elephants, arguing that the animals are “legal persons” who have a right to bodily liberty and should be free to live in a sanctuary. Then, on Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia could now be legally imported to the United States as trophies.

This new policy overturned a ban put in place by the Obama administration in 2014. African elephants are considered “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, a step below being endangered. The animals’ numbers have plunged from around 10 million 100 years ago to around 400,000 today, largely because of poaching and habitat loss. The Fish and Wildlife Service has not changed the elephants’ status; instead, it now argues that supporting “legal, well-managed hunting programs” will help provide “much-needed conservation dollars to preserve habitats and protect wild herds” in Zimbabwe and Zambia, the agency’s principal deputy director, Greg Sheehan, said in a news release.

But then, to further complicate matters, President Donald Trump tweeted Friday evening that nothing would actually change until he “reviews all conservation facts.”

The idea that killing more elephants will help save the species is counterintuitive, and its line of reasoning is difficult for many conservation organizations to support: Let rich hunters pay hefty sums to shoot elephants, and use the money to help conservation efforts and local communities. Supposedly, the villagers won’t then need to poach elephants to feed their families and pay their kids’ school fees. Still, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, a respected organization that sets the conservation status for all species, supportsthe notion.

But the evidence that “hunting elephants saves them” is thin. The hunting-safari business employs few people, and the money from fees that trickles down to the villagers is insignificant. A 2009 report from the IUCN revealed that sport hunting in West Africa does not provide significant benefits to the surrounding communities. A more recent report by an Australian economic-analysis firm for Humane Society International found that trophy hunting amounts to less than 2 percent of tourism revenue in eight African countries that permit it.*

And then, there is a larger moral question: How does hunting affect male elephants, especially the “big tuskers” that hunters want, and the overall population?

If elephants are recognized as legal persons, a term the U.S. courts have granted corporations and a New Zealand court gave to a river (elsewhere the term has been extended to chimpanzeesa bear, and the environment), it would be more difficult to hunt them at all—let alone import their body parts. Wise’s lawsuit cites extensive scientific studies that have established elephants’ cognitive abilities, emotional and empathetic natures, complex social lives, lifelong learning, and memory skills. “Taken together, the research makes it clear elephants are autonomous beings who have the capacity to choose how to live their lives as elephants,” he tells me.

One thing elephants would not choose, Wise and elephant researchers agree, is to be hunted. “It doesn’t matter to elephants if they are killed by poachers or trophy hunters,” says Joyce Poole, who has studied African elephants in the wild in Kenya and Mozambique for more than 40 years and is the codirector of ElephantVoices, a conservation organization. “Either way, you’re a killer. And if elephants understand that about you, they change their behavior.”

Elephants aren’t considered game animals in most African countries with substantial populations of these animals. But trophy hunters after large male elephants can seek their prey in South Africa, Namibia, Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Gabon, and Mozambique. Kenya banned the sport in 1973, while Tanzania continued to permit legal hunting. That caused problems for the elephants of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, says Poole, who was studying the large males in the park at the time. The park borders Tanzania, and after the Tanzanian government opened a hunting block on the opposite side, the Amboseli male elephants who wandered across became prized targets. 

“It was an awful time,” Poole recalled, “because on one side, the elephants learned to trust tourists—generally white people—in cars. From our studies, we know they can smell the difference between whites and local people. They also distinguish us by our languages. They know people who speak Maa, the language of the local Maasai people, may throw spears at them; those who speak English don’t.” However, the tables were turned on the Tanzanian side of the border. There, white people in cars who drove up close to see an elephant might lean out with a camera—or a rifle.

“The elephants didn’t run because they didn’t expect to be shot,” Poole said. Two of the large males she was studying were lost this way to trophy hunters. She and others protested to the Tanzanian government, and these particular hunting blocks were eventually closed.

Poole does not know how the loss of these big males, who’d fathered many calves, affected the other elephants. Female elephants, though, do mourn family members who die, and are especially troubled when the matriarch, their leader, passes. In 2003, for instance, researchers in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve watched as Eleanor, an elephant family’s matriarch, died from natural causes. When Eleanor fell heavily to the ground, Grace, a matriarch from another family, used her tusks to lift her friend and helped her to her feet. Despite Grace’s efforts, Eleanor died that night. She had a tiny, six-month-old calf who never left her side. In a photograph, the calf stands like a small sentinel beside her mother’s body, while the rest of the family bunches together, grieving. 

Researchers have rarely seen similar moments among male elephants, who as adults, live away from the female herds they grew up in, and return only to mate. That behavior led to a “myth that males are far less social than females,” said George Wittemyer, a conservation biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins who has studied elephants in Kenya for more than 20 years. His new research contradicts this notion. “Actually, the males are always in groups and have preferences for certain companions. They’re not the loners they’ve been made out to be,” he said.

“The death of a bull will cause less disruption than the death of a family member,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a zoologist who founded the organization Save the Elephants. “If a bull is shot while associating with a family the others will normally run away.” But he noted: “Bulls will defend or help each other sometimes, when one is down.”

From a population standpoint, “older male elephants are very important to the health and genetic vitality of a population,” said Cynthia Moss, who has led the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya since 1972. While hunters in the past have used the belief that older males are reproductively senile as an argument for killing them for their ivory, research has revealed that they are in fact an elephant population’s primary breeders. “By living to an older age, [older males show that] they have the traits for longevity and good health to pass on to their offspring,” Moss said. “Killing these males compromises the next generation of the population.”

It’s not clear if the Fish and Wildlife Service will consider how trophy hunting affects individual elephants or their families. The agency didn’t comment on Trump’s tweet when contacted, but later issued a public statement confirming that permits would be put on hold. “President Trump and I have talked and both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in the statement.

Wise believes that the emotional and psychological suffering the elephants endure from this sport is obvious. “One day it will be seen for the moral outrage that it is,” he said.

Before Trump’s tweet, the Fish and Wildlife Service had intended to begin issuing permits for importing elephant trophies on Friday. The new policy would apply to elephants hunted in Zimbabwe between January 21, 2016, and December 31, 2018, as well as elephants hunted in Zambia from 2016 to 2018. Regardless of how hunting affects elephants, if the policy goes through, some hunters will have trophies waiting for them in those countries.