Xpress’ "Living Green" ignores meat-eating’s huge carbon footprint

Al Gore recently told ABC news "the growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis — not only because of the CO2 involved, but also because of the water consumed in the process."

This "inconvenient truth" was omitted from his movie, even though "The Official Handbook for Live Earth," the concerts that Mr. Gore co-organized, noted that "refusing meat" is the "single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint" (emphasis in original).

It's great to see Mr. Gore finally making the connection, but disappointing that the journalists at Mountain Xpress are not yet up to speed. The "Living Green" issue [Nov. 18] all but ignored the fact that making the easy, healthy lifestyle change of reducing/eliminating animal products from one's diet will do much to heal the planet.  "Progressives" think the climate-change deniers are the problem. I think what's worse are the people who understand the need to reduce our carbon footprints yet refuse to discuss, let alone consider, lifestyle changes they don't want to make.

The same U.N. report that told us raising livestock for food generates more greenhouses gases than all forms of transportation combined also stated, "On average 990 litres of water are required to produce one litre of milk." Cornell University scientist David Pimentel has shown that "producing a pound of animal protein requires, on average, about 100 times more water than producing a pound of vegetable protein."

If you are reading this letter, I thank the Xpress for putting it into print. But it's time the overwhelming body of scientific evidence linking animal agriculture to ecosystem destruction migrates from the opinion section into the articles that address sustainability.

To learn more, please visit www.GoVeg/eco.

— Stewart David

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22 thoughts on “Xpress’ "Living Green" ignores meat-eating’s huge carbon footprint

  1. Jason

    Have you ever read about the effects of commercial agriculture on the environment? Especially that of corn, and it’s derivatives.



    While it is apparent that the consumption of meat is a large contributor to the “global crisis”, I would argue it’s only a part of a much larger culprit, Industrial Agriculture in general. This is the base from which many other ecological threats; pollution, erosion, contamination, and shortages spring. In my opinion a more realistic and equally beneficial goal than a global prohibition of meat, would be to encourage more people to buy from and support establishments that choose local sustainable foods, whether they are produce or animals. Reducing the stranglehold of Industrial Agriculture should be the next front to advance in the war on environmental degradation.

  2. travelah

    Stewart must belong to somebody on MX staff or he’s going under the table

  3. travelah

    Four letters in the same week each pushing the same agenda. Do the editors of MX actrually read what is published before sending it to the presses?

  4. travelah

    Al Gore recently told ABC news “the growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis — not only because of the CO2 involved, but also because of the water consumed in the process.”

    Did AlGorish get the way he is through the consumption of bamboo sprouts?

  5. Johnny

    “raising livestock for food generates more greenhouses gases than all forms of transportation combined”

    Boy, I’d have to read the research in the original and find out what assumptions are being made to believe that pile of horseshit.

    And this? Not eating meat is the…“single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint”? Say what? Not having kids would be number one. Then second would be not buying all the crap you think you have to have.

    If anyone thinks that us first-worlders can continue to breed and buy crap at basically the rate that we are now — but my tweaking a few things here and there and modestly eating lower on the food chain we’ll all somehow “be all right”, now that is the great illusion foisted on us by the environmentalists. The math is simply not there to support such a case.

    I’m concerned about the energy required for industrial production of bean curd and cross country transport costs far more than I am concerned about someone hunting and eating locally grown meat.

    Given Mr. David’s excessively long history beating this tired old drum in these pages (and his fairly new-found “environmental” angle), I wonder if it’s really energy costs he’s more concerned about or some loosely defined concept of animal welfare? He thinks it’s icky to kill animals for meat. Period. This energy stuff is just another way for him to pretend he’s got the moral high ground carved out all nice and neat.

    The Mountain Xpress should limit his letters. Freedom of the press. Heh-heh.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I’m a little curious as to why the letter is headed as being anonymous, but is signed by the ubiquitous Mr. David.

  7. Asheville Dweller

    Sounds like a screw up in editing. Again with the blah blah blah Meat is bad now he is to the point of whining.

  8. mtndow

    Why does Stewart David seem to have pre-emptive access to opinion/letters columns of the MX? He and his pack of PETA-pals are clogging the arteries of mountain expression. Last week I had to switch off 88.1FM as he started bleeding onto the airways. I can understand his fear of animals. I’ve been kicked by a horse, stepped on by by cattle and pecked by poultry. Frigg’n plants just stand there before the slaughter/harvest. I like food that can fight back. Back to the point. Let’s give Dave “meatless” Stew-art his very own MX PETA page every week. Then, we that choose to can, skip his manure and read about our neighbors other concerns.

