Activists’ Attacks on Meat Harm Health, Environment

Published April 1, 2009

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a four-part series identifying falsehoods about the consumption and production of beef. The series exposes a classic “scare campaign” designed to manipulate public opinion and force changes in government policy.

Over the years, Americans and others around the world have been subjected to a barrage of absurd claims about beef production and consumption that, in a rational world, should be dismissed on sight.

We have witnessed how, with enough money and sufficient coordinated effort, vast portions of the world’s population, along with their elected leaders, can be convinced the Earth faces destruction because we eat meat. These scare tactics are without factual support.

Recent False Claims

Let’s briefly examine recent claims about beef production and consumption.

In 2006, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” linking the worldwide provision of meat in people’s diets to global warming, deforestation, land erosion, air and water pollution, and a host of other alleged harms the report claimed could be curtailed only by drastically scaling back the raising of livestock and eating of meat.

The animal rights advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has long maintained a campaign against those who raise livestock and eat meat. PETA is an aggressive vegetarian group, fueled by an estimated annual budget of $30 million, famed for outrageous promotional campaigns designed to gain media attention. The gap between their claims and the truth is vast. Other think tanks and allied groups aid in the dissemination of lies about eating meat.

Here’s what you need to know when you encounter the anti-meat propaganda.

Global Warming Scares

The Earth’s recent warming began when the Little Ice Age ended in 1850. It has been completely natural and repeats the same cyclical warming periods that have occurred in the past. The claim of human greenhouse gas emissions creating a global warming crisis is based entirely on flawed computer modeling, particularly by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The computer model results, which have consistently overstated the warming that has occurred to date, have been dismissed by thousands of climatologists and meteorologists, some of whom were advisors to the IPCC but whose criticisms were ignored.

Similar claims that the world’s livestock and other animal emissions contribute to global warming are baseless. Fears surrounding atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have no basis in fact, as this and other greenhouse gases constitute a minuscule portion of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Environmental Damage Claims

Claims that the raising of livestock harms the environment are equally without merit.

More than half of all U.S. agricultural land is unsuitable for growing crops. Thus the grazing of cattle and other animals doubles the production of food products from the available land. Foraging animals such as cattle also help stabilize the soil and promote the expanded growth of grasses.

The nation’s 800,000 beef producers have a vested interest in being good stewards of the land, and they engage in a number of programs that ensure lands are properly maintained. Their livelihood, after all, relies on preserving a healthy, safe, and clean environment.

Human Health Myths

The claim that meat is bad for human health is surely the most scurrilous and damaging lie of all. This highly politicized claim is reflected in policies such as the nanny-state inventions of dietary guidelines issued by government agencies. These guidelines are primarily devoted to issues of weight gain or loss, but people come in different shapes and sizes, and a one-size-fits-all approach to proper nutrition is absurd.

A well-fed population is taller, has more energy, and has greater immunity to disease precisely because, in the case of meat, it receives more protein and a wide variety of life-enhancing vitamins and minerals. Naturally nutrient-rich foods such as lean beef ensure people receive more essential nutrients in fewer calories.

In 2005 Frank Murray, the author of many outstanding books on nutrition, sent me a copy of You Must Eat Meat, which he coauthored with Dr. Max Ernest Jutte. Murray, a senior editorial advisor for Let’s Live magazine, spelled out the many reasons meat should be a vital part of everyone’s diet. The book draws on medical data to dispel the many myths surrounding meat.

False Claims of Cruelty

Finally, activists claim cruelty in the way livestock animals are raised and ultimately processed for food. Common sense suggests poorly fed and maintained livestock produce fewer pounds per animal. Modern beef production is devoted to raising beef that yield more and leaner meat than as recently as a decade ago.

The technologies involved are subject to both sound science and strict government review, including public health veterinarian inspections and safe food-handling requirements in restaurants and supermarkets, and in practices recommended for consumers. Humane practices are required by law from the ranch to the processing plant.

Unfortunately, it’s clear the war on meat will continue because many people have a vested interest in the often-absurd and frequently outrageous claims made regarding its production and consumption. There is, however, no reason to avoid meat as a valuable element of one’s diet.

Alan Caruba ([email protected]) writes a weekly column posted for the Web site of The National Anxiety Center ( and blogs daily at