In mid June 2009 I went to the launch of Meat Free Mondays. Frontman Paul McCartney gave a straightforward and inspiring speech stating the obvious – meat eating is responsible for about one quarter of the world’s increase in greenhouse gas levels each year. If we all gave up meat just one day a week, this could make a significant difference to our headlong rush towards extinction on an overheated planet. Not particularly challenging you might think – one day a week without meat isn’t going to have anyone in the developed world turning up at the doctor’s with kwashiorkor or some other protein deficiency disease, is it? In fact, a little less protein might help with the obesity boom – could be win – win: we end up healthier and our grandchildren inherit a planet that is still habitable.
But the press took it badly. Even the Guardian, which I doggedly continue to read despite the increasingly snide and snotty articles against organic food, environment campaigners and alternative medicine they publish nowadays, couldn’t play it straight.The Telegraph’s Liz Hunt said the idea made her want to ‘club a seal’ and vowed to eat bacon for breakfast, chicken for lunch and hamburger for dinner in order to express her revulsion at the concept.Worst of all was the Grocer, quoting 2 anonymous ‘sources’ and one named one. One ‘source’ described the initiative as ‘crass’ and said ‘I think it’s bonkers.’ Then the Chairman of the NFU’s livestock board, Alistair MacKintosh pointed out that farmers were waiting for innovation and science to sort out the cow farts and burps, concluding ‘I’d rather listen to science than some hippified vegetarian.’Errr... the science of global warming is pretty clear on this one:- Cows emit methane, methane is a greenhouse gas 21 times worse than CO2. - Sir David King, the former Government Chief Scientist says: ‘easting less meat will help the environment’ citing beef’s carbon footprint as 20 times higher than that of whole grains. - The Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges a meat-free day to help reduce emissions.These hippies are everywhere!With Hilary Benn, a vegetarian, the new Secretary of State at Defra and Jim Fitzpatrick, another veggie, the Minister for Food, Farming and Environment, let’s hope that the NFU’s legendary control over this important Ministry is balanced by rationality and that science, not subsidy, dictates future policy.Meanwhile it’s all happening on the film front. ‘End of the Line’ documents the corruption of governments by big fish interests and shows how this is leading to the end of abundant fish in the oceans.‘Food Inc’ shows how a handful of multinationals have seized control of our food supply and driven down safety standards for both workers and consumer health.Former Soil Association trustee Tracy Worcester’s film ‘Pig Business’ will be screened on More4 on June 30 2009 at 10 p.m – giving an insight into how the same practices that brought you Swine Flu are now being replicated in Poland.The industrial meat industry is killing us and liquidating any decent future for the planet. If Meat Free Mondays can mark the start of a reversal of this awful situation then it deserves everyone’s support.Recently Greenpeace researched the double whammy source of greenhouse gas in the Amazon forest. Forest is cleared and burned – lots of CO2 into the atmosphere -then it’s stocked with methane-emitting cows that end up being sneaked past the controls that buyers like Tesco, Asda and M&S have established to prevent just this sort of thing. If reputable companies can’t control this what can a person do?Well, cutting out meat one day of the week seems a reasonable start.