  9. Piffy!

    vegetarians claiming their dietary choices are somehow ‘more green’ than other people’s lifestyle is beyond stupid. It is incredibly untrue, unless Stewart really thinks the only option in this world is to be Vegan or Eat at McDonalds three times a day. The insistence to always babble about the worst case examples of meat, while [b]completely ignoring[/b] the larger picture of Industrialized Agriculture is either willingly blind, or enormously under-informed.

    [i]single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint [/i]

    Dear Stewart David–Please detail just exactly how you come to this conclusion. Because this is horse poo and you know it. In fact, horse poo actually has some benefit. So, this is more like un-fermented soy. completely useless.

  10. JWTJr

    Does Al still eat meat? I bet he eats only the best dry aged prime beef. Massaged daily and feed only the best feed.

  11. entopticon

    Why doesn’t the MX just give Stewart David a regular column? That is essentially what is happening by default by publishing his letters so remarkably often.

    There is definitely more than one side to this story. Among the biggest problems with Stewart’s arguments, is that so much of the evidence is based on factory farming, but falls apart when applied to more sustainable practices. And virtually all of the health claims are derived from studies of people eating fast food meals of consisting of small buckets of corn syrup filled soda, hydrogenated french fries, white flour buns, and factory farmed meat.

    I highly recommend this article from Grist Magazine, by the award winning environmental author and journalist Richard Manning, on the environmental benefits, yes benefits, of grass-fed meat. As Manning says, grass-fed meat has great potential to “heal the wounds inflicted on the American landscape by industrial agriculture.”

    On that subject he says:

    “Doing so would have many benefits. It would give us a more humane livestock system, a healthier human diet, less deadly E. coli, elimination of feedlots, a bonanza of wildlife habitat nationwide, enormous savings in energy, virtual elimination of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on those lands, elimination of catastrophic flooding that periodically plagues the Mississippi Basin, and most intriguingly, a dramatic reduction in global warming gases.”

    Ironically, as evidenced in the article, it seems that grass-fed meat may in fact be the best way to save our grasslands from the ravages of industrial agriculture. The article cogently addresses a number of important factors, such as:

    “In contrast to shallow-rooted row crops, deep-rooted grasses dig down to fresh minerals. Those minerals then become available to everything up the food chain, supporting the overall health of the entire system.

    The roots that are sloughed-off after every grazing rotation are equally important; they become decaying organic material that feeds microorganisms, restores subsoil health, creates water-absorbing voids, and ultimately steadily increases the organic matter — or carbon content of the soil. There are big implications here both for building fertile soil and fighting climate change.”


    “When American settlers first busted Midwestern prairies, they worked highly fertile virgin soil that was about 10 percent organic matter. On average, 150 years of agriculture has cut that vital organic matter by more than half and released huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the leading driver of global warming, into the air. Permanent pastures managed correctly can tap solar energy to pump about 1 percent of organic matter back to the soil each year. If we convert from grain-fed to grass-fed meat, we can turn millions of acres of row crops into carbon sinks, and use permanent pasture to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slow global warming, as well as conserve water.”

    I encourage you to read the article.

  12. Stewart David


    I was on WNCW, 88.7, not WCQS, 88.1. If you know anyone who has an open mind and would like to hear why environmentalists don’t eat meat, here’s a link to the show, which aired on 11-22:


    You need to calm down and quit making silly assumptions. I’ve been around animals all of my adult life, and have rescued and cared for goats, horses, cows, chickens, pigs, and turkeys. I’m not fearful of them, I just belive in compassion. You seem to be filled with fear…of change.

  13. entopticon

    Stewart, I think we both ultimately want what’s best for people and the planet, but you really do need to take your advice; open your mind and quit making silly assumptions. As cited above, many environmentalists do indeed eat meat. Perhaps it is you that is filled with fear of change. If you read the article that I cited by the renowned environmentalist Richard Manning, you would see that there are actually a compelling arguments that raising grass-fed animals for meat may in fact be our best hope to save the planet from the ravages of industrial agriculture. Like many people, I tried a vegetarian diet for years, and I did not find it to be healthful. If it works for you, great, but stop imposing what works for you on the rest of us. Open your mind to the fact that yours is not the only view.

  14. entopticon

    Thanks pfff, I think it is a very thoughtful and informative article as well.

