It seems Emma Levez Larocque is quite upfront about the fact she may be biased in her support of the Meatless Monday project [“Viewpoint: Animal Agriculture impacts climate change,” February 25].
Unfortunately her counterargument that Meatless Monday is not a waste of time and resources is seriously flawed. Using a 13-year old UN statistic as the most pertinent fact in her argument, she states that “animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.”
Despite the fact this statistic is outdated and highly misleading, it is regularly trotted out by those who want a big scary statistic to backup their claims that a meat-based diet is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. As with most statistics, the devil lies in the details.
In using a global statistic, Levez Larocque obscures the fact that there are huge variations in animal agriculture greenhouse gas emissions between countries. In highly developed nations like Canada and the United States, the percentage of emissions from animal agriculture is much lower than she would have us believe because our overall emissions are higher than less developed nations, due in large part to the very high percentage of emissions from the transportation and energy sectors in developed nations.
In Canada, the national greenhouse gas emissions from all of agriculture, not just animal agriculture, are estimated at just over 10 per cent (Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory, 2017) and nine per cent in the US (EPA Emissions Sources, 2016). It has been estimated that 42 per cent of US agriculture emissions come from animal agriculture (New York Times, January 25, 2018).
Assuming the similarities between Canadian and US agricultural emissions extend to the emissions from animal agriculture, this would place Canada’s emissions from animal agriculture at just above four per cent, a far cry from the 18 per cent in the misleading UN statistic. And as for emissions from animal agriculture exceeding the transportation sector, not even close. The Canadian transportation sector produces 24 per cent of national emissions (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, 2017), six times more than that of animal agriculture, throwing some serious shade on the main argument in support of the Meatless Monday project.
None of the above is meant to minimize the significant global warming impact of animal agriculture. But it is also very important not to exaggerate its contribution or minimize the much larger contribution of fossil fuels. Canadian statistics suggest that if we want to lower our emissions, we should start by focusing our actions on reducing emissions from the transport sector.
When you have a vocal advocate for Meatless Monday using very selective and outdated statistics to defend the project, a rather disturbing question comes to mind. Did Climate Action Powell River use these same misleading statistics as part of its argument before City of Powell River council for the funding of Meatless Monday? Is it possible that councillors had the wool pulled over their eyes regarding the potential impact of this project?