Akhila is a Justmeans staff writer for CSR and ethical consumption. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she i...
Global Warming, Meatless Mondays and Lady Gaga
Ethical consumerism extends firmly into diet and lifestyle choices that one chooses to make. It is no secret that a meat-intensive diet contributes to a high-carbon lifestyle. The beef industry is one of the worst offenders when it come to environmental impact. A study from Japan states that raising 2.2lbs of beef generates as much GHG as driving a car continuously for 3hrs. Scientific American states that, "pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken".
Cattle rearing is also a big cause of deforestation and threat to biodiversity in the Amazon and nearly 80% of deforested areas in Brazil are used for pasture. This industry is only growing as demand for meat is also growing especially in countries like Brazil and China where the spending power of people is increasing. Beef rearing not only consumes more energy-intensive feed but cows also produce more methane than other animals. However, grass-fed beef has a much lighter footprint and it is found that grass-fed cows also produce comparatively less methane. Grass feeding also cuts out the need to administer antibiotics, pesticides and the meat is lower in saturated fats and higher in omega-3s.
Even bigger than beef, is the footprint of rearing lamb. It generates over 100 tons of carbon dioxide per ton of protein. With all this in mind, Meatless Mondays seem to be a good idea on the path to green living. On average Americans consume 8 ounces of meat per day, 45% more than the USDA recommends. According to the FAO, giving up meat once a week would lower GHG emissions as dramatically as every American switching to an ultra-efficient hybrid. The same study also found that by switching to soy for one day, each individual could save about 890 gallons of water a week. If the population of the United States went meatless every Monday for a year, 12 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved.
Surely Lady Gaga knew all of this when she decided to wear a meat bikini for Vogue and more recently, wore a dress made of meat to protest the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy at the MTV VMAs. There is no connection between the policy and wearing a meat-dress, no matter how you justify it - putting the two together demonstrates a certain lack of intelligence. Given that livestock production generates almost a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases, wasting about 50lbs of meat on a dress seems tantamount to crime; especially considering the meat was from Argentina. The meat-dress really is not just offensive to vegetarians, vegans and a whole bunch of other people but it is also a slap in the face to all the starving people in the world.
Celebrities as a whole are a group of people with relatively higher than normal footprints. Unfortunately they also have a huge fan following and are in a position to influence many people, especially young people. What kind of message of sustainability, ethical consumerism does the wearer of the dress send out in this tasteless publicity stunt? Protest all you want Lady Gaga, but keep in mind that the way you send out a message is as important as the message itself.