  15. teh pfff

    [b]If it works for you, great, but stop imposing what works for you on the rest of us. Open your mind to the fact that yours is not the only view.[/b]

    From what I can tell, Stewert doesn’t seem to research with an open mind so much as he seeks out information to affirm what he already believes (and often manipulates said information for those ends

  16. Stewart David

    Yes, cruelty issues aside, raising animals on pasture might work if world population was lower. I did my part, choosing not to breed. But with 300 million Americans and almost 7 billion people on the planet, it’s delusional to think that somthing so land-intensive could work for the masses. I suppose the wealthy and privileged can enjoy grass-fred beef and it may ease their conscious, but it’s no solution for the masses.

    More at http://www.mountainx.com/opinion/2009/070109greenwashed

    You mention less E.coli as a benefit of grass fed beef. True, but w’d have no E.coli if we ended animal agriculture.

    We are obviously talking at each other, rather than to each other. Such is the nature of forums. I usually avoid this venue because I find it hard for meaningful discussion and often a place where people level personal attacks from the safety and anonymity offered by a fake name and computer keyboard. So I’ll quit while the tone is still somewhat civil. I’d rather spend my time on activism than sitting behind a computer. I’m easy to find if someone wants to have a real conversation using a real name. I’m more open-minded and well-read than you give me credit for.

    Several people, vegetarians and non-vegetarians, have gotten in touch to tell me they like my letters and find them thought-provoking and respectful. Mission accomplished. Since we all seem to oppose factory farming, I would think everyone would be happy about this, too. The more people know think about where their food comes from, the better.

  17. pff

    [b]World renowned Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown has some thoughts on the subject, check out the article in Forbes at: [/b]

    Yes, katie, that is an excellent article discussing the ways in which industrial agriculture and McDonalds are unsustainable. But, as you may or may not know, there are many other ways to raise animals that are not comparable whatsoever.

    feel free to read entop’s link above for a far more in-depth article discussing how crop land is often far more destructive than pastureland.

    There are no real ‘environmental’ arguments against animal husbandry. None. they are all against Industrial Agriculture.

  18. Peacewarrior

    Thank you Stewart for a good article on an important matter. We who call ourselves “progessives” seem to want only the republican old boys running things to do the changing, whilst we go on living the way we want: eating hotdogs, sausage, menudo, brains, chitlins, hog’s feet, beef tongue,,,and if we got some dough in our leather wallets, some higher on the hog expensive animal flesh. The steaks, the chuck roasts. I’ve always wondered how Oboriginies in New Zealand look at eating human “steak”, or Cambodians look at eating someone’s pet dog “roast”. Do they water at the mouth like American carnivores do at the thought of chomping down on the flesh, or organ parts, or dead animal body parts?

    I’ve got an idea. Let’s us young progressives start walking our talk and do our own part to stop global warming by decreasing our carbon footprint. Stop this consumption of dead animal body parts! Yes! That’s the answer! Learn to love alfalfa bean sprouts, tofu, organic vegetables, organic fruits. It’s silly to continue to be hypocrites and continue to eat poor dead animals. Stand up and be counted! Rage against the meat eating machine! Protest McDonald’s and Fat Buddies Bar-b-que.

    Dudes, be the change you want to see!

  19. Jason


    Maybe I just don’t understand your analogy, but I don’t think the M?ori, or Aboriginal New Zealanders, are, or ever were, cannibals.

    It seems to me many “activist” vegetarians overlook the fact that humans have been raising or hunting animals for consumption for thousands of years. Eating “dead animal body parts” more than likely helped us survive the last ice age. It’s only within the last hundred or so years that global warming has become a serious problem. That leaves us with roughly 9,800 years of animal husbandry, (if you agree with scientific theory that cows were domesticated about 8,000 BCE) with little or no environmental impact. While I do agree with you that Americans in general eat too much meat, the idea that by completely forgoing meat will somehow magically reverse the environmental mess we’re in is at best naive, and in reality totally unfounded. How do you propose we distribute those tasty organic fruits and vegetables, tofu, and alfalfa bean sprouts to the masses of hungry Americans, and maybe Canadians, in the winter, without utilizing big trucks, trains, and ships, that will burn fossil fuels to bring all those goodies from tropical Mexico, or South America to us in the temperate United States? They certainly don’t grow here in the winter.
    Boycott McDonalds? Sure! Eat less meat? Okay! Avoid factory farms? I’m with you. However when rabid vegetarians try to peddle their absolutist morality as scientific fact or argue their points with obvious gross-out tactics, as if we were five year-olds and don’t know where our meat comes form, that is the point where they begin to loose their allies.

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