Keep veg-diet stats in context

Stewart David's commentary ["Greenwashed," July 1 Xpress] may have been factually correct, but the conclusions of the study he cited, "Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States," were much more nuanced and balanced than Mr. David's out-of-context quotes implied. Here is an example:

David: "… eating a vegetarian diet one day per week is equivalent to driving 1,160 few miles per year."

Study:  "… shifting just one day per week's calories from red meat and dairy to chicken/fish/eggs or a vegetable-based diet reduces GHG emissions equivalent to 760 miles/yr (1230 km/yr) or 1160 miles/yr (1860 km/yr), respectively."

Notice the 1,160 miles/year fact is accurate, but Mr. David conveniently left out the reference to chicken/fish/eggs as an alternative, as this must not have fit his vegetarian agenda. The authors further pointed out that climate impacts are only one aspect related to food choice: Other factors include taste, safety, health/nutrition concerns, affordability, availability and environmental concerns.

Compared to some of his past missives, David's commentary this time was relatively less beady-eyed and strident. I think his intentions are good, and he presents some valid points. However, the single-minded focus of his sermons seems more directed at the members of the choir than to those of us interested in an honest, balanced debate. He should heed the study authors' advice: "Any attempt to change consumer behavior based on only one dimension of food choice is unlikely to be effective."

— Cecil J. Clark


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13 thoughts on “Keep veg-diet stats in context

  1. Johnny

    Calling Mr. David’s statements factually correct may be a stretch, as the study referenced made assumptions about the energy required to produce the various products. The assumptions (industrial style mega-farm, etc.) were made for a reason, and made with an agenda.

    If one was to hunt for their meat, versus having monoculture rice and soybeans trucked thousands of miles and packaged and re-packaged, stocked and re-stocked, then a different set of energetic data would present themselves, and it wouldn’t be pretty on a per unit of protein basis (let alone the quality, eh?).

    There’s a lens for everybody to look through, and if one thinks he/she has a piece of moral highground well-staked regarding what is ok for the rest of us to eat, then they’ll be creating a series of arguments about the energy required (for example), simply as a way to push the main point forward.

    While there is much to be learned from open discussions about energy and food, the incessant axe-to-grind chitter-chatter coming from the holier than thou camp isn’t just tiring, it’s been tiring for some time.

  2. Bill Milestone

    It is quite simple, really. A lacto-vegetarian is the healthiest and least cruel alternative. Hindus have eaten this diet for 1000s of years. Many peaceful peoples eat a vegetarian diet, with or without dairy.

    Meat eating is cruel, and frankly, backward. And unhealthy especially when eaten with the frequency of the average American. Frequent meat consumption is a primary indicator in colon cancer, in particular.

    And I will get onboard that locally raised veggies are the best way to go, especially if they are organic. But if I have to eat trucked in tofu and rice, or eat locally raised and killed “livestock”, I’ll choose the trucked in veggies any old day. The cruelty factor always trumps the energy use for transportation of crueltry-free foodstuffs.

  3. Piffy!

    Still no response from Stewart David?

    What a surprise. I suppose he prefers to argue vegetarianism based on manipulated numbers and “morality”.

    Oh, and Bill Milestone is an idiot.

  4. TokyoTaos

    I think this issue isn’t black or white. There’s definitely some middle ground between being a complete vegetarian and eating hormone-shot, pesticide-teated-corn-fed meat at ever meal.

    I was a vegetarian for five years (organic, combined, etc.) but found that my health greatly improved when I added some organic free-range and grass-fed meat to my diet. I know many former vegetarians who have had this same experience (a lot of women for some reason.) I think we are all different (with different ancestors and genes) and no one diet fits all.

    I think we should all eat as consciously as possible, consuming items that have the least impact on the planet: organic, local, free-range, etc. – but we shouldn’t allow dogma to dictate what we eat when that’s not the healthiest path for us.

  5. Bill Milestone

    “Oh, and Bill Milestone is an idiot.” -the pfkap

    You, ma’am, demonstate that you lack the intellectual capacity to argue the debate points here on their own merits. Instead, you call people names who aren’t in favor of scarfing down “hotdogs” and other disgusting animal by-products disguised as “food”. You’d be a lot more honest if you just said something like “the vegetarian viewpoint makes me angry, but I don’t have anything to back up why I don’t like vegetarianism, and the local food movement.”

    But I doubt you have ability to do it.

  6. Jon Elliston

    Hey folks,

    Please, no name-calling in your comments. Don’t even call someone an “idiot.” Call ideas idiotic if you want, but we’ll continuing our policy of screening out commentors who call people insulting names.

    Thank you,

    Jon Elliston
    Managing Editor

  7. Piffy!

    “Bill”-Until you can comment from a registered account, it is quite difficult to take you off-topic sniping very seriously. Especially since you change names so frequently. Which is why I characterized you and your post as being idiotic.

    If you do wish to actually debate the merits of Stewarts manipulation of the numbers for his own political dogma, feel free. But the commentery you did leave was indeed quite absurd, emotional, and not realting to the topic at all.

    If you run into Stewart at one of your PETAphile meetings, could you ask him why he is ducking this letter to the editor that calls him and his manipulated statistics out? thanks.

  8. Bill Milestone

    “the pfkap”, I post here in accordance with Jon’s rules, not yours. So whether I have a registered account or not is really none of your business. And by the way, my original post in this thread was not written from anger.

    I do support PETA a lot of the time. They have the courage to stick up for animals. I admire them for that. As far as Stewart’s numbers, they look fine to me.

  9. Piffy!

    Really, Stewart’s numbers “look fine to you”, even though the above letter clearly shows he manipulated how he presented them to come to an entirely different conclusion than the study he sites?


    Try harder “Bill Milestone”, aka, Nam Vet, AKA, John, AKA Vinne Barbarino, etc.

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