Having Your Meat and Eating It, Too
The cowardice and corruption of environmental organizations really is enough to make you hate environmentalism. The latest capitulation to corporate power came from Jason Clay, of the World Wildlife Fund. An expert on the environmental impacts of global agriculture, Clay knows as well as anyone on the face of the earth the pervasive detrimental consequences of beef production on global ecosystems. Much like Bill McKibben’s group, 350.org, however, Clay refuses to say exactly what needs to be said about the global consumption of beef: it must end. In fact, Clay and the WWF are worse than silent on the matter. They’ve actually climbed into bed with, sit down for this, the industrial producers of beef. Somehow, they think this is the way to achieve genuine reform.
The initiative hosting this sordid lovefest is the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a conglomeration of environmental groups and corporations whose focus is to promote the responsible production and consumption of beef. Despite the fact that an overwhelming amount of evidence shows that there’s no such thing as producing beef sustainably for 7 billion people, Clay and the WWF have done more than get in bed with the likes of Cargill, McDonalds, Merck, and the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. They’ve now accepted funding from these entities in order to promote more pasture-raised beef—as in over $13 million. Even if pasture-based beef production was sustainable (it’s not), does anyone in the environmental movement really think that these organizations are ever, in any way, going to give up on the consolidation of animals to enhance production? There’s not a chance.
In many ways what we’re seeing here is an all too familiar story. Whenever an interest group seeks to have it both ways in terms of railing against eating animals while promoting the consumption of animals, they open themselves up to corporate dominance. There’s always this hope that the powers that be—The Cargills of the world—will roll over and do what the reformers want. But they never do. Personally speaking, I learned this lesson the hard way. When I wrote my last book Just Food I believed that corporations had something valuable to bring to the table in terms of environmental compromise. Through bitter experiences, I’ve learned that they are concerned about one thing and one thing alone: the bottom line. It is, in part, for this reason that I say it over and over again: you can’t beat the devil at his own game. If you in any way promote the consumption of animals you are automatically empowering the industrial producers. I believe this axiom as much as I believe anything.
Let’s dig in our heels. There’s room for only one kind of environmental reform: the most radical kind imaginable. The fact that Jason Clay and the WWF thinks it can reform beef production and consumption by working with those who profit most from such activity should never blind the rest of us to the glaring reality that the only way our diets will ever make an environmental difference is if we remove animals from it. Completely. No compromises.